Next week, I will be at AIIM, participating in a panel on Convergence moderated by Tony Byrne. Here are some of the things that I’ve been thinking about convergence. They are not in any particular order (as the title of this post suggests) but are meant to generate some points and take take the discussion forward before the conference starts:
- The stake holders of different technologies are different at least in large organizations. For example, people who submit content for web site (and hence users of WCM) are different from folks in finance who use an ERP for end of the month reconciliations. Different groups, hence have different project life cycles and tool selection criteria. They seldom talk to each other to see if a convergent product could be chosen and hence different products get selected and implemented. In fact, because there are different groups, they some times select different products even for same functionality! Although, the technology is there, the businesses themselves are not structured so as to support convergence. So, what is the way out? One thing that could help is a task force, comprising of senior people from different groups in an organization. This could be like a PMO or operate in a shared services model and be responsible for creating standards, best practices as well as evaluating technologies.
- The above point is one side of the story where convergence is actually not happening as fast as it could. However, the opposite is also true. We respond to almost 4-5 RFPs/RFIs a week and I have seen the trend that more and more people have requirements that span across different areas. Some vendors have responded to this by incorporating different offerings in their core products. This also came out in my discussions with Pranshu. Fatwire, for example has had an analytics engine for long and almost all Business Intelligence, Data warehousing, ERP and CRM products include a “portal like” interface. Many Search products have a portal interface and they actually use EAI technologies to index content across multiple repositories to implement a federated search. Integrate MS Office with a Data warehouse and you’ve got a simple records management/archival system because you can scan and store millions of documents. This is a simplistic example but in some sense, technology convergence is happening.
- As things mature, maybe some of these things will become part of Infrastructure. The bigger vendors are already buying specialized vendors and integrating their offerings as part of their platform. Oracle’s Web Center already integrates with Siebel, Peoplesoft and other enterprise applications.
- This again came out when I was discussing with Pranshu. Open Source could actually be driving some of this convergence. His example was that cost of clustering, in memory db etc is actually reducing because MySQL now provides it. So Oracle and MS SQL have to do more to earn their money. Same logic can be extended to convergence – Because open source products are providing many of the features that commercial products provide, so the commercial vendors have to provide that “extra” to differentiate.
- How could “Web 2.0” not have an impact on anything? Actuallly, things like RSS and OPML make it easy for you to aggregate content from varied sources using loose coupling and enable convergence at presentation layer.
All the above are just some examples. However, I think real convergence is actually much more than technology convergence. There are elements of business, people, governance and so on.
By the way, we also have a booth at the AIIM expo. So if you are there and want to say hello, do drop in.