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Enterprise Content Management: Size or Strategy?

The Cast

PG Bartlett Vice President of Product Marketing, Arbortext

Roger Bradford Corporate Vice President for Technology, Senior Scientist, Content Analyst Company

Ethan Eisner VP of Marketing and Strategy for Corporate & Federal Markets, LexisNexis

Tom Jenkins CEO, Open Text

Jeff Klein Vice President, Product Strategy & Business Development, First Consulting Group

Andrew Pery Worldwide Marketing Manager, Hummingbird

Dan Ryan Executive VP, Marketing and Business Development, Stellent

Dr. Johannes C. Scholtes President and CEO, ZyLAB North America

George Viebeck Senior Product Manager, Documentum

Robert Weideman Senior Vice President, Marketing & Product Strategy, Productivity Applications, ScanSoft

"Enterprise" is a badly misused word, unless you're Captain Kirk. Alternately applied to mean both "big" and "integrated," I'm afraid it no longer means either. But beyond parlor-game semantics, does it really matter? Why should anyone care whether "enterprise" means anything at all?

Because the current concepts surrounding what is "enterprise" and what is not have direct implications for not only large corporations, but also mid-size to small organizations. We're well past the point where the term "enterprise content management" (ECM) can be easily dismissed as a nifty marketing collateral adjective.

ECM means something now, and is meaning more and more as time goes by. Recently, I caught up with several executives from companies associated with content management. Their current assignments may be diverse, but their insights added up to an essential portrait of the ECM market past, present and future:

1. Let's talk about the notion of "enterprise." It IS an overused term, but each of you identify an "enterprise-wide" deployment of content management as a central strategy. First of all, what do we really mean by the word "enterprise," and what are the true value propositions to be gained from an "enterprise" implementation?

Jeff Klein, First Consulting Group: The term "enterprise" used to refer to size and scale—"how big could it get?" But now, "enterprise" truly means what it should mean—a company-wide strategy. Where ERP and CRM systems were enterprise by their introductory nature, content management has grown into that, from departmental up to enterprise.

Tom Jenkins, Open Text: For the past 20 years, there have been things we called "enterprise something"—EDMS, ECM. But that was a misnomer, because it was almost always actually deployed at a department level. It was quite rare for anything to go right across the enterprise.

Over the past two years, that has begun to change, mostly because of compliance. When you're in a regulatory environment, you can't really leave any part of the enterprise out. Thanks to regulatory compliance, there's been a convergence of document management, Web content management and records. This was probably going to happen anyway, but it's been accelerated. The point is: the promise is starting to match up with the reality.

George Viebeck, Documentum: The equation has changed. There have always been many departmental point solutions that are now being viewed with an overall enterprisewide vision of a platform of services that enables not only individual solutions, but also strives for something beyond that.

Customers are leveraging corporate IT across multiple business problems to get the maximum value out of their content. Perhaps the key issue is the ability to integrate with enterprise-packaged applications. Customers already use an SAP or PeopleSoft or Oracle application to automate business processes...now they need to figure out how to best support those with ECM.

For instance, there is a lot of product-centric information developed upstream, such as R&D documents and tech drawings, that can be re-used downstream for call center support, marketing material, etc. That's the key value provided by ECM—content reusability across the enterprise.

Ethan Eisner, LexisNexis: I agree that compliance is the primary driver. Whenever you have to mitigate risk and there's no other alternative, companies will take action. But the greatest value-addition (brought by CM) is strategic. Whenever you increase efficiency and can share knowledge across multiple business units or departments, the productivity implications are enormous, and often outweigh—in terms of potential dollar value—any other reason to embark on this.

Andrew Pery, Hummingbird: The empirical data tell you that, first and foremost, the driver for ECM is efficiency improvement—organizations are not hiring great numbers of new people, but the amount of unstructured data is growing dramatically. A closely coupled issue is risk mitigation. You have to have a scalable content repository to house unstructured information in order to comply with today's rigorous standards. Customers are asking: "How do I consolidate my distributed content repositories into a single virtual repository? How do I organize it? How do I effectively manage the metadata around it?"

The third business driver is competitive advantage. The typical factors of production—capital, raw materials—are pretty much equally available to everyone. So what they really have to leverage is their human capital. Because of this, there has been a renaissance of knowledge management.

PG Bartlett, Arbortext: Deploying a common IT infrastructure across the enterprise makes sense, and it's all the more critical for the organization's unstructured information, which represents 80% of the volume and 95% of the value. Most importantly, enterprise deployments make it vastly easier to connect disparate parts of the organization, allowing collaboration and reuse to bridge former islands of information.

Johannes Scholtes, ZyLAB: I'm not very convinced that an enterprise implementation is always the most cost-effective approach. We've seen very different types of business processes and very different requirements...some of the departments want to do straightforward searching of static archives, where other departments have very complex Web content management requirements and complex workflows. Sometimes it's better to use different solutions for those different applications. If you have a hammer, not every problem is a nail.

Jeff Klein, First Consulting Group: Is it tactical or strategic? Depends. In the R&D discovery phase, the access to knowledge you didn't know existed is important. In the manufacturing and distribution of that product, the ability to have all the knowledge you expect to find is more valuable. It depends on where you are in the cycle...but both are central to the theme of enterprise content management.

Robert Weideman, ScanSoft: "Enterprise" can mean that every desktop in the organization has a particular application. But it can also mean the application benefits everyone in the enterprise. Maybe not everyone touches the document management application, but everyone benefits from it.

Dan Ryan, Stellent: There are many more mid-sized companies that are actually doing enterprise content management than large companies, by nature of the fact that big companies are departmentalized and politicized and spread all over the world.

2. Robert's remark about who "touches" the ECM application begs the question of IT versus business units—who makes the key decisions regarding content management deployment, and why?

Andrew Pery, Hummingbird: One of the primary drivers behind any enterprisewide adoption of content management will be the increased role of standards. The ability to expose the content management system as a series of services as part of a service-oriented architecture means you don't have to throw out pre-existing implementations of departmental solutions and preserve those investments. This is an IT concern.

Other content integration standards, such as JSR 170, allow you to map into pre-existing content stores and create a virtual extraction layer so you can continue to store information wherever you store it now, but be able to access it through a standard method. These standards will also become important to IT as a significant cost savings.

Jeff Klein, First Consulting Group: A huge driver for ECM is the incredibly burdensome support costs, from IT resources, from business-to-IT liaison and from custom and specific solutions that don't share any standardization. The costs associated with any of these given functions may not be too great, but added up across an enterprise...they are.

Robert Weideman, ScanSoft: People can generally grasp the benefits that can be derived from ECM, but there have been barriers that have kept them from deploying it—mainly the costs of acquisition, deployment and ownership. Leveraging Web technologies has brought costs down, and those barriers keep falling.

Roger Bradford, Content Analyst Company: There have been plenty of IT innovations that died because users voted with their feet.

Dan Ryan, Stellent: A lot of customers recognize they have two, 10, at extremes 100 different applications running on the same platform. So there's an awareness that there's a lot of content-centric applications. IT and managers are both saying: "let's make a standardized decision on what to use as we roll these out in the future." When customers look at a digital asset management system or Web content management, they realize there's a 50% to 70% feature-set that's the same. So they ask, "Why have users learn different systems?" Most people are not going into content management in order to replace file servers; they simply realize that the content available to the organization needs to feed applications of all kinds. The common thread is that they're all content-centric. People are beginning to realize that content management is the underpinning technology that supports all those applications.

Johannes Scholtes, ZyLAB: We've seen a lot of sales cycles where an organization bought ECM solutions, and the IT department imposed an architecture on them which might not have been what the users required. So whenever people see an opportunity to move away from the enterprise solution, they buy something departmental...you end up in endless political discussions between IT and users.

Robert Weideman, ScanSoft: If people can't find what they're looking for, they tend to fall back into the old way of doing things.

3. "User adoption" seems to be a concern that we're just touching on...how do you answer the average user's "what's in it for me?" question?

Jeff Klein, First Consulting Group: Some people live their entire work day in Siebel—that's their user experience. In that situation, when you need to access documents, content or media, the user experience should still be through Siebel. You do that through connectors and Web services layers.

But there are some people who live their experience in the document management layer, because that's their jobs. Their function is to produce that kind of work product.

Roger Bradford, Content Analyst Company: The nice thing about content management is that it's pretty easy for users to see how it's helping them. For example, resume-handling. A big company with 15,000 employees can get 250,000 resumes a year. Handling these electronically in a centralized system is "triply" valuable: there are hard dollar savings; there's competitive advantage by cutting response time; and you can show that you're treating people fairly in your hiring practices. Different people in the organization see these different sets of value. Managers with P&L responsibilities see the dollar savings; hiring managers know they can get good people right away; and the legal department can point to a good track record. Everyone can see right away how content management benefits them.

Ethan Eisner, LexisNexis: We look at user adoption in two ways: first is the acceptance of our content and the value perceived there; and secondly, the overall adoption of content—both internal and external—across the board. Whether you're looking at our platform alone, or ECM across the organization, user adoption is probably the most critical success factor. Everything we do is there to increase adoption and satisfaction.

Johannes Scholtes, ZyLAB: Enhancing user adoption is a step-by-step process. For instance, paper is still a major problem. If you take away the problems of paper and leave the convenience of paper, you solve a lot of problems for end users. Having done that, you can demonstrate the advantages and get great user adoption. Then you go onto electronic files, and then to e-mails. At the end of the day, it evolves into an enterprise solution, without having to buy a large database solution upfront and figure out how you want to deploy it over the long term.

Andrew Pery, Hummingbird: Specific solutions will drive this market. Managing contracts, for example—there's a lifecycle to a contract that includes a lot of integration with applications, such as supply chain from SAP or Siebel. In contract management, for every transaction that occurs, there are about 10 to12 separate interactions. In a Fortune 1,000 company, there are anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 contracts pending at any given time, distributed all over the map, with very few people to administer them. End-user solutions will be driven by this kind of specific business problem. There will be a series of these specific solutions that have enterprise-wide implications in how you deploy them.

George Viebeck, Documentum: In life sciences, the management of clinical trials and FDA requirements is very acute. Product recalls by the FDA in the pharmaceutical industry have underscored not only awareness of content management, but that there's a corresponding set of requirements downstream. There are many physicians using drug companies' products, and you have to provide detailed product information in a user-friendly way-via e-mail, or a personalized portal or even through wireless communications. The distribution channels (for content) are very broad these days, and that's another role for ECM to play.

PG Bartlett, Arbortext: Publishing—which includes creating, reviewing, approving, assembling, formatting and delivering document information—is one of the most important processes that relies on ECM. By automating this process and integrating it with other business systems, enterprises can vastly improve the quality of the information they deliver to their customers, employees, investors or regulators, while also cutting costs and time-to-market. It's an irresistible combination of benefits that our customers already enjoy, and most of them build their enterprise publishing systems on top of an ECM system.

Dan Ryan, Stellent: We make a distinction between the users of intranet portals, and those who create and publish the content. We want the dozen or so actual users of content management to know they're interacting with the ECM system as little as possible. We want the viewers of content to NOT know they're interacting with the ECM system AT ALL.

There are tiers of users. First, there are the great masses who have no knowledge they are interacting with the system...they have a folder metaphor where they drop content in and magic happens. That's the largest number of users, so if you want to succeed in enterprise content management, you need to get those people using the product day-to-day. After that are the much smaller numbers of power users (who DO interact with the metadata and applications) and then there's IT and information architect planners. You need to address down that pyramid as far as you can...that's how you get people onto the system.

4. What are the economic factors driving ECM today? Does ROI rule the purchase of content management as it does other applications?

Tom Jenkins, Open Text: About 55% of our recent business has been driven by a combination of demand for productivity and the need for compliance. Customers are trying to find a silver lining in the cloud. They're required to adhere to regulation, but at the same time they're trying to get productivity gains from that same investment. The ROIs are much, much greater at the enterprise level than the department level. People are starting to realize that. The irony is, they're being forced into it by compliance—they're creating enterprise-wide knowledge repositories that, later on, are going to be very useful.

Ethan Eisner, LexisNexis: Customers are looking for ways to enhance their investment in content management. We're a content provider, but customers want to bring us in as a value-add to the investment they've already made in their CM system. For example, better ways to organize information, better ways to push it out to the right audience at the right time, etc.

PG Bartlett, Arbortext: Implementing technology while promising zero impact is just foolish—the whole point is to get the organization to change its behavior in order to gain the benefits that ECM promises. Enterprise publishing software offers great benefits only to organizations that are willing to endure significant changes. It's vital to show the users that if they are willing to change, they will increase their value to the organization in significant and measurable ways.

Tom Jenkins, Open Text: Clients often do an ROI analysis before making an investment in ECM, but once it's up and running, the payback is so self-evident, they stop measuring just how much value they're getting! That, of course, makes it difficult to demonstrate what these ROIs are over many years...

At the end of the day, enterprise content management is not all that mysterious, but it is also not as ubiquitous as you might think as you read these pages. As Stellent's Dan Ryan points out, "A broadly deployed intranet is probably the closest thing to an enterprise-wide deployment of content management there is." But the inescapable common theme that runs through these experts' comments and the essays that follow is this: Whether you view it as a tactical solution or a strategic imperative, enterprise content management has entered the corporate lexicon. Don't worry too much if you haven't given content management enough thought. You will soon enough.


Andy Moore is a 25-year publishing professional, editor and writer who concentrates on business process improvement through document and content management. As a publication editor, Moore most recently was editor-in-chief and co-publisher of KMWorld Magazine. He is now publisher of KMWorld Magazine and its related online publications. As Editorial Director for the Specialty Publishing Group, Moore acts as chair for the "KMWorld Best Practices White Papers" and the "EContent Leadership" series, overseeing editorial content, conducting market research and writing the opening essays for each of the white papers in the series. Moore has been fortunate enough to cover emerging areas of applied technology for much of his career, ranging from telecom and networking through to information management. In this role, he has been pleased to witness first-hand the decade's most significant business and organizational revolution: the drive to leverage organizational knowledge assets (documents, records, information and object repositories) to improve performance and improve lives.

Moore is based in Camden, Maine, and can be reached at andy_moore@verizon.net.

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