Death of ECM, Birth of Content Services
With the explosion of new trends, new features, and new approaches, almost everything we know about the content management industry and enterprise technology has been radically changing, so much so that today, the purpose of Enterprise Content Management is being questioned.
It has all started with an interesting article written by Michael Woodbridge, Research Director at Gartner, on the future of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) as he stated: “ECM is now dead (kaput, finito, an ex-market name), at least in how Gartner defines the market. It’s been replaced by the term Content Services.” Is it only a matter of perspective or is ECM really on the verge of extinction? Let’s find out!
Whenever I get confused or try to figure something out, I always go back to basics to help myself to navigate daunting waters. In this case, let’s go back to 2000 when ECM disrupted the space by consolidating the three fundamental platforms; enterprise document management (EDM), web content management (WCM), and digital asset management (DAM). The point of ECM was producing business and personal productivity through integration and simplicity as it was supposed to enable enterprises to develop Content Management applications and integrate them tightly with other systems as needed. Well, in reality, while the ECM solutions were offering organizations the illusion of control, they also failed at end-user adoption as some prominent functionalities such as filing and classification of documents were not user-friendly and became obsolete, so individuals discovered ways around it.
What Went Wrong?
According to Woodbridge, the primary overarching business goals that organizations strive to thrive with in an ECM strategy are:
A single monolithic approach failed at achieving these, so did ECM. Traditional ECM solutions focused on the library aspects of documents and missed out on the social aspect of content such as collaboration. Therefore, traditional vendors have been slow to roll out mobile, lacking focus on UI and have not been able to collaborate with external stakeholders due to the licensing model. In the end, ECM vendors struggled to keep up with the need for rapid innovation and nimble cloud-based deployment.
Shortly after the cloud technology was born, ECM solutions have waded into the cloud foray as they were supposed to. However, the way of joining the party created a new confusion as many ECM solutions became the extension of legacy ECM software hosted in the cloud (public or private). In other words, vendors simply moved their traditional slack into the cloud. So it was really a new package but the same redundant recipe of the on-premises model.
Meanwhile, with the rise of technology and globalization, customers were and still are on the lookout for ECM cloud solutions that enable their both internal and external stakeholders to take part in the collaborative content co-creation or review of internal business process in a secure manner by taking advantage of true modern cloud elasticity. Unfortunately, the legacy ECM solutions hosted in the “cloud” haven’t been successful in addressing this emerging use case.
Birth of Content Services
Another part of Woodbridge’s stark prediction stated in my opening paragraph was discussing the birth of content services. In his article, he briefly describes the term as “a strategic concept that covers three aspects, namely Content Services Applications, Platforms, and Components.” Woodbridge believes that content services can achieve the outcomes promised by the original vision of ECM; capturing the information and quickly and cost effectively meet emerging business innovations while maintaining the appropriate level of governance and compliance.
In Gartner’s view, by 2020, “content services applications will replace traditional enterprise content management suites in a quarter of large enterprises.” Additionally, in the AIIM Industry Watch titled “ECM – State of the Industry - 2016,” 38% of respondents agree to strongly agree that we need a new language other than ECM when describing content management products.
The point of Content Services aims to bring together architecture supportive of on-premises and hybrid cloud services, a multi-repository approach to managing content regardless of its source repository, and intelligent functions like enterprise search to create agile, cost effective solutions. The reason why this term can replace with ECM is because Content Services provide a more practical and multi-repository solution whereas ECM has been hidden in a single repository world.
Will ECM Live on in New Clothing?
Although many experts are arguing that ECM is dying, the figures are actually telling otherwise. Studies show that the market is still strong at approximately $5.5 billion in license and subscription revenue per year and still around 7-8 percent yearly growth. It is certainly lower than previous years but still, it is growth. So maybe this only means that the golden age of high growth for ECM has ended. Therefore, I am not sure that I can say that ECM is dead but I agree with Gartner’s statement saying that the term of enterprise content management no longer reflects market dynamics or the organizational needs for content in digital business.
My point of view is that the ECM space needs another disruption. Today, we are all about rethinking and innovation so why not reinventing the value proposition around ECM solutions? At the end of the day, all businesses care about is finding a new technology, strategy, or approach that can make their employees’ daily working lives more effective and efficient, no matter what the terminology is.
What I mean by reinventing is that the next-generation ECM solutions should be architectured by an effective deployment of web content management, digital asset management and social collaboration platforms that make it easy to develop granular applications, minimizing/eliminating the need for code and incorporating analytics at the core. I believe that ECM will live on in new clothing if the solutions become easier to use, easier to integrate with core business process applications, and built for mobile and cloud from the ground up.
To circle back to Gartner’s analyst's bold statement, aside from renaming an industry, what struck me most is that no matter what, ECM will retain its invisible position more in the background as a supporting service for other business applications. I mean, the industry has never been sexy so I would be surprised if it’ll ever be. However, knowing that 70% of the workforce will be millennials by 2020, the life span of ECM platforms is merely depending on how much more user-friendly those solutions will get.
If you are interested in hearing more on reinventing the ECM space, you should check out CMS-Connected interview with Christopher McLaughlin when he was Chief Marketing Officer, Enterprise Content Division at EMC. You can catch the replay of the interview here.