Gartner officially retired the term “Enterprise Content Management (ECM)” in 2017. One year later, what’s the state of play?
In a report entitled “The Death of ECM”, Gartner told us that the term “enterprise content management (ECM)” was dead.
Why? The “promise of ECM” was to be a one-stop solution for solving all of a company’s content chaos problems. However, the reality is that most organisations have more than one system or repository in place for managing content, and these patchwork solutions are often disconnected. This has made it almost impossible to arrive at a single version of the truth.
Gartner believes the ECM market has merged with several other segments, such as the enterprise file sync and share (EFSS) market. In other words, two evolving enterprise IT categories came together in a way that promises greater synergy.
The vendors in the EFSS space are lean, agile, and built for mobile and cloud. They are also designed for usability and are often consumer-driven from an architecture and user experience standpoint. In other words, everything traditional ECM is not.
In their proclamation that “ECM is dead,” Gartner introduced a new moniker to better describe this evolving market segment – ‘Content Services’ – which they view as a more accurate reflection of how this market is progressing to meet the ever-changing demands and requirements of the modern enterprise.
ECM Unable To Deliver On Its Promises
In a world where information is increasingly moving to the cloud, and powerful search capabilities are capable of finding information wherever it is stored, it isn’t just the term ‘enterprise content management’ that feels outdated, but the premise of monolithic, one-size-fits all systems that is out of kilter with the rest of the business world.
This is the where the value of a Content Services platform comes into play. Existing systems and content repositories do not have to be axed. Instead, a content services platform can intelligently integrate with and link to core business systems to not only make it easier for users to find information, but also to deliver context, relevance and intelligence into business processes. In this environment, a customer can quickly create an auto insurance claim via a cloud-based solution that features digital signature capabilities for secure authentication and processing, mobile image capture, GPS data, weather and traffic information, as well as vital data from other relevant systems – all operating in harmony and easily accessible from the user’s mobile device while on-site at the scene of the incident.
Content Services: A More Intelligent Approach
Many organisations today are either in denial or worried about their ECM investments. If ECM is indeed dead as Gartner suggests, then can we be sure Content Services is the right way forward in its stead?
Digital transformation has shifted what companies and their employees expect from their information management systems. Companies want solutions that are scalable, that can be adapted to meet their unique needs, and that can connect to other existing core business systems. Coupled with this, knowledge workers expect enterprise systems to work as simply as the consumer-based solutions they use in their private lives. This is a complex and demanding set of expectations from businesses and workers, but it is the reality facing enterprise solution providers in the immediate future.
Gartner was undoubtedly right to declare that ECM has outlived its relevance in today’s digital, interconnected, cloud-enabled world. The concept of content services encompasses a wider array of technologies and capabilities such as content federation, file sharing and collaboration, and migration services (sometimes referred to as Extract, Transform and Load, or ETL), as well as standard ECM functions such as capture, classification, workflow and document management. It also seems to be a natural progression from an on-premises, function-specific legacy model to one that reflects the current state of digital transformation within organisations and the real-world information needs and requirements of today’s modern enterprise.
If you consider the volume and velocity of content we work with, the growing variety of content types being created and used within the enterprise, and the scale of today’s content management demands (rich media such as images and videos), along with IoT data, social media, etc.), a Content Services platform needs to be able to store, manage and interact with all of it. Could yesterday’s ECM cope with all of that? I think we can all agree that it simply cannot.
So, ECM is dead, and the future is Content Services. But the reality is that many companies are heavily invested in their legacy ECM systems and they simply cannot migrate away from them in the short term. As a result, the best way of realising the benefits of a modern content services approach and strategy is to understand that ECM systems are better suited for operating in the background going forward, behaving more like infrastructure, with their value in serving up content to people and systems that need it.
Enterprises are recognising that they must go beyond the old school ECM way of thinking that suggests a “one-size-fits-all” approach to managing information is optimal. We operate in a multi-repository environment, and it’s unrealistic to expect an organisation to migrate all data and content into one monolithic ECM system.
In contrast, a Content Services platform can integrate with legacy ECM solutions and other existing applications used for managing content in order provide knowledge workers with a unified way to create, access and manage it from any core business system.
In a content services-empowered environment, information is not tethered to a specific location – it can be accessed and synced between various systems and devices with no duplication of content. This approach breaks down information silos and the barriers between users and their information. Structured data and unstructured content is freed from the confines of applications, platforms and information silos. Regardless of where it resides, users can quickly and easily find and use the information they need to help them perform better, make more informed decisions and provide greater value to customers.
The replacement of ECM with Content Services is nothing short of game-changing – well overdue, and very welcome.