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“What’s in an AIIM?”

That’s precisely what I overheard a guy say as he walked into the Boston Convention Center on the first day of the AIIM conference in mid-April. Honest. Cross my heart.

I couldn’t resist using those words for this quick wrap-up of the AIIM show because just two months ago I used the headline “What’s in a name?” in a short piece about the association. The audible irony was simply too good not to share. I can only assume the poor chap had absolutely no idea about what to expect (or maybe if he even knew why he was there).

We mentioned in that April issue about the evolution of AIIM as the Association of Imaging and Information Management (hence the acronym) to AIIM as the enterprise content management association. And although the association itself no longer owns the conference (it’s now part of the Questex Media Group stable), it is still the single largest event showcasing solutions for every step along the path of digital content—from capture to storage and retention.

After attending my eighth AIIM event, two trends were cemented in my mind. First, it was clear that enterprise content management, as a term, has moved far beyond its once relatively narrow definition into a broader arena (again, what’s in a name, anyway?). More and more, vendors once considered to be pure content management players are adding rich business process management functionality to their solutions. Even capture companies are moving into BPM, most notably Kofax.

In fact, the lines of what used to be independent disciplines (and acronyms)—DM, WCM, ERM, BPM, BI, etc.—five years ago are blurring. Vendors are bringing greater flexibility and functionality into their software by introducing separate modules—especially with the heightened focused on the small and medium-sized business. It’s the rare ECM platform that doesn’t include true document and records management capabilities. And now that SharePoint 2007 has a solid—and growing—foothold, this movement will continue to grow.

Convergence

I sat on (and mostly listened to) an AIIM conference session chaired by Tony Byrne of CMS Watch that addressed the broad issue of this “convergence” in software, whereby once-distinct software capabilities are combined in a single offering. Or, as Intelligent Enterprise’s Doug Henschen puts it, a move to a kind of “uber server” that can handle virtually all business tasks. And while it will surely be well into the future before that goal can possibly be realized, it may not be as far off as we might think. Just look at search, which has increasingly become a platform rather than a standalone capability. Search is becoming navigation, and navigation is revealing new relationships upon which entirely new applications are being developed.

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