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How The Cloud is Reinvigorating Enterprise Content Management

The enterprise content management (ECM) landscape is evolving from on-premise to cloud-based. Companies can no longer approach ECM as a siloed application, but instead as an open and nimble platform for engaging with customers and external stakeholders in relevant, meaningful ways.

The “relevant, meaningful ways” part of this is critical. While most companies want to support personalized content experiences that are truly engaging, their IT operating models are optimized for back office efficiency. So what has the potential to enhance the security and protection of content while unifying it across people and applications? The answer is cloud content management.

We’ve announced an upcoming live webinar with Forrester, which features Jeetu Patel, Chief Product Officer at Box, and guest speaker Cheryl McKinnon, Principal Analyst at Forrester. In this webinar, we’ll get Cheryl’s thoughts on the evolution of ECM.

Below, we share more of Cheryl’s insights from a Q&A:

1. In layman's terms, can you share the role of ECM and why organizations should be thinking more seriously about the role of content in their business?

There aren’t many jobs where content isn’t core to doing business. We often think of knowledge workers – lawyers, researchers, marketers – as being the primary creators and consumers of content, but everyone uses documents in some form. Field workers need access to manuals and guides, sales teams need to trust their contracts and customer agreement templates, accountants need to process invoices in all types of digital and physical forms.

Enterprise content management (ECM) is a heavy idea for busy employees who are just trying to better serve their customers and collaborate with colleagues. ECM is a term that technical, security, and information management-focused roles would use. The business users they serve are much more interested in the specific apps that help them do their job: marketing collateral management, accounts payable processing, contracts management.

Content, whether packaged up in the form of a document, or shared via a collaborative workspace, drives many of our critical business activities. It’s how we communicate, how we collaborate, and how we document the decisions that we make. What employees want is to have relevant content readily available, to be able to trust that it is accurate or approved, and to understand when they are able to share it and when they need to keep it confidential. Forrester has long taken a less technical view of the question “what is ECM”, describing it as “A set of strategies and technologies that help information workers find, use, and analyze digital information, from any place, at any time, within the guardrails of corporate policies.”

2. In your reports, you mention that the ECM space continues to transition. What's changed, and where it is transitioning towards?

This is a technology market that has been around – under one label or another – for about a quarter century. The vendors and tools have, of course, evolved over these last couple of decades, but I do think we are in one of the more disruptive periods of this market’s evolution. The long-time dominant architecture and deployment model of on-premises, complex suites (often assembled via acquired companies and technologies), is giving way to cohesively-developed, flexible platforms, designed to design and deliver useful apps to meet specific needs. Cloud has been a major accelerant towards this fresh approach to solving content and collaboration challenges. Newer offerings and newer vendors have had the opportunity to rethink what the market needs and take advantage of the flexibility, scalability, and continuous improvement opportunities that cloud services provide. ECM as a monolithic application that overloads users with too many features is transitioning to services-driven platforms that let designers deliver the focused, granular content apps while letting users work the way they like – via web, mobile, or even through the user interface of another application like a CRM or online office productivity tool.

3. What are some of the most promising innovations you're seeing in the content management space?

This is a very interesting time in the broader content management space. Over the next 1-2 years Forrester expects to see automation and artificial intelligence (AI) to have a significant impact on what we expect from these content platforms. There are some very exciting early examples using some of these intelligent content services from major cloud providers (such as IBM with Watson, Microsoft, Amazon, or Google) to do automated image tagging, language translations, or even voice-driven actions. Experimentation with one or even multiple AI services is what we see vendors and some of their early-adopter clients do today.
But looking ahead – we have an opportunity to (at long last) start solving some of the common hurdles that have caused many traditional ECM deployments to falter – for example; categorizing content at large scale, automating security or lifecycle policy application and proactively recommending relevant content and subject matter experts before resorting to search.

I think we’ll also start to see some innovation in how we create content itself. We think about traditional office or image documents as the core of our business, but content is becoming more componentized and we need to think about authoring and managing chunks that can be re-used in other documents or exposed in other applications. Automation will play a bigger role in pulling information from structured systems or static documents to get the data to kick off a process. And finally, content may live in the cloud indefinitely as connectivity becomes ubiquitous and teams can collaborate simultaneously across time zones and even business boundaries.


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