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What’s ahead for ECM?

This article appears in the issue March 2004 [Volume 13, Issue 3]

What’s ahead for ECM?

Between the partnerships, acquisitions and rumors, there’s a lot to talk about with enterprise content management these days. So, we decided to ask vendors and analysts just what they thought the future might hold.

A number of vendors thought our request was a license to submit a pure marketing message (we’re sparing you those replies), and some folks didn’t want to go on the record.

But read the best of the rest. The comments we have published will surely fuel further discussion, and we invite you to submit your views, as well. E-mail us at editor@kmworld.com and make sure to include your full name and company affiliation. We’ll publish the most interesting insights.

—Hugh McKellar, KMWorld editor in chief

Consolidation, sure—just about everyone agrees with that. But what will that further consolidation mean for solution providers and users? We asked that question of vendors and analysts. Here’s what they have to say.

Ferment, chaos, consolidation—you can use any of these to describe what is going on today in the content technology markets. In the past year or so, we have seen more than 60 mergers and acquisitions. Large vendors such as IBM, Oracle, Microsoft and SAP are stepping up their investments in content management and search products, and this will further disrupt the market. Here are some trends we are tracking at IDC:

  • Emergence of an information infrastructure for the enterprise--In the past six months, we have seen a trend toward an integrated, Web services-enabled infrastructure that unifies management of and access to all kinds of information (data, content, video, image, audio files, etc.).

  • Active documents—documents with XML code, workflow and other code embedded in them that create living, changing documents as a new point of interaction. These unify access to a variety of information sources or applications for a specific task.

  • Renewed interest in information visualization and intelligent agents.

  • Gradual automation of manual processes, and increasingly dynamic systems.

  • Emergence of standards such as Web services, XML, RDF, etc., so that applications can interact easily.

Where is this all going? Toward, we believe, the next wave of easier to use, smarter, more interactive computing applications. It will be fun to watch.

—Susan Feldman, research VP, content management and retrieval software, IDC ......................................................................................................................................................................................

Content management as a distinct market is dissolving. In four years, there won't be standalone content management, portal and document management markets. Enterprises want not just content management for publishing to an intranet or to the Web, they also want CM together with integrated document management with versioning, check-in/check-out and document level security. Most enterprises want to support collaboration around Web content, documents, e-mails, chat, instant messaging and in the future, rich media.

Along with the collaboration, they want administrative and management support for virtual teams and virtual communities. And they want it all wrapped together in a portal framework with good integration to ERP, BI and CRM systems. Finally, add in taxonomies, metadata support, people finders and federated search. In the past, enterprises had to do all this integration themselves, usually with the help of a systems integrator, but today all of these technologies are converging into what Gartner calls the Smart Enterprise Suite.

—French Caldwell, VP and research director, Gartner

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I look at ECM vendor consolidation a bit differently. Consolidation represents another belated spasm from an Internet IPO boom that begat cash-flush but customer-poor WCM and IDM vendors.

Today, as more agile competitors surpass them on features and value on one side, and while Microsoft and Oracle threaten them on the platform side, many former "CMS" vendors seek greater market share and economies of scale through the only realistic way left open to them: acquisition. Traditional analysts will tout ECM "suites" and integrated solutions. Cooler-headed consultants will point out that ECM is more of a discipline than a product.

My advice for 2004: Buy the single functional solution you really need, and not one more.

—Tony Byrne, founder and editor of CMSWatch and The CMS Report

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The outlook for the CM marketplace is more consolidation. In the short term, this means more small vendors being snapped up by larger CM vendors and one or two larger CM vendors being snapped up by bigger players.

Over time this will mean that CM will morph into two or three distinct groups, the first and largest will be the collaborative CM/DM set—led by Microsoft and Oracle—pushing high quality though lite functionality to every desktop. Below this will be the second group, with DM being driven as an up-sell of storage and information life cycle management; IBM and EMC will lead this group. The third group (smallest in terms of revenue, but largest in terms of players) will be the ISVs that sell vertical CM solutions; leaders in this group will be players such as Open Text and Vignette.

For buyers it makes the decision-making process far more complex, and they need to be sure that they match their needs carefully with vendors solutions. For many if not most CM/DM-specific deployments, ISVs will remain the best route in terms of service and fit. But the drive from bigger players in the infrastructure space, along with their ability to cut prices, will be strong and tempting to buyers.

—Alan Pelz-Sharpe, VP software and services, North America, Ovum

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While the trend toward a “single-vendor” ECM solution holds promise, the current state of ECM inhibits businesses from leveraging content assets and places a large burden on IT to integrate and maintain disparate products being sold as ECM suites. For the true potential of ECM to be realized, vendors must develop holistic ECM architectures that eliminate duplication, provide a universal content repository and offer a single-user interface--all at a lower price.

Expect the market to continue its present consolidation a while before it “rationalizes” products and functionality into universal ECM architectures. Following that era will come a phase (by 2008) during which major IT infrastructure vendors will dominate the ECM market, leaving remaining smaller vendors to target specialized, enhanced and/or vertical functionality.

—Connie Moore, VP, research leader, GIGA Information Group/Forrester Research

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For content management to become a boardroom agenda item, organizations (both customer and vendors) have to look over the typical CM boundaries. The isolationist view of content management as a solution unto itself is wrong and thereby becomes harder to justify.

Solutions that are intended just to better manage your documents are always going to be harder to justify—whether you are a vendor trying to sell a solution or a company trying to justify a solution to the boss.

Look over the fence—or cubicle—to see what others in your organization are doing. How many other project teams are actively trying to fix a problem that could be addressed by components of a content management solution--but are not labeled content management?

From business continuity to compliance-related matters (Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA, etc.), to business intelligence and many other areas, content management solutions can and do address these boardroom topics, but may not be seen that way to the casual observer.

—Steve Goodfellow, president, Access Systems Consulting

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The enterprise content management market continues to evolve. First, content management was about managing relatively simple documents, but as digital technology evolved, more content emerged along with the need to manage it.

As the market grows, we will support more content types. The next logical candidates are instant messages, voice mail and e-mail. All three are unstructured in nature, necessary for compliance and corporate governance efforts and are growing at explosive rates. Customers are looking for mainframe-scale repositories to manage this growing amount of content, and vendors that can provide secure, scalable platforms will do well.

—Dave DeWalt, president, Documentum, and executive VP, EMC

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First, the economy will drive a refined mission for CM: "Enable effective use of relevant content to make better business decisions, increase employee productivity and organizational competitiveness."

Second, the "content" universe will change to be more holistic (360 degrees) in nature for each business problem. It will include "external content" sources as well as "structured content" sources such as competitor Web sites, C2C discussions, CRM logs, e-mails, warranty claims and newly emerging Web logs (blogs), etc.

Third, high ROI will be demanded. In my opinion, horizontal tools that provide categorization or classification of content as well as enterprise search (indexers) will become commodities—i.e. core, expected capabilities from a CM platform.

Who will be the winners? Those companies that help solve real-world business problems by using unstructured data intelligently in concert with structured data. This is clearly the Holy Grail. Technologies that help marketing professionals understand their prospects, sales professionals generate qualified leads, or research professionals understand latent new product needs, will become the "must-have" solutions of tomorrow.

These platforms will also serve up executive dashboards to create actionable business intelligence from unstructured data sources, in near real time.

—Mahendra Vora, president, Intelliseek

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Consolidation—and the emergence of true ECM—places increasing demands on ECM solutions. As customers deploy a single major system to address all the content management needs in the enterprise, each component of the ECM system has to accommodate broader requirements. Customers should evaluate whether the technologies provided in a vendor’s ECM solution adequately support all of their targeted ECM applications.

For example, applications like compound discovery in the life sciences industry, as well as regulatory and policy compliance, require search and discovery technologies that go beyond simple keyword searches and are easily adapted to application and industry-specific terminology. Customers should seriously evaluate whether the standard search technology embedded in an ECM solution will adequately address their discovery applications.

—Dale Hazel, senior VP, marketing, Convera

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Industry consolidation is driving core ECM capabilities into infrastructure, making them ubiquitous. For example, library services are now available natively in Windows 2003 via SharePoint services, while IBM and EMC offer comprehensive digital asset storage services with their DB2 and Documentum brands.

However, infrastructure is inherently generic, leaving specific LOB requirements vastly underserved. Just as having a DBMS doesn't automatically give finance an accounting system, having an ECM infrastructure does not give marketing an effective, channel-specific production and publishing system. Consolidation will allow customers to focus on solving specific LOB needs, such as making content more productive, because infrastructure capabilities will be taken for granted.

—Vernon Imrich, CTO, Percussion Software

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First, enterprise content management will come into everyday use across the extended enterprise: It will become a “fact of life” for office workers, and because of this, ease of use and accessing information quickly will take top priority.

Second, companies will adopt comprehensive approaches to centrally manage their structured and unstructured content: ECM will expand to include both collaboration tools, allowing project teams to share business processes on a global level, and knowledge management with embedded search and taxonomy tools. Finally, flexibility will be vital: Delivery systems will make use of existing IT infrastructure, including corporate intranets and enterprise software.

—Detlef Kamps, president, RedDot Solutions

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ECM is the foundation for the capture, management, preservation and re-use of organizational knowledge assets. Nearly 80% of mission critical business information is in documents, e-mail, corporate intranets, extranets and digital assets. These assets represent the "corporate DNA", consisting of intricate networks of knowledge, best practices and people. Today, these vast networks of knowledge are largely disconnected from each other, locked in disparate repositories. And, they are proliferating at an unprecedented rate. One noted observer estimates that the world's "codified knowledge" will double every 11 hours by 2010.

The vision ECM lies with recognizing the vital importance of managing business content to create sustainable competitive advantages. Knowledge is reusable. Unlike tangible assets that are subject to the laws of diminishing returns, intangible assets are renewable. They must be managed with the same rigor as inventory and accounts receivables. Enterprise content must be equated with the financial balance sheet. It represents the stock of the firm's intellectual capital at any given point in time. ECM must be equated with the income statement - that is the flow of content through the organization. The efficiency with which content is managed must be linked to competitive value, measured in terms of improved time to market delivery of products (increased revenue) and services and efficiency improvements (decreased expenses). From this perspective, ECM must be seen as an indispensable corporate platform much the same manner as financial control systems.

—Andrew Pery, chief marketing officer and senior VP, Hummingbird

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The applications that will truly have traction are those that can exist where a user spends most of his or her time (i.e. “live-in” as compared to “go-to” places). When a critical application is placed squarely in the center of a user’s life, the application will be used much more frequently. For example, most of the white-collar world “lives in” their e-mail system or possibly an ERP system. Make an application such as ECM a natural extension of Outlook, Notes or PeopleSoft and you’ll have a much higher degree of user acceptance and application success. In comparison, systems will often meet with failure or false positives when requiring users to leave their “live-in” place and “go to” a website for interactive applications. Ask yourself, how many times do you visit the “corporate portal” beyond the need to check out today’s menu selection in the cafe?”

—Russ Edelman, president & CEO, Corridor Consulting

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The recent consolidation of the ECM marketplace reflects the industry's response to the increased need of organizations to properly manage and secure their vital information assets, regardless of format.

With new legislation passed to address recent corporate improprieties and more in the pipeline, organizations must protect not only their reputation, but also their business continuity. Legislative and judicial bodies make no distinction between records, documents, e-mails and other corporate information formats—and neither should an enterprise. This has led to a renewed focus on records management in the ECM space, but with an updated definition. The new records management is ECM ... it’s about identifying, managing and securing any vital business information … now or in the future.

—Cliff Sink, president, Tower Software, North America

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Collaboration has matured to a point where it can be used in the broader context of business ... No longer a standalone software product, today’s collaboration solutions must provide enterprises with the ability to coordinate, communicate and collaborate--and share content--seamlessly throughout the BPM process.

—Lee Roberts, CEO of FileNet

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ECM has become an indispensable component in sharing business-critical information, both within the enterprise and with customers, suppliers and investors. As the Web and intranets have evolved from widely accepted to widely expected knowledge sources, all competitive corporations are faced with the imperative to provide access that is easy to use, comprehensive and up-to-date.

The demand for speed and self-service can be compared to the leaps from physical mail to fax to e-mail, where each turn of the technology wheel rapidly reduced the earlier universal solutions to niche solutions. While the efficiency and cost-savings of ECM provide powerful ROI, the more powerful driver is the absolute need to satisfy knowledge users and consumers.

—Tony McKinley, Mid-Atlantic regional manager, Imaging Division, ScanSoft

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Having been in this industry for more than 15 years, I can say that 2004 has the promise of being one of the most exciting years in the content/document management industry. The recent surge of interest in regulatory compliance, corporate governance and legal risk initiatives has legitimized content management as another mandatory infrastructure application required to operate a business--just like ERP, payroll or similar business systems.

The traditional benefits of improved productivity, secure archival and reduced operating costs deliver added multifaceted ROI and business value.

The recent consolidation of vendors and solutions will undoubtedly continue in 2004, giving customers the benefit of selecting from financially strong and secure companies that can deliver mature technology solutions combined with long-term viability and industry commitment.

—Mike Ball, director of product marketing, Legato

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Knowledge work combined with aggressive time-to-market strategies bode well to why organizations need corporate platforms for enterprise content and document management. I predict that business will start to think about these not as standalone implementations, but as large deployments to support the business.

Especially since large software companies are starting to acquire the smaller niche players in this market, we have begun to see a shorter list of leading-edge content and document management companies. Thus, expect to see an improvement in our future for better application development, simpler integration, following Web service standards and support of a heterogeneous computing environment.

—Lauren Klein, senior manager knowledge management, Novell

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Many call centers, like Cingular's, are supporting so many products that it's difficult for center agents to keep up with all of the product information. Regardless, they need to be able to deliver an answer to the caller immediately. We have 22 nationwide call centers that employee more than 15,000 people, and we have a number of complex products to support. Our knowledge management system has allowed us to impact call center performance by ensuring that agents have answers at their fingertips, which impacts both employee and customer satisfaction.

It has additionally allowed the training department to restructure courses around finding information rather than memorizing answers and procedures. And, with the addition of our self-help Web site, customers can find answers quickly on their own at any time of day rather than during business hours.

—Monica Browning, director of knowledge management, Cingular Wireless, a ServiceWare customer


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