2016 was a big year for Enterprise Content Management (ECM). In December, Gartner’s annual conclusion was that the concept of ‘ECM’ would retire and be replaced by so-called ‘Content Services’. In my opinion, this concept does not cover the issue either and it is time for a more forward-looking concept: Intelligent Information management.
Gartner literally says: “ECM is now dead (kaput, finite, an ex-market name), at least in how Gartner defines the market. It has been replaced by the term Content Services”.
As you can possibly imagine, the discussion around these industry terms and the death of ‘ECM’ was the central topic during AIIM17.
Discussions around this ECM-topic are not usually new. If I could get a Euro every time I arrived at the annual conclusion that ‘ECM’ is not a perfect term or that it is more of a strategy to pursue rather than a description of a technological sector, I would be a rich man.
‘Retirement of the ECM concept’ does not mean that the need for options disappears, nor that everyone should throw out their ECM approach and associated systems. It does mean that the term ECM no longer covers the ‘content-y’ issues that occupy people.
Basically, suppliers provide solutions and strategies in the sector that help end-user organisations to manage interaction between people, processes and technology. How this interaction is managed, evolves along with how technology evolves. In my opinion, there are at least three overlapping types of information management that play an active role in the market:
Document Management & Workflow – evolved around 1995
- People: Solutions are difficult to use and demand a lot of training. Users are often specialists.
- Processes: The focus is on the automation of content-intensive, complex, mission-critical processes, especially in large organisations.
- Technology: Complex, customised and expensive implementations. Acquired by Business Buyers.
Enterprise Content Management – evolved around 2005
- People: Focus shifts from ECM ‘specialists’ to knowledgeable users but usability is still not a top priority.
- Processes: ECM believes that it is a company level layer but it is often actually driven by individual departments. Information silos grow like mushrooms.
- Technology: Increase – and then decline – of ‘suites’. SharePoint disrupts the traditional ECM-market.
Mobile and Cloud Content Management – evolved around 2015
- People: Usability becomes the number one top priority. The distinction between home and office starts to disappear.
- Processes: ‘Appification’ of processes. Consumer solutions that are ‘good enough’ emerge onto the MKB-market.
- Technology: Configuration, connection and mobile options become important. File sync & share and cloud solutions shake up the market.
In my opinion, this is all clearly more than what the traditional term ECM stands for, especially as a narrow and more traditional, transaction centred definition. However, I think this term no longer really describes the challenges and strategies being faced by organisations. Especially as the market is developing further towards big data, automation and analytics. It is these themes especially, that create added value for companies.
As I see it, the Intelligent Information Management definition is the best one.
This definition evoked many reactions, but these could be reduced to the following two questions:
- Why ‘Information Management’ instead of ‘Content Management’?
- What is meant by ‘Intelligent’?
After a few false starts, we are finally in the era of ‘Information management’. This new world is all about data plus content, instead of data or content. In the past we have had to deal with a dichotomy between data management and content management. If this dichotomy was ever of any use, over time it is becoming even less useful. Solving challenges with the customer as the central focus, requires skills and technologies from both the world of data management and the world of content management.
Intelligent Information management can be described in a number of contexts. Some of these are described below.
‘Intelligent’ means that we finally realise that the delusion of having only one single content repository for everything is indeed a delusion. Consolidation and simplification, yes. Removing and replacing business-critical content systems, with the aim of getting everything into one place, for most organisations no longer exists.
‘Intelligent’ means that companies care much more about what something actually is (A contract? An invoice? An RFP?), then where it is being stored.
‘Intelligent’ means that companies need information management tools that are user-friendly, can be implemented without too much ‘IT-interference’ and are easily integrated into daily processes.
‘Intelligent’ that does not mean that every business process is a gigantic, consisting of millions of documents, straightforward process (in other words an ECM-process). But all of these simpler daily processes are still information intensive. Automation of these processes is still a critical prerequisite for digital transformation of companies.
‘Intelligent’ means that information management requirements differ by process and application. The market wants to purchase specific capabilities and not just one gigantic ‘total suite’ that offers everything, including unnecessary options. It is outdated ‘ECM-thinking’ to capture everything in one monolithic system.
‘Intelligent’ means that metadata management is becoming increasingly important as the key initiator of all of the above.
The ability to apply Intelligent Information management requires an application that includes these six ‘intelligent’ approaches. M-Files offers companies this added value. M-Files is the fastest growing information management system in the world for good reason. Are you curious about how this actually looks in practice? I am organising a live online demonstration of M-Files and would be happy to show you the added value that M-Files can create for your organisation.
Register now for the online demonstration, which is completely free of charge.