‘Tis the season…

…for back-to-back events that have thrown my blogging right out the window.  I know I’m supposed to blog before going to an event to facilitate meetings and then directly after to share useful info from the event, but it just didn’t happen.

Where I’ve been:

IBM Information-on-demand (IOD) in Vegas in late October.  This was my first trip to IOD and it was bigger and flashier than I expected.  I found it a bit hard for someone focused on content management to get too much out of the high-level presentations that aim to cover IBM’s overall information portfolio, including Cognos, DB2, FileNet and Content Manager, at the least.  I felt a bit as James Kobielus over at Forrester did, a bit surprised that compliance and risk management weren’t higher level themes at the event, given what’s going on in the financial world.  But the business optimization message IBM was hitting on is also increasingly relevant for those organizations (all?) being asked to figure out how to work smarter, more efficiently, and get by with reduced budgets at the moment.  I did also have a few useful sessions specifically on eDiscovery that were helpful in finishing up our special report on eDiscovery, due to hit the shelves any day now.

Next I went to Defrag in Denver, a bit of a culture shock from one week to the next to say the least.  Here I sat on a panel with Jonathan Yarmis from AMR Research and we discussed the future of industry analysts in the age of social media.  I think we were geared for a discussion of whether or not analysts are as outdated as newspapers, but we never really seemed to get there.  No one had the heart for it in the end.

As Nick detailed in his last post, our own 451 Group Client Conference took place here in Boston November 11-12.  This was surprisingly lively and well attended, considering the macro environment.  I met with quite a few investors interested in discussing ECM and collab opportunities at various stages of development.  All wasn’t as doom-and-gloom as I’d expected, except in Brenon Daly’s M&A panel…

At the event, I gave a preso with my views on where short-term opportunities lie in the broadly-defined content management market, especially when we’re hearing reports of declining IT spending in ECM specifically.  I tried to cover the landscape from the nascent social software market, which is splitting into markets for internal collaboration software and external, customer communities, all the way through the information governance strategies we’re starting to see from large ECM and info management vendors.

Now finally, the way I’m supposed to do this, next week, I’ll be at the Gilbane Conference again here in Boston.  I’ll be on the keynote analyst panel, which is always a pretty lively session covering a range of trends and topics in content management.  Gilbane has a big emphasis this year on social software and how it is changing the world of content management, so it should be a particularly timely and useful event.  Schedule is getting pretty tight already but let me know if you’ll be there and would like to meet.

Apologies for the travelogue, will be back up to semi-regular blogging after this week’s holiday.

Social (Web) content management

In the craziness of this week, I missed a good post from Jeremiah Owyang over at Forrester about the coming collision between social software vendors and CMS vendors.  This is something I have written about several times before.

As is evident particularly in some of the comments on this post, there’s still a lot of confusion out there about all these terms we use — CMS, content management, social networking, social software etc.  Jeremiah gets it, as he covers “white-label” social software vendors that sell software or software-as-a-service for external, community sites.  So he’s not talking about social software for internal deployments or collaboration at all, or at least not as a primary function (some communities cross boundaries so things aren’t always so clear).

In this context, we’re talking about a particular set of “CMS” vendors, what I would generally refer to as Web content management (WCM) vendors.  Poster children here are the likes of Interwoven, Vignette, FatWire Software, Percussion Software, Clickability, Day Software and SDL Tridion, along with open source efforts like Drupal and Alfresco.   These vendors primarily sell software to develop, publish and maintain high-end, customer-facing web sites.  Again, this generally isn’t about internal collaboration or document management or enterprise content management (ECM) at all.

So there are vendors focused on building customer community sites and vendors focused on building customer Web sites — seems like a natural meeting point, doesn’t it?  The WCM vendors that I track (those listed above) are well aware of this and some are further along in developing these technologies I think than Jeremiah’s giving them credit for in this post.

But the social software vendors seem much less aware of what the WCM vendors are doing.  This is something I ask about regularly when I meet with social software providers and few seem to think of (or at least admit to) WCM vendors as potential competitors or to be aware of what they’re up to.  It’s not surprising really as these are smaller vendors doing their best in a competitive segment that is still just emerging.

More partnerships are definitely imminent and are a good idea, though I think most WCM vendors will get to a point of proficiency pretty quickly, through both organic and inorganic means, making partnerships less necessary.  I think we’ll see WCM vendors with fairly complete offerings that can cover company-generated, controlled and targeted content alongside user-generated, community-managed content.  There will still be room for a few best-of-breed, SaaS providers and no need in this day and age for every customer to purchase all its content infrastructure from the same vendor.

But for many customers that simply want to make their existing sites a bit more interactive, gather some customer feedback, enable customers to communicate with each other for particular needs like product support, there may be fewer and fewer reasons to stray from a WCM incumbent already running the rest of a site, provided that encumbent has social software capabilities that make sense for the environment.

Jeremiah asks a question towards the end of his post that I wonder about often when speaking with social software vendors:  “How will these commodity social features be monetized, with everyone having them, how will you differentiate?”

Enterprise 2.0 conference

Several of us will be attending the Enterprise 2.0 show here in Boston next week. I’ll be there all week along with my colleagues Anne Nielsen, who works with me on the social software market and Vishy Venugopalan, who covers development tools, mash-ups and rich internet apps for The 451 Group.

We have quite a few meetings set up and the list of who we’re meeting with shows how varied the vendors in this market currently are. We’re meeting with (listed in order of meeting not significance): Microsoft, NewsGator, Open Text, Igloo, Spigit, Atlassian, Socialtext, Day Software, Adenin, IBM, Alcatel-Lucent, Jive Software, and Alfresco.

As you can see, that’s quite a list. It includes start-ups I’ve not spoken with before, social software players, WCM and ECM vendors I know fairly well, and the big guys. I’m not quite sure what Alcatel-Lucent is doing there but am intrigued to find out. Oracle is running a couple of sessions at the show, but it is interestingly the Oracle application folks not those from the WebCenter team (Oracle AR notes this is because of a schedule conflict with an Oracle sales training).

I’ve also ensured I preserved time this year to attend some sessions, something I neglected to properly account for at this show last year. I’m particularly looking forward to the 3-hour tutorial on Monday morning featuring IBM and Microsoft. It’s hosted by Mike Gotta, a favorite of mine, so I’m sure it will be good.

This was a good show last year, though it had a definite ‘irrational exuberance’ sort of feel to it and it will be interesting to see if that has died down a bit this year. Last year the show floor was way too small and many of the sessions were overflowing, showing the organizers underanticipated interest. It’s at the Westin Waterfront again, a nice new hotel here in Boston but not the biggest of venues (particularly as it sits next to the cavernous Boston Convention Center).

In any event, I’m sure it will be week filled with interesting people and discussions, and that we’ll come back with lots of fodder for future research. Our schedules are tight but anyone wanting to meet up, please feel free to leave a comment or contact me directly. Hope to see you there.