Being an information consultant/analyst is a lot like being a parent in that I get to watch companies come into the world, struggle to gain acceptance, and learn to be a force unto themselves (or not). I’m not sure Alfresco yet represents a capital-F force, but after spending two intensive days with their executives, customers, and partners, I can say they’re showing signs of becoming all growed up.
- The company is committed to a platform and platform-only strategy, stating unequivocally that it’s not in the applications business, preferring to leave that side of things to its partners and suitably-equipped customers. Such a willingness to grow beyond one’s origins (in this case, as an open source content management company) to meet the market’s changing needs is solid evidence of realism and maturity.
- It is emphasizing its ability to interoperate with proprietary systems and to incorporate functionality from big-name others (most notably AWS AI Services). While certainly consistent with its platform play, it’s a refreshing acknowledgment that it isn’t trying do-all and be-all, and it’s likely music to the partners’ ears since they apparently have nothing to fear in the way of vendor interference.
- Alfresco is publicly and definitively committed to its partners, to the point where even its featured “Use Cases” (which look like applications) are intended only to be proofs-of-concepts, leaving plenty of room for partners to show their app dev chops. Gracious, and smart if they follow through.
- Perhaps most intriguingly, the company clearly is readying to play in the PaaS market space. Its platform technology is well on the way to such a thing, and it recently hired a Chief Product Officer (Tony Grout) who has several flavors of managed services under his belt. However, because the organizational structures needed to manage such a business still are fairly far off, Alfresco probably won’t be there for at least 3-5 years.
As promising as this all is, I still have a few nits to pick in terms of Alfresco’s messaging and messages. For instance, you probably know how intensely I dislike the term “Digital Transformation,” which I found to be without practical meaning immediately upon its coining. So you’ll not be surprised to learn that I cringed every time the company used it – and the company used it a lot.
You also probably know how suspicious I am of vendors that bandy the term “Artificial Intelligence” about like an empty campaign promise. Alfresco didn’t do this, exactly – though it did talk about “democratizing AI” (whatever that means) and it did lump AI in with machine learning, which is something quite different. If anything, the company addressed the capability so casually that I worried it would devalue the differentiator it so clearly thinks AI/ML provides. To be fair, this may be a reflection of the simplicity with which customers can call AWS’ AI Services from within the Alfresco platform, but it generally didn’t do the function justice.
The saving grace in both of these cases is that Alfresco at least highlighted the practical benefit value of digital transformation (there, I said it!) and AI/ML. And in doing so, the company validated what we here – and you as clients and followers – have known all along: none of this is worth beans if it’s not solving actual business problems.
So thank you, Alfresco, and welcome to grownup-hood. It’s nice to see you there.