This purchase is significant for several reasons:
- Salesforce.com is a successful proponent of the Software as a Service (SaaS) hosted software model.
- Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is growing in importance. (If you have access to Gartner reports, check out "Predicts 2007: Information Infrastructure Emerges," Gartner ID Number: G00143743.)
- Koral contains major collaborative "web 2.0" features; it's about much more than "marking and parking" documents.
According to Jeremiah Owyang this Salesforce.com purchase is signficant because of the "social" aspects of Koral (now ContentExchange).
I'm not so sure. As important as I feel the "social" aspect of life inside the corporate Intranet is becoming, I think the really big deal about the Salesforce.com announcement is the marrying of content management with the SaaS model. Enterprise Content Management, according to Gartner, is one of the "next big things" in enterprise software applications. Indexing and retrieval software, operating via XML encoded files, increasingly is able to extend to unstructured digital data (memos, documents, emails, etc.) the same kind of management and control we have grown to expect with structured data (e.g., fielded databases). Add to that search-and-retrieval expectations of a generation growing up with Google and web based information and you have a definite increase in the opportunity for managing and re-using expensively produced corporate information inside the firewall.
I'm italicizing opportunity here since there are three important provisos to seeing ECM sweep the corporate information management marketplace:
- Most folks are more comfortable with using systems that revolve around highly structured data than they are with managing less structured data, documents, and files.
- There are certain "content intensive" applications where basic search and retrieval technology may not provide enough power and functionality for supporting certain complex corporate business processes. (According to John Newton, examples of such specialized applications include records management, engineering applications, specialist publishing applications.)
- Many executives may resist storing additional sensitive corporate information outside the firewall.
Still, this Salesforce.com move is a major one. I'm looking forward to seeing how accepted the content management features are.
I still believe that corporations need to develop policies and strategies around such tools. Process disruption within the firewall has different implications than market disruption outside. Content management processes, after all, are dealing with access to and usability of the output of many, many expensive staff hours.