In this article (it’s quite good, you should read it) Stephen Ludlow (Director, Enterprise Product Marketing at OpenText and a former colleague) makes the point that Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is not doomed, despite its inglorious past. He also points out some of the reasons for ECM’s less than stellar track record, as well as what we (the industry and our customers) need to do to position ECM for success. Coincidently, or not, Lubor Ptacek (VP Product Marketing at OpenText) made many of the same points during his session at the AIIM conference earlier this year. I just wanted to take what Stephen and Lubor said and expand on it a little bit.
Forget about the whole ECM thing for the next paragraph and just focus on the content. Think about what needs to happen with content to fully leverage its value and minimize its associate risk in organizations. It’s fairly simple, actually; provide content as a service to end users and systems and let the back-end repository take care of all the information governance and management stuff. There are two basic ways to provide a content-as-a-service platforms:
- A “silent” managed repository that serves content to LOB and enterprise applications;
- Workspaces (simplifying, don’t bust my chops) that knowledge workers access via their preferred devices (PC, laptop, tablet, phone) and methods (Web UI, Windows Explorer, MS Office, iOS apps, Android apps, etc.).
In both cases the back-end repository manages the governance of the information contained within it, leaving users to focus on their core tasks. Classifying, tagging, categorizing, and applying retention/disposition policies needs to be automated. Version control, check-in/out, and locking need to be managed by the repository.
And stop selling / promoting ECM products and projects. NO. ONE. CARES.
Talk to your clients and stakeholders about what business issues objectives your SOLUTION is going to address. It may even turn out that the appropriate technology may not be an ECM platform or suite (horrors!). The reality is that to actually address business issues and provide long term ROI it’s going to take a combination of technology types to get the job done (a paperless claims processing solution I worked on used ECM, BPM, and CRM deployed on-premises and in the cloud).
I’m not saying for a minute that ECM platforms have no value. They absolutely do if they are used the right way and hidden out of sight. ECM platforms ought to be like referees in hockey: critical to the game but no one really wants them to be the star.
The industry is having a bit of a re-think about where ECM fits in organizations, and what its role ought to be. Legacy ECM vendors like OpenText, IBM, Oracle, and EMC have been (collectively) rejigging for a few years now through product development, partnerships, and acquisitions. Relative newcomers like Syncplicity and Box are transforming how one achieves ECM-ness. Even some Enterprise File Sync & Share (EFSS) pure players have to be taken seriously when you think about the totality of what ECM really is. Companies like Egnyte and Accellion absolutely play a role in managing and governing content across an organization.
Think about this parting point: ECM is more a state of mind & being than it is a single product category. ECM-ness is not achieved by ECM products alone.