Dell EMC keeps up the Momentum with Documentum and LEAP

Dell EMC keeps up the Momentum with Documentum and LEAP

Dell EMC’s Enterprise Content Division, home to the Documentum family, has been newly extended with lightweight cloud based content apps and platform under the LEAP brand. The division’s Momentum Europe conference in Barcelona brought positive, forward-looking messages of “better togetherness” aimed at customers and partners… But the cloud-savvy imagery wouldn’t have been lost on prospective new owner OpenText. It wasn’t just protecting its brand past, it was projecting a brand future.

Old dog, new tricks

Here’s the thing. The Dell EMC division has been quietly innovating a very handsome set of lightweight cloud-based content apps, atop an all-new platform… but the company isn’t known as a SaaS content management and collaboration provider. So it’s focusing its marketing efforts on explaining to its existing customers how much “better together” these new LEAP apps and platform are when paired with Documentum, InfoArchive et al.

Trouble is, many of these customers aren’t used to the world of cloud content either. Theirs is typically an on-premise world, where custom software is deployed in large capital projects. The feature footprints, the agility, the economics, the scalability and reach of SaaS delivery… they’re all things which their IT, Finance, and lines of business departments tend not to have embraced yet; at least not in the use cases where Documentum and its family have made their home.

Under new management (again)

As the Dell EMC division is poised to be acquired by OpenText in a couple of months (subject to regulatory approvals) there’s an inevitable atmosphere of anticipation surrounding all announcements and pronouncements from the stage.

Division President Rohit Ghai shared the platform with OpenText’s EVP of Engineering Muhi Majzoub during the keynote. For the time being, it’s officially “business as usual” – which means Dell EMC and OpenText are still technically competitors and so the two men were forced to restrict their on-stage discussion to common matters of interest and outlook around the future direction of ECM… without actually being able to give much in the way of concrete details as to how OpenText sees the division and its offerings fitting into that future.

Which brings us back to the observation at the start of this note. The Dell EMC division isn’t renowned for its cloud content business; and its customers often aren’t naturally configured to explore and exploit cloud content offerings. The vendor is becoming more cloud-confident (with lots on the LEAP roadmap to excite the SaaS-savvy); and the customers more cloud-curious.

But it’s a tentative dance at the moment, with uncertainty opening up opportunities for the born-in-the-cloud competitors to sweep in with their own vision – a fact not lost on the Dell EMC ECD, hence the prominence given to LEAP and its affinity for existing Documentum deployments. Yes, LEAP has been designed to be repository-agnostic (a fact which will suit it well, once it joins the OpenText stable), but the immediate marketing focus is overwhelmingly on presenting it as the cloud solution for Documentum customers who might otherwise be tempted away by the likes of Box, married up with IBM’s ECM might – for instance.

LEAPing ahead

As of this month there are now four LEAP apps generally available: Courier, for content exchange; Snap, for document capture; Focus, for mobile document viewing; and Express, for mobile access to content; plus Concert, providing collaborative document authoring with granular controls, in Beta. The ECD also announced a further app in development: Snap Mobile (because the Snap product itself only manages a web UI, albeit a responsive one), and the early concept of an app codenamed ‘Shelf’ (described as “Slack for content”) for team collaboration – which would work in combination with Concert.

Not only are all these apps designed to be useful in and of themselves, they’re also serving as adverts for what the newly-available (and evolving) LEAP Platform can be used for. The hope is that not only will customers stay with the division’s offerings for cloud experiences around the content they hold in Documentum, using LEAP apps or building their own on the platform; but also that partners will start to flesh out a LEAP ecosystem of third-party apps.

Babies and bathwater

As a package for OpenText, then, LEAP represents a good protection against customer haemorrhage. But it could be so much more than that if it’s nurtured, invested in, and promoted. The repository-agnostic layer it provides, on its new cloud platform base, could spawn a successful line in Content SaaS and PaaS in its own right… it doesn’t have to remain the cloudy face of Documentum.

The new combined company is set to claim the top spot for ECM revenue from IBM, but it would be a shame if LEAP were forgotten or jettisoned in a scrabble to focus solely on Documentum’s customer base and profitability.

To what extent LEAP is able to carve out its place in the new world order of mobile, cloud-borne content collaboration depends on what OpenText’s plans for the division as a whole turn out to be, and the speed with which customers and partners are persuaded to adopt the LEAP apps and platform as they evolve. No easy task; and the latter will not be helped by uncertainty around the former.

There’s new life under Documentum’s rock, but that rock casts a long shadow. OpenText will need to show soon that it’s committed to providing LEAP with care and feeding, so that the platform suite can grow into more than just the hip new face of Documentum. It can help tie all the combined company’s products together in a hybrid world; and even strike out on its own, serving customers without a Documentum or OpenText backend… given the chance.

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