Cloud maturity forces ECM rethink

The Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) recently published two key reports, suggesting the rapid growth in content and information will force a "post-ECM" era by 2020.

Its findings, reported by CBR under the headline ‘Organisations have not yet linked their traditional ECM systems to mobile capabilities’, reaffirmed the mission critical nature of ECM to the majority of respondents and highlighted how mobile, analytics, cloud and collaborative technologies are shaping the way businesses view ECM.

According to AIIM President, John Mancini, "The ECM industry is in need of a new label and organisations are desperate for best practices to deal with the technology disruption that is occurring."

As reinforced by the AIIM findings, cloud computing is set to play a key role in enabling organisations to better manage their content. New research by Ovum has indeed suggested that a cloud-centred ECM strategy could deliver nearly three times the return on investment of on-premise equivalents.

The analyst highlights that cloud could be at a tipping point for many organisations, who will take the plunge and invest once the benefits become too great to ignore. What’s more, there is evidence that the earlier security concerns surrounding the cloud have been addressed, with Ovum reporting that 99.5 percent of global organisations are prepared to utilise some form of ECM in the cloud within the next three years.

This shows a shift in mindset of CIO’s that may have previously been reluctant about putting their corporate crown jewels in the cloud, to an acceptance that it is a potentially highly beneficial technology that should be utilised.

Of course, any benefits need to be balanced with the security risks and the information governance requirements of the corporate world. Mancini rightly points out that the ECM sector’s client organisations are crying out for best practices to deal with the technology disruption that is occurring.

That is a challenge to the industry, but the value of ECM – potentially even greater given mobile functionality – is such that it will carry on as a distinct process and should not be absorbed into the wider IT infrastructure, as has been suggested by some commentators.

Even as the cloud has emerged as the platform of choice across key business areas, organisations have displayed considerable caution in migrating ECM systems. Understandably, there is a reluctance to expose well established internal protocols and strong on-premises information governance principles to the harsh glare of a more public domain – as the cloud is often perceived to be.

However, many are now realising that the location of content is not the defining factor in whether it is secure – the information security and governance mechanisms put in place are what make the difference. It is also becoming abundantly clear that there is more danger of data breaches happening from inside an organisation than through the actions of any outside player – whether a deliberate attacker or a weak link in a chain.

In terms of any risk to business posed by a loss of connectivity and, therefore, critical ECM systems, this is also becoming a lesser problem as the AIIM’s own report highlights: good broadband is becoming ubiquitous.

There are a number of different paths available to organisations looking to adopt a cloud strategy, all with different levels of risk, cost and potential value. From higher-cost hosted private clouds, to hybrid or public cloud solutions, the ECM industry must provide appropriate leadership, strategic insight and solutions, relevant to a changing technology and business landscapes.

As the benefits become clear and the early adopters of cloud and mobile ECM gain a noticeable advantage, CIOs will have little choice but to embrace the new technology. But there are ways to approach this challenge that satisfy the risk appetite of individual organisations and, importantly, within their current ECM framework.

Research has shown that organisations often deploy multiple ECM solutions and, on that basis, ECM in the cloud needs to be part of the wider portfolio. Integration with the other ECM silos and line-of-business applications will allow an organisation’s key systems to share real-time information and empower employees with instant access to exactly what they need.

With John Mancini, the leader of the ECM industry association, predicting challenging times ahead – what chance does the average CIO have of navigating a successful course through this potential minefield? Correctly managed, the winds of change can be harnessed to make ECM an even better and more crucial tool than ever before.

The challenge for CIOs is to balance the risk and reward of the strategic options available.

By David Jones, cloud solution marketing manager of Hyland, creator of OnBase.

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