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ECM—still plenty of room

Any regular reader of KMWorld knows how highly we regard content management and all its associated technologies in the world of knowledge management. Content is king, or, in my view, queen (at least in terms of a chess analogy, it's far more flexible than the relatively sedentary king). And while the technology is profoundly sophisticated, enterprise adoption still has a way to go to take full advantage of the available tools for managing and exploiting content to its full advantage.

Those views are supported in survey results recently released by the enterprise content management association AIIM, which defines ECM as the "technologies used to capture, manage, store, preserve and deliver content and documents related to business and organization processes." Some 220 users and prospective users were questioned in the first six months of this year at AIIM's Content Management Solutions Seminar Series (CMSS) programs in Dallas, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. They were asked about the current status of ECM deployment within their organizations, perceived obstacles to deploying ECM technologies, business drivers and implementation plans for the next 12 to 18 months.

The sampling size and demographic breakdown of the respondents certainly make the survey statistically valid: Nearly half (47%) of the respondents worked in organizations with more than 1,000 employees; 17% were from companies with less than 10 employees; and the balance pretty much equally split among companies with 11 to 49 employees, 50 to 99, 100 to 199, 200 to 499, and 500 to 999. The vertical industries represent a nice balance of the primary business activities in the country.

Quoting directly from the survey, the key findings were:

  • 60% of those surveyed are still in the early stages of understanding enterprise content management.

  • User project interests over the next 12 to 18 months center around records management and archiving (48%), document control (39%), forms handling (36%) and information capture (36%).

  • User technology interests match this practical focus: Web content management (45%), scanning and image processing (41%), records management (40%) and electronic document management (36%).

  • Risk reduction and cost control—rather than revenue growth—are clearly driving user interest in ECM technologies.

  • Differentiating among suppliers (6% of respondents) is not the biggest obstacle facing potential users of ECM technologies. Justifying the investment (23%) and change management (22%) are the top concerns of potential users.

I'm lucky enough to be regularly briefed about new offerings from the vendors in the broad content management arena, and I think it's safe to say that the technology is now mature. Unlike even a couple of years ago, I don't see any huge gaps in technology needs—there's a solution available for everything imaginable. The challenge ahead for managing digital content is integrating that sparkling technology within users' requirement for greater flexibility in applying that technology. So, as CM consolidation continues, it will be interesting to watch how fewer vendors will serve their increasing customer base.

In 2005, we're making a special point of identifying the most elegant and practical solutions, so keep your eyes on these pages in the months ahead—we'll highlight the good, but spare you the bad and the ugly.

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