By John Mancini
The Enterprise Content Management (ECM) concept has been with us for nearly 15 years, an established enterprise tool. However, with the arrival of cloud, mobile, and the Internet of Things (IoT), it will have to adapt to support the growing mountain of big data from a plethora of devices.
Some of the original ECM suites came out of imaging and flow products, others started out as simple electronic document management, with the later addition of capture and records management. However, with increasing demand for process management, enterprise search, mobile device support, and mobile access outside the network firewall, as well as social interaction and cloud implementations, the suite providers have had to jump through ever-increasing numbers of hoops. They have opted to introduce additional modules and product integration to content management both inside and outside the enterprise infrastructure.
Although AIIM’s 2015 second quarter ECM Decisions Industry Watch highlighted the fact that half of all organizations still have ambitions for a single enterprise-wide system to manage all their content, the majority still utilize multiple systems and multiple content silos. The disparaged file-share is still firmly entrenched, whilst multiple cloud file-sync-and-share solutions are creating yet more disjointed data silos. At the same time, multi-channel communication streaming into the enterprise and document-centric workflows are adding an additional quandary, as they are often coupled to data capture, case and records management, governance, and compliance.
So how can enterprises plan content management for the future? Is the answer to accommodate, centralize, or align existing systems? How do they coordinate governance policies and support a growing number of remote users and partners and deal with mobile access on collaborative content and the corporate knowledge base? In this complex and changing landscape we will see ECM metamorphosis into an integrated layer, designed to deal with this enormous transformation in the enterprise infrastructure to cope with the huge growth in data forecast.
Don’t get me wrong, ECM still has a role to play in the enterprise. AIIM’s recent report showed that ECM is still a key solution in many enterprises, with more than two-thirds of organizations surveyed viewing ECM/document management as business critical. 33 percent of respondents say an ECM downtime or malfunction would cause serious disruption in an hour or less, with a total of 58 percent struggling if their ECM capability were to be out of action for more than half a day. From this, we can clearly see that ECM is still one of the pillars of enterprise IT on which business depends. Alongside this, 75 percent of enterprises say that ECM/records management is pivotal to its information security strategy. These enterprises are still successfully harvesting the benefits of traditional ECM solutions to automate document-intensive processes.
With the increasing adoption of mobile access, analytics, cloud, and collaborative technologies, enterprises are re-visiting the way they use ECM to address a changing landscape. This is confirmed by 52 percent of ECM users in our research who see ECM solutions fusing transparently into whole IT infrastructure within the next five years. ECM is here to stay—but as a term it will become obsolete.
The IoT Revolution
Alongside mobile and cloud, another change is underway. Probably the biggest technological revolution we have seen—that of IoT, which will become a powerful force for business transformation, with a disruptive impact on all industries and corners of society. Industry analyst group Gartner forecasts there will be 4.9 billion connected devices this year—and this will hit a staggering 25 billion by 2020.
The digital shift fired by what Gartner calls the Nexus of Forces—cloud, mobile, social, and information—will leave businesses with no choice but to pursue IoT in the same way they have done the consumerization of IT.
Enterprises will have to balance the data available from these devices with what is actually important to collect and analyze. At the same, they will have to shore up their security to deal with new risks. ECM’s functionality and scope will have an important role to play here.
Enterprises are placing ECM firmly on their roadmaps going forward. Over half of respondents—52 percent—to AIIM’s recent Industry Watch survey say they are looking to put in place an enterprise-wide ECM capability. Others are looking to hook their ECM into content and enterprise systems, providing a single access point for both search and lifecycle management.
Centralizing social platforms, capture systems, and records management within the ECM suite is also a promising arena being explored by some enterprises.
‘MACC Stack’ Takes the Reins
With transition comes huge change. Enterprises are already trying to get their heads around best practices that will help them put an efficient strategy in place to deal with mobile, analytics, cloud, and collaborative—or MACC—technologies.
The positive from this is that enterprises are forced to look at how ECM will fit into their strategy and how to best deploy its capabilities for the future. This includes looking at privacy and security issues, universal connectivity, content concentric applications, enhanced virtual and distributed work modes and how cloud will work as it comes under increased regulation from governments.
Enterprises also need to unravel cloud and ECM. A majority of respondents in AIIM’s survey were in favor of moving ECM content to the cloud, mostly as a small on-premise/large cloud hybrid. Enterprises themselves, however, are less positive with 48 percent in favor of cloud. It should be noted that 42 percent of organizations have made a positive vote for cloud, but this is predominantly for a ‘private cloud’ model. There is education to be done in ensuring enterprises understand that cloud ECM gets applications to users faster than on premise deployment, as well as being scalable, reliable, and with a much lower start-up cost, cost of ownership, and lifecycle management.
The good news, however is that ECM in the cloud is gaining momentum as enterprises see the benefits—although the number of organizations actually using it for their main content storage is still less than 20 percent.
For most end users of ECM systems, cloud or no cloud is not the main issue. It is all about access to ECM content on mobile devices. We found that line-of-business managers would like to extend interaction with on-premises processes to field workers and business partners, capturing content early on in the process to speed up cycles. Although 29 percent are in the process of planning or rolling out mobile access, only 39 percent currently provide mobile access of any sort, and only 11 percent would describe that as universal access across all staff, with surprisingly just five percent also providing mobile access to project partners.
When it actually comes to what employees can do with content on their mobile devices, many are still restricted to search and view access, and this is often through the browser rather than a dedicated application, limiting offline capability. ECM has extensive scope for integration into mobile use that enterprises have yet to explore.
ECM is embedded in the enterprise, is mission critical and has much scope for expansion in many new areas of functionality. User adoption is still a big challenge for enterprises, both in file-share systems and cloud file-share-and-sync services. Improved mobile and remote access will be a good starting point for many enterprises here.
In addition, auto-classification and better linkage to email management would also make for ease of use, and would lead to improved compliance with information governance policies.
Here is the sticking point. ECM is all about connecting people and processes to make the whole system more efficient and intuitive. Something many enterprises forget when they focus firmly on the technology and refuse to look outside of the box.
It is time for enterprises to assess if their current ECM systems are actually fit for purpose. If they are not working, it is time to re-think the model. This may mean centralizing it around new systems designed to deal with the demands of cloud, mobile, and the IoT.
The importance of content in the enterprise has never been greater. ECM is going through an evolutionary phase, but it will continue to go from strength to strength. Why? Because it works and brings enormous value to business. Best practices have yet to be established for the change it is going through. This is an area AIIM and others in the industry are addressing right now. SW
John Mancini is the president of AIIM. He is an author, speaker, and respected leader of the AIIM global community of information professionals. He believes that in the next five years, a wave of digital transformation will sweep through businesses and organisations, who will face a fundamental choice between information opportunity and information chaos.
Jul2015, Software Magazine