Has ECM failed?
It’s been about a year and a half since Gartner retired the term “Enterprise Content Management” and replaced it with “Content Services.” We have talked in the past about what Content Services is and why Gartner has shifted their terminology away from ECM. If you are unfamiliar with the subject you can read about it here. Recently, we have seen a number of publications about how ECM failed the industry and that Content Services is going to save us. However, it could be argued that Content Services is destined to make the same mistakes ECM did.
The history of ECM
I suppose before we get into the debate about whether or not ECM failed, we should provide a little bit of background. Gartner used the term ECM for years to define the market space that is now Content Services. Vendors positioned themselves as providers of ECM technologies (although ECM was more of an overarching enterprise strategy) thus creating this never-ending cycle of referring to their solutions and software as ECM. Organizations were quick to snatch up an ECM as they felt that it would solve all of their problems (regulatory compliance, risk management, retention, knowledge management, process efficiencies, etc.) Along the way, technology changed, users began to prefer to work in different types of environments, and the marketspace had to change with it.
So, did ECM fail?
ECM, the strategy has not failed. Rather it has evolved over time. As mentioned above the term ECM was positioned by vendors to define an enterprise’s sole application for managing content. However, that definition shifted quickly as more business line applications vendors that provided best-of-breed solutions (like SharePoint, Box, and Salesforce) came into play. From there, the ECM mindset became more important than technologies itself. The concept was more about controlling and managing content throughout an organization, due in-part from regulations that state how information should be managed. This mindset still lives on today regardless of what you call it and it has definitely evolved over time to include different important components to organizations. This has brought us to Content Services.
What is “Content Services”?
Content Services just takes the definition a step further by realizing that management of content is best achieved when using various applications together. There is no longer a lone application that can solve all of your problems. Content Services also recognizes SaaS-based applications that are extremely popular in this cloud era. It is more of a blanket term that better describes all of the ways people in an enterprise interact with their content. This isn’t to say that ECM wasn’t a blanket term or idea. Content Services just addresses the changes we have seen in the past few years in a more accurate way.
Should I be getting rid of my ECM?
With Gartner’s announcement of retiring the term “ECM”, it left a lot of buzz around what organizations should do, and how they were going to address the change to stay competitive. While things have certainly changed, we don’t suggest that you start ripping and replacing ECM with Content Services applications. In reality, you are going to see a lot of the same vendors that were in the ECM magic quadrants in the Content Services magic quadrants! ECM is at the core of most organizations and is still mission critical. It will be difficult to rid of an ECM system without a proper plan in place depending on how central it has become to your processes. However, there are ways you can take advantage of your best-of-breed business line applications while still maintaining an ECM as your repository of record. Here at SeeUnity, we either suggest an integration or a synchronization. They solve different use cases, but they both maintain your ECM system as a repository of record while allowing you to interact with the applications that mean the most to your users. This will save you the stress of making a kneejerk decision about what you should do.
What comes next?
There is no doubt that in five to 10 years we will be having the same discussion about Content Services. Technologies will emerge that will completely disrupt the landscape of enterprise solutions again. Artificial Intelligence has already begun its disruption and is going to very well change how we manage massive amounts of content and data. Blockchain and IoT are also good examples of technologies causing disruption today, and they can lead to some serious changes in the next few years. In 15 to 20 years, who knows where we will store data? Is it possible to have data centers in space? Will stricter data privacy laws change how SaaS-based solutions are used? Is Bitcoin going to last? Will Blockchain live on? We could go on and on! There are a lot of unknowns, but for now, don’t stress about ECM vs. Content Services. They both serve the same purpose but define the markets differently based on technology changes. Your ECM has not failed, you just need to integrate your solutions together for better continuity.