How is Alfresco different from any other enterprise content management systems?
Since inception, Alfresco has had the ability to anticipate disruptive technology changes before it happens and we are currently experiencing another wave of this technology evolution, where we continue to lead innovation. The primary thought for conceptualizing a company like Alfresco was to develop a solution that was much more flexible and affordable than the legacy vendors were capable of offering at that time.
What has made Alfresco successful is that we have delivered ‘ease-of-use’ through the open source model in a market where implementation cycles were long and the technology design was complicated. Open source is a very important facet and we have realized is that you can take a technology to market faster because it helps engineers to deliver quickly by leveraging in big components out there. From the market perspective it has proved great for us. For one, it allows us to test and try the software anywhere in the world. It also gives us a quick check as to whether what we are developing is a good fit for enterprises or not.
The other reason we are different is when you use open source you start treating not just your employees but also your partners and customers differently because you provide greater transparency. Any issues are visible. This builds a completely different relationship with the customer; they can point out various issues and find solutions through the larger ecosystem. So, culturally, open source is not about the source; it’s about the mindset. Businesses prefer the ability to see the quality of the product.
How would describe the latest trends in the enterprise content management space?
In the last two years, enterprises are definitely looking to do more when it comes to content management. People within enterprises want to access content anywhere. We are hence seeing a great deal of interest in the cloud. People want to use the cloud because it’s a device to interact, collaborate and synchronize to have content anywhere and at anytime.
People want ease of use. What is really changing is the demand for a unified system; we need to expand enterprise content management across systems and devices in a world that is really becoming hybrid. Earlier it was just use of laptops, but now people want to access content on tablets, mobile phones and beyond firewall. Companies are finding it more difficult to control the mobility of their workforce and the need for them to collaborate externally and this is a big challenge for the content management vendors going forward. This is where we need to invest to create and deliver a hybrid unified experience around content management.
Security is a critical issue for any cloud environment. How secure is your cloud environment?
There has always been a concern about cloud security in the enterprise and there always will be, but I don’t think it will slow down the momentum of enterprises adopting cloud services.
Alfresco in the cloud is provided by Alfresco Software Limited, a UK company which complies with EU data protection standards. Alfresco in the cloud utilizes Amazon Web Services for data storage and Amazon is certified for SafeHarbor. The Safe Harbor framework is a program that provides a way for US companies to show that they adequately protect personal data according to EU standards. Therefore any transfers of personal data that occur while using Alfresco in the cloud are permitted under the European Commission’s Directive on Data Protection.
Do you think it’s the cost factor that is making companies choose open source rather the vendor proprietary based solutions?
Cost is not just simple cost because there is no license fee for us and we are subscription based. There is a whole range of different costs to take into account, the license approval cost, ongoing maintenance, hardware requirements etc. Compared to other proprietary vendors we offer a cheaper alternative. Cost is the real driver but sometimes it’s not purely cost,it’s the flexibility to connect in different capabilities to meet your needs. The ‘Bring Your Own Device’ concepts are now turning into reality, with some businesses already introducing this to make financial savings.
Alfresco open source offers the same benefits on premise, in a multi tenant cloud environment or on both. This technology helps you to synchronize both ways between the two. This allows content sharing and even workflows from on premise to the cloud and back, and helps people deal with real business situations. This enables companies to have a controlled secureplatform for their business critical information whilst providing a vehicle for collaboration internally and externally.
Enterprises are concerned about managing content on premise, mobile and cloud and we are here to make this happen through one single platform and this is a very high unique advantage.Â We were offering content management at a low cost compared to other proprietary vendors who were offering services at higher prices and this has helped us in expanding our business.Â Next month will see the launch of the mobile SDK for Android and allowing you to build custom applications for your sales force, technicians, engineers or factory.
In India, what kind of verticals do you focus on?
The two main verticals are finance and government. We also concentrate on other verticals such as media and entertainment and manufacturing high tech. Currently financial services and government are the ones in which we are the most advanced here as these two verticals are really in the core business of managing, trading, and using content.
Do you think now organizations are seeing content management strategy as a must have? Are you seeing the evolution happening in terms of the Indian perspective or is it very slow?
Yes. We have insurance companies who rely on Alfresco because their insurance agents are accessing all the insurance contracts through the platform and they cannot work without Alfresco. So content management actually is propelling into business situations and becoming a mission critical piece of IT software that helps companies deliver their service to customers. To the question of “do we need content management” and the answer is ‘yes, it’s a must’.
In India, we see a lot of CIOs and large enterprises asking for content management. But the fact is they are still in the Fortune 200-300 larger enterprises or the higher end of the market. Predominantly, the technology trends are being executed in the larger enterprises. As the market matures you will have a lot of midsize enterprises taking the initiative. They perhaps will not have full content management systems but they will be early adopters of cloud and mobility use cases. I think the slow uptake is not specific to India; it has been the apparent in some other geographies. The cost value equation was not favorable enough especially when the legacy vendors have been offering a high end approach at a premium price coupled with complex implementation.
So now with our open source model there are no more high costs associated with licenses. We also offer means to lower the integration cost overall because we have a larger population of people who can do this and integrate solutions on top of Alfresco.
What challenges does the Indian market pose to Alfresco and also how different is it from other regions?
On the business front, there are some challenges that are no different from other regions. For example, the economic conditions here are putting pressure on cost and value for money but we are good position to offer a solution to meet these challenges.
One big difference that we see is that India has such a large SI community which is different from the rest of the world. Hence there is a need to adapt our messaging for the business as well as the developer community. Globally, we have enabled our developer community to access and build on our product. In India we are also focusing on creating awareness and educating the Systems Integrators to ensure they are able to develop further solutions and create even greater value for customers. This is one of the ways we are addressing the Indian market differently.
We are confident that we have a unique value proposition that should appeal to corporate India as well the Indian government. We are offering hybrid content management capabilities to this hybrid world.
Cloud, mobile and social collaboration are changing the way employees use content. How Alfresco is capitalizing the trend?
In India, as far as cloud is concerned, we believe that enterprises are still at an exploratory phase. As such, we have built ‘Alfresco One’ to allow enterprises to still control the information they want to share while at the same time test the cloud to make sure it is the best deployment for their specific use case. This is also the reason why we are increasingly interacting with Indian CIOs to understand their perspective on the cloud. For us, the advantages are clear. Cloud is now allowing business users to set up their own IT infrastructure and applications within couple of hours at a much lower cost which was not possible before. Small teams within larger organizations want content management that is more advanced than file sharing and instant time to value. For example, in just a matter of hours you can run an Alfresco cloud and actually get enterprise grade content management and collaboration capabilities.
We predicted that 2012 would be a big year for mobile solutions and from our perspective this is starting to happen. People are looking at mobility through the cloud. You have to be comfortable with putting some content on the cloud so that you can access it through the mobile. We have companies now who would want to put content on the cloud for general use, such as an executive wanting to access content when away from office. To illustrate, we deliver the capability where an employee of an insurance company can take a picture from their iPad, load it onto the cloud and service it using the Alfresco platform.In this case, the analyst at the insurance company has access to that on-premise and can look at the Google map to view where has the picture been taken.
Social collaboration while still early on in its adoption is changing the way people are doing business and the cloud makes this easier than ever. The challenge comes in when organizations don’t have the built in technology capable of handling and syndicating social collaboration features while at the same time manage the amount of content that comes out of these social communications. That is why Alfresco was built using a robust content platform for building any kind of content-rich application along with a more social user-interface for growing collaboration and document management. Our platform is used by more than 2,800 companies where enterprise content needs to be ‘social-ready’ — or shared, collaborated on and syndicated – and captured for compliance, retention and control. We think of social collaboration as being where the capabilities of social business systems and traditional ECM meet. It is communication and collaboration with a business purpose and it requires a platform that can deliver content for discussion and engagement that then captures the results of that discussion.
What is your product roadmap and growth plans for India?
We decided to come to India as we were already seen as a well-respected content management platform by the developer’s community in India. As a company that is now focused on India, we expect to see greater adoptionof Alfresco within the community. On the business front, we see the Indian market as being extremely promising. We are going to target the large portion of Corporate India, the Fortune 200 companies of India. We are in line with our plan with a growing customer base and strong partner network.We are confident that we have a unique value proposition that should appeal to corporate India as well as government-linked organizations in India.
Our go-to-market strategy is that we are very partner centric organization and we create partnerships that can deliver customized solutions to the customer. We are looking at expanding our partner network to address other needs relating to the Tier 2 market. We already have partnerships with Mahindra Satyam and have also worked with some big System Integrators like Accenture. We have signed up a global partnership with TCS. We are also looking at other Tier 2 boutique system integrators. For Tier 2 partners we will look at companies who have deep skills in the ECM space or they have built content-centric applications powered on the Alfresco platform.
One big difference that we see is that India has such a big SI community which is different from the rest of the world. Hence there is a need to adapt our messaging for the business as well as the developer community. Globally, we have enabled our developer community to access and build on our product. In India we are also focusing on creating awareness and educating the Systems Integrators to ensure they are able to develop further solutions and create even greater value for customers. This is one of the ways we are addressing the Indian market differently.