To describe trends with respect to technologies and markets is always a challenge. In past years, for our Document Related Technologies trends reports we chose the “standard” structure in form of a list of topics or a bundling of related themes. This year we will use another approach. The English language offers a large number of words starting with the letter “C” which are related to ECM (which itself has a “C” as central anchor) and to developments in the ECM marketplace. There are directly related terms like capture, content, collaboration or COLD, and others which have to be mapped to our case like communities, competition, competitiveness, continuity, compliance, concept, control, conservation, consolidation, convergence, complexity, and cost. Each “C” can stand for a discrete development, or for a complete bundle of trends related to enterprise content management.
C as in Content
The nature of content, understood as a type of digital information, has changed over the years: New formats, new processing, new usage. Today content stands for any electronic content, for documents, records, audit trails, emails, videos and everything else which can be accessed as a file or a part of a file or as a part of a data set in the memory of computers and storage systems. Content includes the information object itself, the “Data”, as well as descriptive and context informative of the object like “Metadata”. Content management systems today must have the ability to handle, process and manage any type of content. The most important factor is that content is an economic resource and has a value of its own only when it is used in processes and as knowledge. The barrier between structured data and unstructured content is disappearing, in a major development in the direction of EIM enterprise information management taking place in 2009 and 2010.
C as in Collaboration
Not only because 2.0 collaborative technologies have been growing in importance, but because they support a more natural and more intuitive way of communicating. Collaboration has also outgrown narrow boots of Groupware, where it originated from. Today there are jointly usable information bases, the joint, simultaneous and controlled use/processing of information, and knowledge bases of skills, resources and background information for joint use of information – all of which bring collaboration into the wider realm of knowledge management with targeted preparation, delivery and formatting of the required information. Special components like whiteboards for idea-gathering, scheduling, project management and more, teamrooms. ad-hoc workflow, communication applications like videoconferencing, offer new possibilities to organize processes and to support co-operation, as does the integration of information from other applications in the context of joint information processing. Collaboration inside and outside the enterprise will be one of the major trends.
C as in Communities
We use the term community here as a synonym for Web 2.0 and related developments. Web 2.0 is just an umbrella term for a number of new interactive technologies and services on the internet (especially the WWW), as well as a changed perception of the internet. Though most of the technologies were already available before Web 2.0, the most important impact is that users take an interactive role, for example through information exchange and use, content generation and the use of entertainment media. Web 2.0 offers many communication and collaboration tools like Wikis, Voting, Mashups, Blogs, Forums, RSS, social software, Instant Messaging, Social Tagging / Folksonomies, Twittering, etc. Many of the tools serve the same purpose. Companies which had already gathered some experience with the use of such tools ended up with new information silos and the general problem that most of the information used in Web 2.0 is more than reluctant to become static, persistent and archivable.
What counts is reduction to the essentials and the use of non-redundant functionality. This leaves us with the question “Is there an ECM 2.0?”. The answer is “no” because ECM didn’t contribute to Web 2.0 in regard to new functionality. ECM is making use of new features from the web, integrating these functions and adding more value to the ECM environment. In fact, ECM is a backbone infrastructure for managing the information created and used in a 2.0 ecosystem. ECM 2.0 as a marketing slogan will no longer be of importance in 2009.
C as in Compliance
Compliance is about meeting legal and regulatory requirements. Legal and regulatory compliance is essential for all companies and administrative bodies. But the good news is, ECM helps not only to work compliant but additionally contributes to getting business value out of the necessary investment in compliance. The shift from a paper-based administrative world to an electronic, virtual world will lead to further changes in laws and regulations. Also, current data-security scandals and growing documentation requirements are strengthening the compliance trend. Compliance is not a stand-alone issue, but must be seen in the wider framework of GRC, governance, risk management and compliance. Governance defines the rules for acting compliant, while risk management is the ruler for defining the level of investment and the risk involved in compliance and business issues. In this framework we need a broader understanding of the role of technologies, which can only help the enterprise to be compliant but deliver no compliance on their own. IT compliance is therefore only a subset of an overall GRC strategy. Islands of information like information silos hinder the implementation of an infrastructure to support governance and compliance as an overall company strategy. New architectures with GRC middleware infrastructure will set the scene for the compliance issue in the coming years. Compliance was and remains a major driver for enterprise content management solutions.
C as in Complexity
Fact is, ECM solutions are almost all designed for in-house use by specially trained employees. They often feature extensive functions in numerous menus and complex interfaces offering a plethora of information. Capturing and presenting metadata is especially difficult. From the usability point of view, ECM solutions need to become simpler and more intuitive. The “enabling” of major applications is becoming more important. Basically, within specific applications you should only need 3 “buttons” to use ECM functionality: save information, retrieve information and display information in structured form. The requirements of new user groups, who cannot be extensively trained, but who should be involved in processing and using information, are driving the development of new user interfaces. Therefore, simple, obvious and intuitive Web 2.0 functionality is growing in importance. The reduction of complexity saves cost and raises acceptance, and is thus one of the major drivers when implementing new software solutions at user sites. Especially vendors of traditional fat-client-oriented ECM software will have to do their homework fast.
C as in Components
To talk about ECM nowadays it is to talk about components, services, sub-systems and infrastructure. The hot topics are SOA service oriented architecture and ESB enterprise service bus. Harmonization, synchronisation and orchestration are needed to make a SOA work. ECM services have to be part of any SOA approach for managing unstructured as well as certain kinds of structured information. These ECM services not only provide their functionality to other ECM components, but can also support other applications like ERP, CRM or legacy software. A typical example is information capture with scanning and recognition, which might not deliver documents to an archive but only supply extracted data to a line of business applications. Client software thereby becomes less important and is replaced by the enabling of major applications and integration in portal interfaces. To provide ECM services will be as well in 2009 and 2010 a challenge to both, vendors of complete ECM suites and those offering integrated ECM solutions. Both are endangered by new concepts of usage like SaaS, ASP and other outsourcing offerings. Future ECM architectures and services must be deployable either in a local ECM installation or in a computer center using SaaS.
C as in Continuity
Business continuity and information security are cost-intensive investments. With ECM solutions not being managements’ top priority, it was always hard to get investments for fail-save and secure ECM systems. Continuity is an issue whose significance in the context of ECM gets nowhere near enough attention. We are ever more dependent on the availability and correctness of electronic Information. ECM supplies methods and technologies to store information safely and ensure the traceability of transactions, and present them in virtual electronic folders. But most ECM installations are only departmental solutions, or provide only a fraction of the available ECM functionality. One goal for vendors and users alike is to rollout ECM as an infrastructure to support end-to-end processes on secure and safe platforms, preserving the value of information and reducing risk for the enterprise.
C as in Control and Correctness
Many people say, “we have more than enough information, how do we get rid of the overflow?” Getting control of information is a key task, given the growth of information and fragmentation of repositories! The same applies to processes supported by software. Here ECM technologies as holistic “end to end” solutions ensure traceability. As discussed above, risk management can be supported by ECM solutions. Regaining control over information is not a GRC issue, and places compliance, control, audit trail and legal hold solutions in a larger context. But it is definitely an issue of “easy-to-use” for the end user, to disburden him or her from the information overflow. Taking control again, and raising the quality and the usability of information, will be an important topic not only for ECM but also for directory services, master data repositories, address books, information resolving, and finding strategies for deleting unnecessary information in an accurate and controlled manner. The value of information and its accuracy and availability must be considered in planning and operations alike, and justify investments in ECM as infrastructure.
C as in Conservation
The term conservation is used as synonym for electronic filing, electronic archiving and digital preservation. For true long-term digital preservation, i.e. safeguarding accessibility and availability for decades and centuries, there are still no ultimate solutions. The only solution today is continuous data migration with lossless transfer of documents, metadata, content and other related information. Many historic archives and international projects are working on the issues of digital preservation. But even for enterprises with more short-lived records for commercial and tax documentation, there are enough challenges to be solved: Access for tax auditors, handling of documents with electronic signature, classification of the legal character of documents and records, and the sheer masses of information bringing stability and performance down. Technology obsolescence threatens older archive solutions still using optical disk or other proprietary storage solutions. And there is another issue as well – most of the enterprises already installed different solutions for archival in the past, and many of these remain as islands of information. Strategies to integrate these silos or to replace old systems are on the investment schedules of a lot of potential buyers for 2009 and 2010. ECM must act as an umbrella to incorporate old and new repositories, and to make information accessible wherever it exists in the organization. Federated repositories is one of the key elements of ECM, and clearly a market driver.
C as in Convergence
The convergence in ECM is especially evident in the convergence of technologies that were not originally part of the core of document management: Capture, Output Management, Digital Asset Management, Digital Rights Management, Electronic Signature, Web Content Management, Web 2.0, Business Process Management, Business Intelligence and many more. Especially new communication technologies like mobile work via VPN, use of PDAs and sub-notebooks, “always online” and the 2.0 hype are adding not just functionality to ECM, but also stress. New vendors are entering the ECM market who were never involved in early imaging or later document management. More and more ECM functionality is becoming a commodity and is combined with other functions – the ECM industry is losing its unique selling propositions. On its way to become an enterprise information infrastructure, ECM is losing visibility on the desktops. And ECM is unraveling at the edges. The more new features of adjacent technology areas are integrated into ECM products, the blurrier the perception of what ECM is or can be.
C as in Competiveness and Cost
The financial and commercial crisis intensifies the natural behaviour of saving money wherever possible to increase profit. Businesses can be described as being driven by greed (cost-effectiveness and profits) and fear (compliance and no risk). As already discussed in the section on compliance, ECM serves both goals. It is amply proven by success stories and analyses that ECM is cost-effective and enhances the adaptability, efficiency, and business viability of a company. Today, the implementation of ECM is not a matter of “if”, but only of “how” and “when.” In re-using the acronym ECM to define it as Enterprise Change Management, we confirm that ECM’s benefits are more important than ever, and especially in a challenging economic environment. To support change is the core message, while cost savings is the added benefit. The goal is to reduce cost while increasing the efficiency of the enterprise. Everybody knows that cost savings are up there with increased efficiency and new business on deciders’ priority lists. ECM offers the necessary means of combining and controlling information from different sources. This reduces costs in all areas of company IT. But lasting change in the enterprise and the ability to align the business with new economic situations or markets with support of ECM solutions should be a focus in this. ROI is one aspect, but sustainability has more value on the long run.
C as in Consolidation
Last but not least, a look at the ECM market place. There are different types of consolidation. Market-driven consolidation: Vendors and products disappear or merge as companies take over other companies. Technological convergence is accelerating consolidation and simultaneously expanding the range of options.
User-driven consolidation: Integrating, combining and thinning out heterogeneous systems in order to arrive at uniform IT infrastructures.
But let’s also take a look at the ECM vendor market and do what the Gartner Group doesn’t want us to do: Compare the Gartner Magic Quadrants from different years.
In September 2007 eighteen companies were depicted on the ECM Magic Quadrant. Six, or 33% of these were no longer independent by late 2008: Filenet, Stellent, Hummingbird, Interwoven, Mobius and Tower Software.
Companies like IBM and Open Text but as well “new comers” to the ECM market like HP and Oracle profited from this. 2008 Autonomy bought Interwoven.
The Magic Quadrant of September 2008 shows as well other significant changes.
HP entered and Oracle moved up. Some vendors were no longer on the sheet, others like Saperion, Xythos and open source specialist Alfresco entered. Some improved like Day but the major impact was the positioning of Microsoft in the leading quadrant. Five companies are now leading the development of the ECM market, only one, Open Text, being an ECM specialist. And SAP still remaining a candidate for upwards movement as well.
This shows on the one hand major changes in the vendor market. On the other hand it is good news. ECM is accepted, it is mainstream now. No longer a small niche. The ECM market is growing, even in times of financial crisis, at a good rate. But the revenues of the ECM market are distributed between more players. So the traditional vendors of ECM solutions have to find their niches with specialized solutions for certain industries or business cases, providing services components to other software vendors, or filling the gaps in the offerings of the large standard software vendors.
In 2009 the consolidation of the market will not stop. We will see growth, new alliances, new products. But the future will be EIM enterprise information management, when the last chasm between structured information and unstructured information will be bridged by document related technologies. (Kff)