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Why is ECM Moving to the Cloud? Forrester Principal Analyst, Cheryl McKinnon Offers Valuable Insight

Cloud is here to stay for content management.

According to Forrester Principal Analyst Cheryl McKinnon, the drivers fueling the move of ECM to the cloud continue to be the need to be more flexible and agile and offloading the burden of infrastructure investment and administration to run content management applications[1]. I recently had the pleasure to sit down with Cheryl and record a video discussing this new approach to content services and content management. It’s worth taking a few minutes to watch and learn what one of the industry’s leading ECM analysts is seeing in the rapidly evolving content management landscape.

In addition to the insightful video, we also had the opportunity to ask Cheryl three questions on the drivers for moving ECM to the cloud:

  1. How are customers handling hybrid implementations where some of their systems are on-premises and integrated with cloud? Is there a strategy in these scenarios that you recommend?

Hybrid implementation models have become the most common way of deploying content management applications. Forrester’s data from our 2017 Business Technographics® Software Survey reveals that 30% of software decision makers using enterprise content management systems describe their implementation as hybrid. This is up slightly from the 26% who reported a hybrid model the previous year.[2]

There is not necessarily one single strategy at play with a hybrid model; some enterprises are using hybrid as a stepping stone to a predominantly cloud model, while for others it is intended to be a longer-term approach. Hybrid can mean different things to different customers. We see some clients wanting to adopt cloud-based authoring and productivity tools such as email or office suites, while wanting their content repository systems to reside on-premises or in a private cloud instance with a trusted vendor. Other clients are adopting cloud content management systems for new apps or projects, while keeping existing systems in-house. Still, others want to use business rules, policies, or metadata to use a mix of public cloud, private cloud, or on-premises storage with their content application residing in a cloud service.

We expect that hybrid will be a dominant deployment model for the next few years: Content is often deeply intertwined with process and major line-of-business applications — so as these critical apps shift to cloud over time, so will many of the value-added content repository or collaboration services that enterprise content management (ECM) vendors provide.

  1. Which types of services do you see being provided to customers with cloud solutions? Are there any trends here or any that are more requested then others?

The segment of the content management market that Forrester has seen shift most quickly to cloud is what we’ve called “business content services.”

These are the content repository, library, and collaboration capabilities that allow any type of information worker to create, share, manage, and securely store business content (such as contracts, collateral, correspondence, and presentations). The processes for these use cases are often simpler, or ad hoc, driven less by complex workflows and more by teams as they review and approve content. Cloud solutions can shine here — they’re often more flexible to configure, easier to keep up to date when the vendor ensures new features and fixes are deployed, and often have licensing models and mobile or web apps to extend out to key external participants. These “extended enterprises,” which may include customers, partners, suppliers, law firms, design agencies, or other trusted consultants, increasingly are active participants in the content creation, collaboration, and approval cycle. Cloud-based applications eliminate many of the barriers to external user access in comparison to traditional on-premises tools.

Cloud is also clearly the dominant model for regulated industries (such as banking, insurance, and other financial services), when it comes to email and communications archiving. As email and messaging systems shift to cloud, so have the message capture, storage, and life-cycle management platforms that deliver resiliency and compliance capabilities. Meeting compliance and investigative requirements without the burden of in-house storage and system administration is an attractive path for firms with rigorous requirements for retention, disposition, legal hold, and other life-cycle requirements for regulated communications.

  1. Can you speak to the trends you are seeing around the growth of managed services within enterprise customers — whether these be services for customers in the cloud, moving to the cloud, or on-premises?

The managed services model for content management is also seeing some growth. In 2017, Forrester’s data showed that 25% of deployments were described as “hosted” dedicated services by their provider (an ECM vendor or an authorized partner). This was up from 22% the previous year. [2] This managed services model is also an important path for enterprises that are not yet ready for a multitenant software-as-a-service (SaaS) environment or have existing investments or integrations that they want to maintain.

Firms that have tailored their content management platforms to meet specific use cases — via customizations or integrations with other critical applications — can preserve these investments while still shifting the cost and administrative overhead of an on-premises system to a trusted provider. This may be an interim step, shifting an opex versus a capex maintenance model, without the disruption of moving to a new content management platform. Vendors that are able to take ownership of many of the fundamental upgrades, updates, and fixes — and provide ongoing optimization for performance — deliver a new set of valuable capabilities, often better than most internal technology teams.

In jurisdictions or industries where there are requirements for data residency policies — for example, keeping employee or financial data in-country — the managed services model can be beneficial when working with a vendor that has regional-specific data centers.

To wrap things up — cloud is here to stay for content management. Enterprises have a rich palette of content services that can be deployed in the cloud model that fits both current and future needs. Forrester expects SaaS to accelerate its growth over time. But today, it is primarily complementing existing systems. The shift in 2018 that is most evident is the move from on-premises ECM applications to a mixed mode of hybrid, hosted, and vendor managed services. The tipping point to SaaS, however, is just a year or two away.

Take a few minutes to watch Cheryl’s video. Then, explore more about OpenText ECM and Content Services solutions in the cloud here.

[1] Quote from OpenText Video featuring Cheryl McKinnon (

 [2] Forrester Analytics Global Business Technographics® Software Survey, 2017

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