As someone new to Alfresco I have been looking forward to meeting all the people that make our company so great. Over the next few months, I’ll be taking some time to go Inside Alfresco and highlight the people that make us such a fun and diverse place to work.
One of those great people is somewhat of a social icon when it comes to content management, my colleague, Laurence Hart (@piewords). He has been writing his “Word of Pie” blog for over six years and in his previous role as the CIO at AIIM, he transformed the IT department from a legacy, technology-focused organization into one that more effectively serves enterprises today. This combination of first hand experience and a natural passion for the content management market made Laurence a natural to lead Alfresco’s evangelism efforts around the world.
I spoke with Laurence to figure out what it really takes to predict the content management path and what customers should be thinking about now. Below is our conversation.
Ray: As CIO at AIIM, you had a birds-eye view of the competitive landscape as well as the opportunity to put into use the technologies AIIM covered in its research. What made you choose Alfresco?
Laurence: I wanted to move to the vendor side of the industry, but I didn’t want to work for just any company. I was looking for one that understood why the content management industry hadn’t been making progress and wanted to change things. That meant I had to find a company that had the right direction, people and technology where I could make a difference. That list turned out to be a very short one. I have known John Newton for years and have always respected him, even though we disagreed at times. When I got a chance to meet and talk to the other leaders at Alfresco, I knew that I had found the right fit.
Ray: Having been a blogger for six years covering content management, how has the industry changed over the years? What is better today than a decade ago? What are the remaining challenges?
Laurence: The leadership of the industry has changed. A decade ago, the industry was led by the big players that had helped define the industry: Documentum, FileNet and OpenText. The industry is missing the necessary leadership to move us all forward. The technology does more than ever, but we are still trying to get our success rate higher than 50%. That is our challenge. We can solve the problems in the content space, but we have to increase adoption for those solutions to matter.
Ray: What do you predict the biggest disruption will be in the content management sector in the next five years?
Laurence: The next five years? The biggest disruption is already here. It is the cloud and all that it brings with it. We are only just beginning to understand how it is going to impact the industry. Say goodbye to Shelfware or the need for PAINFUL upgrade projects. Continuous innovation and scaling to fit on-demand is going to be the new way of working. Most importantly, the new wave of cloud vendors has shown the industry that we have overlooked one of the most critical features, ease-of-use. Content management has not been simple. To be successful, we as an industry, have to take that lesson and make it the default. Content management must be easy to be successful. The cloud actually makes becoming easy, simpler.
Ray: What do all customers need to be thinking about today?
Laurence: #1. Customers need to be thinking about their work. They don’t need to be thinking about content management. Content management is a critical business tool, but it needs to blend into everyday and not be a task unto itself. If they find they are spending time thinking about it, then we aren’t doing our jobs and they should spend some time understanding how they can reach a point where they stop thinking about it.
#2. Organizations should stop focusing on their check box needs. They need to tell vendors, “Show me how my problems can be solved using your content management system. Show me why my users will abandon their current process and use your system.” Organizations need to start with people’s everyday work life, see how content fits into it and streamline the content interactions.
Ray: What makes you so passionate about content management?
Laurence: To be honest, I think I am just stubborn. I’ve been trying to solve people’s content challenges for a couple decades now and the problem still exists. I just want to see it solved and I will likely keep working at it until it is resolved. I know that it is going to take the whole industry working together to reach a resolution, which is why I try and reach out to others for help making progress.
Ray: If you could change one thing today about the industry what would it be?
Laurence: I would erase most of the last decade where we spent trying to create bigger and better platforms. Instead, I would take all that research and development and pour it into making our system easier for people to use, not just administrators. Life would be so much easier today if we had done that from the beginning.
Ray: Where can people find you this fall taking about making smart content easy?
Laurence: I am attending the ARMA 2013 conference in Las Vegas to spend some time with the compliance side of the house. After that I will be spending two weeks immersed in Alfresco while I attend our Summits in Barcelona and Boston. Afterwards, people can likely find me trying to find a good spot to take a recuperative nap.
Ray: What are you most looking forward to with Alfresco’s future in content management?
Laurence: If I only had to pick one thing, it would be the cloud. While the cloud is often over-hyped, I think it offers us a chance to make the day-to-day aspects of managing content simpler, which in turn, will allow us to spend more time on making that content work smarter for the business.
Ray: When you’re not traveling and talking about the new era of content management, what do you like to do?
Laurence: I love to watch Auburn football and get outdoors and do some hiking. It is fall right now and that is my favorite time to get out to hit the trails.
Ray: What are three devices or apps you couldn’t live without?
Laurence: My Android phone, my iPod and that is it. I could live without my laptop and my tablets, though work would become harder. My phone keeps me in touch and my iPod plays the music that keeps me mostly sane.
…still have more questions for Laurence? Feel free to continue the Q+A by leaving a comment below!