Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Have it Your Way ECM

We’ve begun to see an interesting change among visitors to our web sites seeking to learn more about ECM and Xythos technology. While we have offered evaluation versions of our software products and free trials for our SaaS solutions for years, visitors have usually selected just one option to begin testing our solutions. However, recently that behavior has begun to change. Prospective Xythos on Demand customers as well as individuals employed by enterprise customers (I’ll come back to that item in a minute) have begun requesting access to both our on premise and our on demand ECM solutions.

We couldn’t understand why, so we decided that we should talk to several of them and try and find out what was going on. Were they uncertain which technology delivery method would work best for them? Maybe they were still considering the relative merits of leasing vs. buying software? Perhaps they didn’t believe it was possible for an on demand ECM solution to perform as well as a traditional on premise application?

After several phone calls and email exchanges with these evaluators a common trend began to emerge. I guess the best way to describe it would be a focus on business continuity. What we learned was that the evaluators wanted to confirm that investments they might make in Xythos technology today could be preserved in the future regardless of how they chose to consume the technology. This focus on preserving investment value included options beyond Xythos, so content and metadata portability was a key selection criterion among this group.

The other key factor we discovered was service vs. application feature parity. Evaluators said they were not satisfied being offered “watered down” versions of on premise software. One argued that the practice was common among vendors not really committed to SaaS who hosted limited function services mostly to coax customers into their enterprise applications where they could better control them. What a history of trust we’ve built!

Participants in this ad hoc study were mostly from smaller to medium-sized businesses primarily investigating their first ECM solution, so most were considering beginning with SaaS and possibly migrating to an on premise application in the future. Yes, they wanted to make sure that both solutions worked similarly and offered the same core features. They also appeared to care equally about data portability and skill portability. As one reviewer replied, “I only want to have to learn how to use this stuff once!”

What have we learned from this experience? Customers want choice and the ability to decide what’s right for their business on their own. Having a proven service to safely manage and store documents certainly appeals to smaller-sized organizations who don’t have staff to do this, but they don’t want to get locked into anything either. They appear willing to try SaaS solutions that can meet their security requirements, but they must be convinced they can get their data back whenever they want it.

So, what about those enterprise evaluators I mentioned? The couple that we contacted simply didn’t want to wait for IT help to get their hands on a potential ECM solution. These rogue departments were willing to look at both SaaS and on premise options because they were readily available to test and, as one said “at least we can tell the IT guys they can run it themselves if they want to”. For ECM vendors seeking a way to compete with SharePoint this is a pretty strong argument for SaaS!

In the end it would seem that offering easy web access to on demand and on premise options makes sense for both vendors and their customers, which has me wondering why don’t more business software vendors provide this option? Of course, if you're curious about how we actually do this at Xythos check out our "Test Drive" campaign for yourself at:


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