Startups and innovation seem to go hand-in-hand. Maybe that’s why we all love that perennial story about two friends in their garage building the next epic disruptor that will change how we think, act, and behave. Maybe it’s because reinvention requires us to tear down generally accepted concepts to build totally new ways of working. Someone who knows a lot about reinvention is Chris McLaughlin, Nuxeo’s Chief Marketing Officer. He’s an individual that has an impressive software pedigree, leading Dell EMC’s Enterprise Content Division (prior to the acquisition by OpenText) and as the Chief Marketing Officer for Thunderhead, a dominant customer communications management (CCM) technology provider (again, before the CCM division was acquired and spun off).

With over 20 years in the industry and an established luminary in the ECM world, McLaughlin is striking out on a new venture with content services innovator Nuxeo. There, he says the spirit of a startup is visible—a different approach to solving what has been a traditional set of challenges in enterprise content management. DOCUMENT Strategy Editor Allison Lloyd sat down with McLaughlin earlier this year to talk about the changes in the marketplace and what the next-generation technology leader will look like.

We all know that the enterprise content management (ECM) market is very mature and that some of these technologies have been in place for 20-plus years. Given this history, how can such an established segment bring about innovation and redefine what this space will look like in the next 20 years?
When I look at the market from an ECM perspective (as well as the larger content services marketplace), I think we're seeing a lot of consolidation on the legacy side of the equation and numerous acquisitions, which makes sense for these organizations, but I don't know that it necessarily supports an innovation agenda. There’s a continuing importance placed on the cloud, but what’s become very apparent to me is that there's a big difference between cloud-ready offerings and cloud-native offerings.

I think taking a legacy client-server architecture and simply containerizing it for the cloud isn't the same as some newer offerings that are architected from the ground up to run in the cloud, built to take full advantage of all the benefits that the cloud offers. It's not just about managed services. It’s about having a real software-as-a-service(SaaS)-like platform for content services.

There are many pundits out there that say content services is quite an old concept and that it isn’t a new market. How do you respond to those that say we’re simply rehashing the same problems, only with a shiny new name attached?
I think that the kinds of business challenges that customers face haven’t necessarily changed. It's still about how to efficiently find, use, and reuse information across an organization. Is it radically different than the concept of ECM in terms of the desired outcomes? No, but in terms of how we're doing it, it’s completely different. The old school of ECM locked customers into this large, monolithic structure for managing content and a certain way of doing things.

In contrast, a content services approach provides an open architecture (ideally one that is cloud-native) and offers services that can be leveraged over your information assets—anywhere and everywhere—inside the organization. Are we trying to solve some of the same business challenges and problems? Absolutely, we are. Are we doing it in a very different way technologically? Yes, these are really compelling sets of tools that allow customers to quickly build those connection points and the applications that consume that information.

The rise of micro-services architecture is certainly disrupting the software landscape. In this age, we hear a lot about the importance of modularity. How do you view the need for modular components within ECM today?
The concept of modularity is that you don't need to consume the entire platform, but instead, the API is consumable at a more granular level. You can simply access and quickly use and reuse services needed to build a compelling application for business users and for the organization.

Nuxeo has a unique background in how we look at building modularity—in that we originally set out to build an environment that was incredibly friendly to other developers. That kind of sits at the heart and soul of a content services platform. We began with the concept of identifying specific micro-services inside of our platform to offer up to developers, but separately, we also looked at consuming other micro-services outside of the platform to offer, such as Amazon Rekognition and Google Cloud Vision. I think this is the ultimate concept: consuming services you need across different vendors in the marketplace to build the kind of solutions you need for the business.

The debate around cloud-based services and the various approaches to take rages on. What’s your advice to Chief Information Officers on picking the right cloud strategy?
If I’m a CIO thinking about the future of how I want to manage content and digital assets in my organization, I want a platform that I know can scale efficiently and as cost-effectively as possible.

If I'm a CIO, I'm thinking about the long-term future: How much is it going to cost me to stay current with this architecture? How do I scale up? This is why we also talk about elasticity. You may have periods of time where you ingest a massive number of new assets into the environment, or you may have back-end services that run against those new assets. During these peak times, you want to be able to scale up your back-end services to accommodate processing, so your whole system doesn't slow down while you're ingesting these new assets.

For us, the real benefits of a cloud-native architecture are future-proofing your long-term investment and how it scales so much more efficiently than client-server technologies that have been ported into a cloud environment.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.