Part 2 in the "Unlearning the FUD Series", of which Sales Cycle Theatre was Part 1.

Another epiphany I've had here at Nuxeo - as I understand how an open source approach to ECM development fundamentally changes perspectives towards clients. As we worked on updating our Nuxeo Online Services subscription program earlier this year, a few light bulbs went off in my head.

It took me some time to put my finger on it, but:

"We do not punish our customers for being successful"

Nearly all of the legacy ECM vendors derive a substantial chunk of their revenue through the 'sale' of licenses. I put 'sale' in quotes because if anyone actually reads the fine print of an End User License Agreement, you know you are not, in fact, owning anything at the end of the day. You are merely licensing the right to do something with the parts of the code the vendor decides you are allowed to have.

Per End-user. Per Administrator. Per read-only user. Per Named user. Per anonymous user. Per concurrent user. Per Super-user. Per DBA. Per Records Manager. Per Occasional User. Per Desktop Access. Per Web Client Access. Per Mobile User. ... you get the idea.

So to have a successful ECM deployment, an organization needs to get their information workers participating and using it. Great. But if it is so good that more people use it than initially expected, the customer first has to get permission from the vendor to expand, this permission in the form of more licenses. And that costs money, and time and paperwork.

And if the company is on a growth track? Developing new offices, expanding into new regions, maybe acquiring to get bigger faster? Nope. Got to check in with their ECM vendor first, get permission for these new people to participate in the corporate information system.

Vendors driven by license sales also reserve the right to periodically check in, making sure customers have not expanded and derived benefits from their own corporate knowledge without vendor permission. They call it a 'true-up' campaign and usually pull it out when the quarter looks tough.

Imagine if IKEA did true-ups. Knocking at your door a year after buying the book cases. Asking how many members of the household put the books on the shelves and forcing you to buy a new one or else they'll get the lawyers involved.

Your corporate content, your staff, your business. ECM is a competitive advantage for businesses in today's knowledge economy. Companies who understand this and encourage knowledge sharing, corporate memory preservation, efficient re-use of information, collaborating and learning from peers are the companies that will thrive and survive. That means being nimble and welcoming new ECM users as YOUR business dictates. Not as a software provider dictates.

Ask your current ECM vendor why they're punishing you for success. Really, why do they care how many people are using the system? In the world of the web, fewer and fewer products require the onerous desktop configuration that might have justified a high support cost per user. That was an assumption that made sense in the client-server world of the 1990s.

But hello? It's 2010. Time to rethink this model and ask the question. I'm curious to hear the responses.