EMC's Mark Lewis takes a stand


"If you're not part of the future, then get out of the way."
~John Mellencamp, Peaceful World

Last week was a big week for EMC. The company threw its biggest event of the year, EMC World, where employees, customers and partners came together to celebrate EMC as an organization, and to articulate the future of the company. For Mark Lewis' division, the Intelligent Information Group (formerly the Content Management and Archiving Group), this was a particularly big week (as we wrote in "Documentum Group gets new name and new direction"). Lewis and his team had to sell the masses on the name change, which was much more than a cosmetic change. The new name reflected a new direction for the division and it was Lewis' job to deliver the message and sell it as best he could.

I sat down with him last Tuesday and I found Lewis to be forthright and even a bit combative about the direction his division was taking, but he was not about to back down to critics, and he was fully confident in his decisions.

Change is hard

Lewis was the first to admit that change is difficult and part of his job as the division president was to manage that change. He understood that not everyone was going to be thrilled with the shift in strategy, but he wasn't about to apologize for it either. "You can't avoid change," he said. "You will be controlling it or it will be controlling you." He adds that the competitive nature of the business drives constant change and there is no avoiding that. Lewis says if the organization simply stood still and kept on delivering content management in the same fashion it has over the last 10 years, it would become increasingly difficult to differentiate EMC from its competitors.

Time to change

Lewis says that constant change in fact, is the nature of the high tech playing field. He says that he is always asked if he is worried about Microsoft and SharePoint in particular and the new capabilities they are forever building into the SharePoint platform. "I would expect they would. They will continue to provide embedded in base products as much as they can. Our job should be not to win a race with Microsoft with entry-level features, but to continue to evolve the product to have more advanced features," Lewis said.

Moving forward

EMC is moving toward what he is calling "case management." "I honestly believe the classic ECM has become a capability, like the database has become a capability." He says in order to extract value from the repository, they needed to develop applications around specific use cases. Lewis says that ECM is moving in the same direction as the rest of the structured applications market. He points to CRM, ERP and so forth and says that broad functionality is available across all of the products, but it's case-based applications within those broader applications that provide the differentiators among brands. 

As for the public cloud, Lewis made it crystal clear, EMC has no desire to play in this space. "We have no aspiration or interest to get into advanced files shares or basic content management in the cloud. That's going to be free with other services." He added, "I don't see a market there where we can provide value and make money at those businesses."

He understands there will be those who will be uncomfortable with their change in direction, but he remains unapologetic. "To satisfy those individuals [who want Documentum to stay the same], I would have to say I'm going to ride EMC into the ground down to the commodity level and that's not going to happen," he said. "To those who are feeling abandoned because we we are broadening our reach, I'm sorry about that."

Ultimately, Lewis says he is taking the company where he believes it needs to go in order to stay viable for the long term. "I don't think we are wrong on this," Lewis said. "I think this is an incredible opportunity." He obviously believes in his vision and he's moving on with it, and those who aren't part of his future vision can, as John Mellencamp wrote, get out of the way.

Related Articles:
EMC walks the line with SharePoint support
Documentum group gets new name and new direction
Are we witnessing the end of ECM as we've known it?
EMC World 2010 Slideshow