Like a lot of folks, Dave DeWalt's departure from EMC took me by surprise. I met Dave his first week on the job. At the time I was a technical partner manager with a passion for web content management. Dave asked me if I wanted to have a front seat to turning the company around, and that started my best four years of my professional career. When Dave joined Documentum we had reached our lowest point and within six months the company had turned around, better yet we were getting traction. It has now been one year since Dave moved on from his role leading Documentum within EMC and became CEO and President of McAfee. After recently reading John Newton's post The Departed - Dave DeWalt and Documentum which answered the questions of why he thought Dave left, I thought it would be interesting to look and see what has happened in the last year of his departure.

A Bump in the Road

Dave's exit last year was not the only change in the Documentum leadership team; there were a couple of others departures that were not public. Mike DeCesare, former VP of Sales, and Joe Gabbert, former VP of HR, both left EMC following Dave to McAfee and so too did David Milam, former Chief Marketing Officer, after a brief stop at Zantaz. While these names may not be familiar to you, if you think back to the music videos or motorbike racing clips at Momentum, these were Dave's top lieutenants. It was their passion that inspired those reporting to them to put their heart and soul into the company. But gone is the passion and energy Dave and his team brought to content management. While some may disagree with the idea that content management is cool, I doubt few felt that way after seeing Dave's keynotes. Rappelling from the ceiling or entry on motorcycles or horseback (even with diapers) woke you up in the morning and got you listening to the rest of the presentation, no matter how late you stayed at the table in Vegas. In contrast, the EMC World 2007 keynotes were given with all the enthusiasm of a tenured professor in a second rate junior college. You could really see the difference between the west coast software and the east coast hardware marketing. On the west coast, we know you need a powerful delivery to get people's attention. Just look at Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison. By summer you could already see the people in the trenches losing heart. People I had worked with for years were considering other opportunities. I would attend conferences and bump into others wearing new polo shirts, some of those now with the "enemy". Such things can be expected with a series of high level leadership departures.

Getting Back on the Path

Documentum had been a tight knit family. And fortunately, in mid-year Howard Shao came out of retirement to hold the family together. It was disappointing though that while he left with a roar there was not even a peep when he returned. Howard's return did what it intended. It settled folks down and even brought a few people back. Joining Howard to take the reigns of CM&A was Mark Lewis, who had held several roles inside EMC including CTO. He's only been in the role for six months so there's been little time for change but EMC World is coming up. We'll see if this long time EMC leader finally looks across all of the EMC products. It still baffles me that after three years few of the product lines talk to each other (EMC's Newest Competitor EMC?). The other question, can he motivate the troops? I'm optimistic, even though rumor has it that eRoom 8 is on hold and announcements that EMC is embracing SharePoint. I'm having flashbacks to Documentum's 1998 partnership with Interwoven -- say it ain't so Joe! One can only hope that the company has learned from their acquired past.

The Other Road at McAfee

But what about McAfee? Other than being a customer of theirs for ten years I never really took notice. I do now. I'll let DeWalt tell you about how McAfee's results were the best in three years, with three consecutive quarters of solid growth. Those of us that know him knew it was inevitable that he would find a home in another company, and one looking to make a major change. That was his passion and that fire can now be seen in McAfee. I recently flew into the Bay Area to visit old friends and without even leaving the Oakland Airport I see my first red McAfee billboard: "Hackers are bad. We're Bad Ass!" So was Documentum...once upon a time.

About the Author

Marko Sillanpää has over twelve years of content management experience with software and consulting companies, Documentum, CSC Consulting and Accenture. Currently Marko is a Principal Consultant with Armedia. Marko along with Lee Dallas make up the Big Men On Content who use a balance of industry and customer experience to help others navigate the content management space.