The divide between "enterprise content management suite" platform vendors and more specialized document management product suppliers is becoming more pronounced in 2010, giving buyers more choices to address a broad range of content management challenges. Well at least that is the conclusion we at the Real Story Group (formerly CMS Watch) came to recently.

Our work involves us in helping technology buyers not only select the right solutions but also to get the best value from them. Those who really are looking at true enterprise/organization-wide projects are engaging with ECM suite vendors such as IBM, Oracle, Open Text and EMC. But a much larger number of buyers are interested in addressing specific pain points such as accounts payable, case management, HR administration, etc., and for those projects, we see smaller document management vendors faring well.

The simple fact that these vendors are smaller is probably key to their success, as they tend to be more focused on specific industries, locales or processes. For example, Fabasoft is a leading provider of document management and collaboration software in German government, while Objective similarly does well in Australasian government. Vendors who understand your business processes, speak your language (literally or metaphorically), are big enough to have sophisticated products but small enough to be personable and accessible make for an interesting and appealing alternative to faceless multinational firms.

One much reported trend in 2010 that we have tracked is that of cloud computing, but we are yet to see much real evidence of buyers really embracing the cloud for mission-critical electronic documents. That said, some are exploring this as a potential future option, but it would seem the hoopla around this sector seems at present to be marketing hype fueled by vendors and attendant press and analysts, rather than reflecting any real appetite on behalf of buyers. Where we have seen buyers' interests changing has been on the subject of open source: what was formerly an outright aversion by many buyers to open source seems to have evaporated. Though it is still something of a rarity to see an open source vendor win a very large ECM deal, vendors such as Nuxeo, KnowledgeTree and Alfresco are certainly being seriously considered alongside more traditional document management suppliers ever more often.

Overall, the ECM and document management market in 2010 remains vibrant, and it's growing and evolving in many different directions. There is much talk amongst consultants and vendors of the "commoditization" of ECM, but we see little evidence of that in the real world. Sure, anyone can offer you check in/out and version control and workflow — but not everyone does those things well, or even adequately — and some even do them too well and deliver you complete confusion and overkill. One thing is for sure: one size most definitely does not fit all for ECM and document management, and savvy buyers today recognize that.

ALAN PELZ-SHARPE [] is a principal with The Real Story Group, covering and advising on ECM technologies and practices. A native of the UK but a citizen of the world, Mr. Sharpe is a sought-after keynote speaker, and has delivered dozens of keynotes on six continents over the past decade. For the full report on enterprise content management (ECM) and document management marketplace overviews, visit