Proprietary ECM solutions continue to aggravate resource availability issue

Alan Pelz-Sharpe noted in a recent post at CMSWatch that it is becoming harder and harder to find talented Documentum and, more generally, ECM skills in the marketplace. This is yet another datapoint in a trend that has been building over the last few years. (In a post last January, I asked Documentum to open up the WDK. The resource shortage was one reason.).

In my opinion, this problem is only going to get worse, at least until open source ECM solutions unseat the proprietary vendors. Developers in the ECM space are much more excited about investing their limited
resources in open, standards-based platforms.

Becoming a guru in a proprietary solution within a rapidly commoditizing market may yield short-term gains but is a dead-end in the long-term. Ironically, it’s those short-term gains that make the problem worse–the people currently enjoying those short-term gains are more likely to continue riding the wave than they are to move into an IT shop.

So I see open source ECM solutions as helping the ECM market with the resource availability problem in two ways: (1) by being built on the frameworks today’s developers are interested in learning and (2) by removing the primary barrier to entry (software license and cost) thus exposing more developers and companies with ECM solutions.

Regarding the first point, when you compare a developer who’s built expertise around Documentum’s Web Development Kit (WDK), a JSF-like framework for building Documentum web apps, with one that’s invested in Alfresco in which the development model is based on JSF/Spring/Hibernate, the Alfresco developer has a better foundation of transferrable skills, whether that’s to pure web application development or other open source ECM solutions built on a similar stack. Developers spend time learning stuff they are interested in and they pay attention to transferability.

As for the second point, freely-available open source ECM solutions are more likely to find their way into the hands of developers (and the servers of enterprises, see this post) because there are no barriers to entry. This should result in a larger pool of resources experienced with working with ECM, in general, as well as specific open source solutions.

As a thought exercise, think about what the resource pool would look like if closed-source, proprietary vendors were the only game in town? The demand would have to be much greater and the solutions much more interesting to develop any sort of resource base interested in specializing. (SAP seems like a real-life example. SAP folks are expensive and hard-to-find and I don’t run into too many up-and-coming developers begging to be sent to SAP training at this point).

So if you are an enterprise struggling to staff your ECM “Center of Excellence” or maybe you can’t even keep the lights on in your server room, maybe it is time to take a long, hard look at open source ECM.

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