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Sun 21 Feb 2010 04:00 AM

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Documenting the future

John O’Melia, vice president of EMC’s EMEA content management and archiving division and Chris Blaik, director of marketing explain the future of content management – and why enterprise social media is unlikely to take off.

Documenting the future
BLAIK: I spend 80% of my budget on projects that I know will succeed and 20% on things to test.
Documenting the future
O’MELIA: Customers in the Middle East are finding us – we’re struggling to have enough sales capacity.

John O’Melia, vice president of EMC’s EMEA content management and archiving division and Chris Blaik, director of marketing explain the future of content management – and why enterprise social media is unlikely to take off.What is the chief sales trend in EMEA this year?

John O’Melia (JM):To provide a richer picture, Eastern Europe and Russia for us have been the slowest parts of the region. Certainly in the first half of the year, the cash crisis was extremely severe in those parts of the world.

Even projects where we’ve been technically selected and there was an incredibly strong business case, it was still very hard for customers to push forward. That’s the most extreme area, but there are signs now that that situation is really beginning to loosen up.

Most of the mature countries have been hit to one degree or the other. The first part of the year was slow, but they’ve all survived. Surprisingly, the Middle East and Africa has actually grown for us this year – double digit growth in both of those territories.

Are there regional regulatory pressures forcing the advent of technology like content management?

Chris Blaik(CB):For the EMEA region, it’s much more around getting ready for auditing requests from regulators. We don’t have the big compliance directives. We have the EU directives that are coming through like keeping hold of statements for seven years, customer communications for nine years. So there’s very specific retention hold policies coming through.

JM:In the Middle East, the area that’s been the most dynamic this year for us is Saudi Arabia. Whether that’s because it’s weathered the storm better than other places or it’s treating this market place far more seriously than other places, you’re probably close enough to answer that for us.

Is it correct to say that this region still contains a lot of potential for future business?

JM:When we look to somewhere like the Middle East, there’s a lot of what we call green space where there’s opportunities to sell to customers who don’t have a system to replace. They’ve had very basic ways of doing things so it’s a lot easier to put in a system. If we’re selling in a more mature country, they’ve got some system in place that may be creaking a little bit and it’s time to upgrade.

CB:There’s a lot more trading partnerships now emerging between American and some countries in the Middle East. Certainly what I’m seeing is that it’s a case of getting compliance in order to be a better trading partner.

But there’s also a tradition here. 1998 was the year that Saudi Aramco put in place Documentum. There’s some very early adopters – Aramco were our fourth customer in EMEA to put in place Documentum, not necessarily for compliance but more for control. We’re seeing a lot of that in the countries that are emerging on a global scale that want to be seen to be doing the right thing.

Data leakage is one of the biggest risks worldwide, with incidents noted quite often in markets like the UK. Without disclosure laws in the Middle East which mandate the announcing of similar incidents, is your sell to regional clients harder?

JM:Customers in the Middle East are finding us. When I look at the depth of the pipeline, in the Middle East, it’s probably stronger than anywhere else right now. We’re struggling to have enough sales capacity. We’ve grown tremendously and now have seven full time account managers with all the back up of consulting and pre-sales on the ground there. We’ve got two in Saudi, two in UAE and so on.

Do you have plans to have more local consultants on the ground this year?

JM:Absolutely. We’re probably up to about 12 full time consultants in the Middle East, bearing in mind we probably had zero two years ago.From a personal standpoint, I think we’re doing much better than the competition in the Middle East. Maybe it was good timing, maybe we got in there early. We built the team, we have quite a significant services team. In addition to that, we are very actively working to support our partners in the region, to get their skill levels up where we need them to be.

Do events such as roadshows and seminars really add value to partners and resellers?

JM:It certainly adds value to us in terms of driving opportunity. We’re getting a lot of customer interest in those things. Sales opportunities are plentiful at the moment – it’s a nice place to be. I wish I had as robust a pipeline in every part of the region.

One of the major focus areas for software vendors at the moment is Web 2.0 tools. Do you believe these really add value to the enterprise work environment?

JM:I don’t think it’s the reason people are buying the technology. I’m sure it’s of interest and it’s on the desired function list but I don’t think it’s on the essentials function list. When people buy our technology, there’s normally a very specific business reason.

CB:In other regions, it’s private collaborations which are forcing organisations to really embrace this new way of working and put it in place. I presented at a partner conference called Social Everything. If you go down the 18-34 demographics, when you go further down, there’s less perceived relevance and you get people asking why they would want to do that.

But the knowledge workers that are coming into play now expect these business tools to be exactly the same as how they collaborate with their peers and their friends. It’s actually the personal everyday life of collaboration which is forcing the businesses to take it seriously.

These 18-year-olds joining us fundamentally work in a different way. They collaborate every day of their life with Facebook, that’s a way of life, that’s how they interact with each other. It’s a case of the consumer world absolutely driving the business world.

As a end-user, we’re now used to working with very rich Web 2.0 customer sites and we expect that when we go B2B. What we’re seeing is that once it’s been adopted in the private lives, then it becomes an expected way of working in the business world.

Maybe it’s not driving Middle East purchases yet but when that starts coming through, it’s going to be expected. Companies will start realising that it’s the best way to get their most from their existing and future knowledge workers. Has the global financial crisis put an end to the willingness of enterprises to spend on innovative – if somewhat risky – projects?

JM:There were more speculative projects if you like, out there, where they were wanting to trial things and maybe it didn’t have a solid ROI behind it but it was something that they wanted to explore as potentially generating new business or market opportunities for them.

CB:I spend 80% of my budget on projects that I know will succeed and 20% on things to test. That’s the same in any budget. I remember sitting down with a very large oil and gas company from the Middle East and they had nine different projects around nine different repositories – it was just to see which one was the best. You’re not having that kind of buying pattern for purchasing right now.

What are your plans to attract new talent for your division at the university level?

JM:There’s certain regions in the world like for example St Petersburg, where we have very close links to the universities. We’re a major recruiter there and influence some of the learning material and courses that go on there. In specific regions of the world where we have a high need to develop talent, then we will certainly develop those linkages.

We’re moving part of our support centre to Cairo where there’s relatively low cost of employment and certainly looking at taking advantage of some of those things.

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