David Jones at Nuxeo says the death of Enterprise Content Management and the move to Content Services really has to be dealt with by anyone serious about exploiting the business information.

In January 2017, Gartner said Enterprise Content Management (ECM) had officially expired that Content Services is the future.

 

Managing Business Information

Well, as we know, analysts make a living making bold predictions – and sometimes, pretty big claims that are well ahead of what the real market is doing. What are we to make of this pronouncement – and what should business information managers be doing about it?

Global information management group AIIM asked its members about their situation regarding information and how it is being managed at their organisations. These guys should know, and the answers are well worth hearing.

What stands out is that businesses really do have a problem when it comes to multiple information silos. According to the AIIM probe, over a quarter of organisations (27.4%) have ten or more in-house systems.

For historical and technical reasons, this is understandable. However, it’s often a real challenge when you try to connect these systems in a manner that makes it easy to find information residing within different systems while avoiding duplication of content and efforts.

And as a result, potentially highly-valuable business information ends up residing in multiple places: e-mails, file and folder structures, cloud file shares, social messaging tools and so on. And spreadsheets also form part of the problem – 61% of the information manager respondents in 2018 say they still put business information in spreadsheets!

This may feel like a natural way of organising things, but it sets up reasons to fail when done at scale. Five or 10 years ago, the sort of information that organisations were managing was scanned documents, Word and Excel files, PDFs, and e-mails. Today, it’s a far broader set of content types – images, videos, and social media conversations are now considered critical enterprise information assets. Try to manage that type of unstructured content in ageing legacy systems that were built before those content types were invented – and you have a problem.

The final issue is the size of the content assets in question. A PDF file could be five or 10Mb in size, but users are now expecting to store Gbs worth of video and images – and high resolution equals big files. If your infrastructure isn’t set up to manage that sort of load, then you can also expect many performance issues.

At the same time, it’s increasingly difficult for users to find what they need. Three quarters (76%) of the information manager respondents AIIM interviewed said that they can’t find the right business information within a timely manner. That’s 76% of ‘digital’ organisations that can’t access the information they need to work effectively. That translates to major impacts on business efficiency and speed of execution. And if you can’t find the right information, how on earth are you going to be able to share it with colleagues, customers, clients.

 

Time to dance the ‘modernisation two-step’

 

How do we go about solving that problem? First, if you don’t modernise your systems, you can’t connect them – which means there’s little point in starting that digital transformation process the CEO is so passionate about. You’d simply end up stopping even more systems from talking to each other and ultimately exacerbate the problem.

Two, any solution you come up with has to be mobile and cloud-enabled. It will also need to provide the ability to introduce things like AI, analytics, and blockchain when your organisation needs to start exploiting them.

One useful idea is something I call the ‘modernisation two-step’. Think, connecting and consolidating in tandem. On the connection side, work to install a layer to connect all your different organisational systems in order to create an information hub. You don’t move content into it, but this type of central facility approach gives you the ability to know what is stored where – what metadata and content are held, and of course the ability to access and manage it.

The next step is to look at consolidating the technology the business uses. After all, each of these systems costs money to run – and a legacy ECM system may be costing tens of thousands, or in larger organisations, millions, just to operate, along with its specialised staff and dedicated servers. By consolidating this technology where appropriate, organisations often realise that all that remains is the data and the content – and with the ability to move that data and content into a modern platform at their own pace, they can sunset those legacy systems when they’re ready.

The result is a more streamlined set of information management tools, doing exactly the same tasks as before, but in a much more scalable, flexible, and powerful way.

So what to make of the mantra that says ECM is dead? The reality is that information management is changing because the needs of enterprises are changing, and what modern businesses need to do with their information on a day-to-day basis is changing. The way that everybody in the organisation interacts with information is also changing.

The good news is that the technology that we need to solve the business problems of today is here – today. We just need to use it.