While info360 2012 was quiet, cloud integration was the watchword


To say that last week's Info360 show in New York was not what I was expecting would be a gross understatement. For starters, I counted exactly two content management vendors at the entire show: Alfresco and Box (and Box is not a pure content management vendor by any means).

When you think content management, the big vendors are OpenText, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) SharePoint, Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL), IBM (NYSE: IBM) and EMC. Yet, not one of them was there. 

Neither were there any open source vendors other than Alfresco, nor were there any web content management vendors, and I didn't see any cloud offerings beyond Box and Yammer, which is an enterprise social tool.

To be fair, HP (NYSE: HPQ) had a big presence, but appeared to be focused on document management and its Autonomy search tool.

It didn't help that on-going construction inside and out the Javitz Center meant dealing with constructions noise and navigating a gauntlet of buckets, to catch water from the leaky roof, to get to some of the sessions. Nor did it help that the sessions--including the keynotes--were in drab rooms often without so much as carpeting.

I know the condition of the venue was beyond the control of the organizers, but the setting helps set the mood and this one was gloomy from the start.

Yet even against such an inauspicious backdrop, the event had its moments. One was a presentation by AIIM Chief Information Officer Laurence Hart called "Moving Content Management to the Cloud: A Practical Perspective." In this presentation, Hart, who is clearly a cloud advocate, took a realistic view of the limitations of cloud content management to this point.

Hart stressed that when you move to a cloud vendor, you have to understand up front how well it integrates with other cloud vendors and with existing on-premise software at your organization. Chances are, if you like content management in the cloud, you might also like CRM, enterprise social or ERP, too--and when you have multiple cloud vendors, it becomes imperative for these systems to communicate with one another.

Otherwise, he said, instead of content silos spread across your organization, you end up with islands of cloud data. Each one may be easily accessible from wherever you are, but you could run into issues if these services aren't able to communicate with one another or internal enterprise systems.

That's why he stressed that when you purchase cloud services, don't be afraid to ask tough questions, whether they're about security or interoperability. And don't simply take the word of the vendor or the brochure. While just about everyone integrates with Salesforce.com, you need to be sure your cloud vendor integrates with the tools you're using--or even might be using down the road. That means demonstrating the capability on your systems.

Whitney Tidmarsh Bouck, general manager for Box Enterprise at Box, told me in an interview that if her customers don't ask hard questions, her company brings up these issues in the sales process because it's absolutely essential that customers understand security, integration, uptime and whatever questions they might might have before the sale. Arming the customer with such information protects both parties.

Unfortunately, there weren't other cloud content management vendors with which to discuss this issue in more depth, but integration remains an issue, regardless of the kind of software you buy, or whether you locate it on-premise or in the cloud. You need to talk to your vendor about it.

And while this particular info360 might not have had the content management presence it did in the past, sessions like the one from Hart and others, at least provided attendees with some practical advice to take away. And in the parlance of sports fans everywhere, we can always wait to 'til next year. - Ron

Full disclosure: Questex Media Group owns the info360 conference and FierceMarkets, the publisher of this newsletter and FierceContentManagement was a media sponsor of the event.