Competing with the Behemoths: Generis Takes on EMC, Oracle and IBM By Actually Listening to Customers

By | August 18, 2014

I recently completed a research project looking at ECM software and one vendor in particular that is winning business from large, established incumbents like EMC (Documentum), IBM and Oracle. I was intrigued by Generis since I wanted to understand how such a small, private company could successfully develop and market a product that amounts to an extra-cost add-on to already expensive ECM software.

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

As I wrote in a recent Forbes column, building a business on something that replaces and supplements standard features on an already bloated software platform doesn’t seem like a winning business strategy, however when you actively listen and respond to what prospective customers want, delivering features they actually find useful and use a lean development process with a few superstar developers, you can make it work.

That emphasis, almost an obsession really, on the customer has been Generis’ secret. Its CARA user interface product for popular enterprise content management (ECM) platforms directly competes with the native UIs. As part of my broader research into the ECM market, I had an extensive conversation with the company’s CEO and founder, James Kelleher. Kelleher, whose British accent and prior experience as a document management analyst at GlaxoWellcome (now GlaxoSmithKline) belie his origins, now operates Generis from Princeton, although when I talked with him he was back in the U.K.

Source: Business 2 Community

Source: Business 2 Community

As I write in Forbes, the key to CARA’s development and success is a focus on the ECM user; specifically the tasks they are trying to accomplish, the information they need to find and the overall ease of actually working with an ECM platform versus the backend platform features like revision control, meta data schemas, authentication and data management or data security. Click through to the column for more of my conversation with Kelleher on his product strategy and building a successful software business from scratch.