Does Enterprise Content Management Have a Future?

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Written By Haisam Abdel Malak
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Enterprise content management solutions have provided businesses with the capacity to manage both structured and unstructured content over the years. It has played a vital role to address the challenges presented by the massive volume of information created, its variety, and new sources. Some analysts have recently pronounced the death of ECM as a consequence of various of factors, but is it truly dead?

Enterprise content management’s future is still bright and full of possibilities. New data sources arise as technology develops. This will need the evolution of ECM strategies and approaches to addressing the rising challenges that companies confront when it comes to information management.

Gartner claimed in 2017 that ECM is dead, and that Content Services had arrived! The industry experts were taken aback by this statement. Content Services is simply about technology, failing to realize the enormous goal of ECM strategy and methodologies. Enterprise content management will remain at the center of Information Management.

In this article, we will look at the history of enterprise content management and what the future holds for ECM.

Content management future

The History of Enterprise Content Management ECM

Prior to the 1990s, document management was a straightforward task that required only a few employees to store, organize, and retain business documents. The volume of paper documents created was still under control, and organizations encountered few challenges back then.

When personal computers were introduced into the workplace, things began to get increasingly complex. The creation of documents and information began to increase, and corporations began to face the difficulty of managing various channels of information and storage at the same time in a relatively short period of time.

The notion of a paperless office was born as a result of technological improvements, when organizations began to transition away from paper documents and business activities and toward digital ones. This tremendous transition away from paper, as well as the volume of information generated, created a slew of information-management challenges.

That’s when the term enterprise content management was first introduced by AIIM back in early 2000. The main role was to address the challenges faced due to the rise of different types of data, the surging volume of information within organizations, and the preservation of all organizations’ data in all forms. 

The Evolution of Enterprise Content Management

ECM arose from the combination of technologies that were previously used to assist enterprises in managing their documents. It progressed from a focus on technology and tools to strategies and plans to assist with content management.

Enterprise content management is about the vision, plans, and procedures that enterprises must adopt and implement today in order to get the most out of their content. Most people are confused and concentrate solely on the technological aspect. To clarify, ECM has progressed from a technical platform to strategies and plans.

In fact, ECM is now an umbrella term including document, records, and workflow management, as well as collaboration, web content management, DAM, imaging, and archiving. It has always been, and will always be, about vision, strategies, and approaches, not just tools.

Enterprise Content Management: Death & Rebirth

Gartner declared in 2017 that ECM is dead and began offering content services as the way forward for content management.

This statement means that previous approaches taken by vendors to address the complexity of content management within organizations are no longer viable, and customers are now looking for modern solutions that meet the need to support a fully digital and complex workplace in the most efficient manner.

Traditional ECM platform offers centered on a single repository with a client-server architecture that was difficult to grow. Most of these suppliers offered a comprehensive suite that included all of the features required to manage content that is costly and difficult to implement. Clients were required to purchase the whole solution package, even if not all modules were required.

In a summary, the ECM strategy was to consolidate all of your documents and images into a single system and then give a sophisticated, but costly, set of tools for managing your content.

Content services should approach content management in a new way. We now realize that content within organizations lives in a number of locations, and we should serve this content without requiring it to be stored in a single central repository. This is made possible by allowing broad connection to various systems and content repositories that businesses may already have.

Will Content Services Replace ECM?

Content services and enterprise content management are not the same term. CS only covers transactional content which is a small part of the challenges that ECM is evolved to address.

Gartner deserves credit for capturing the attention of many in the industry with that bold remark back in 2017. Of course, ECM remains essential in my opinion, but content services can provide significant economic value when approached not from an ECM perspective, as in “enterprise-wide,” but rather from a specific business process perspective. Consider the excellent content services alternatives (from ECM/EIM software suppliers) that improve HR, Sales, and After-Sales Service, and so on.

To summarize, content services handle content pertaining to a specific business challenge, whereas ECM examines all content in a company and seeks the proper degree of control.

The Future of Enterprise Content Management

Enterprise content management is an approach and not a single technology. Looking forward, having multiple content repositories will be part of the overall ECM strategy as content needs to be served to people regardless of where this content resides.

Enterprise content management solutions will continue following the latest trends and keep on evolving and getting smarter with the usage of cognitive technologies such as AI and Machine Learning.

The future of enterprise content management is bright, but not without challenges. New data sources are being introduced as technology advances. Data may be gathered from nearly any piece of hardware that is linked to the internet using the Internet of Things (IoT).

This will drive this technology to develop in order to solve the new problems that businesses face when it comes to information management.

Traditional companies in the ECM industry must modernize their systems, provide cutting-edge features, and modularize them in order to be cost effective and assist enterprises in scaling their implementations and achieving a faster return on investment.

The system will need to leverage new technological advancements to address new demands. To name a few:

  • Automation and machine learning will provide new methods to capture (document metadata extraction), automatic document classification, and index information.
  • Blockchain technology can help in smart contracts, advanced security, and automated payment processes.
  • IoT is going to be part of every business aspect. Vendors should have IoT integration to add greater value to organizations.

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