Looking back over the year in document management, one thing stands out. And that is that organizations still appear to be struggling under the weight of paper despite developments in enterprise technologies that should make managing all that information a lot easier.
In fact, the view from December 2013 is much the same as the view was in December 2012, with some subtle but notable changes. The first of those changes is the growing importance of mobile, while the second is the demand for agile products that can respond to changing market conditions quickly.
It's a safe bet that by the end of 2014 mobility and agility — and ways to enable both — will still dominate. However, maybe by then, more of the large vendors will have responded adequately to market demands. If they don’t, there are many smaller vendors that will.
Indeed, only recently, we explored the role of file sharing in the enterprise content management (ECM) market. We found that when business users determined ECM difficult to use, they moved to agile file sharing vendors like Box or Dropbox to fulfill basic collaboration needs.
But back to 2013. In the middle of the year, AIIM produced its annual industry watch analysis of the document management industry. The findings were based on 538 responses elicited from the AIIM community this past spring.
The report pointed out that ECM and document management space is still mutating. But it also noted that enterprises are still looking for a single system that will do everything they need to do — a challenge because information customers are accessing data in ways the traditional ECM deployments are finding difficult to manage.
By adopting this one-size-fits-all approach to document and data management, there are large amounts of data that enterprises cannot manage or even identify in their content siloes. This is the so-called "dark’ content" that is creating chaos across enterprises.
What is striking about this is that the situation AIIM describes here is almost exactly the same as it was in 2012. To manage content, many enterprises have adopted either a “head in the sand” approach or have been caught like a deer in the headlights of a car, not knowing what way to turn.
For ECM vendors , this also poses a problem as the questions arises as to where they should be directing themselves and what technologies they should be developing.
The Challenge for ECM
We also saw that this is by no means a new problem. ECM has changed radically in the past 10 years since first rooted itself in the enterprise.
During that time, the report noted, ECM has moved from a tool or set of tools used locally to capture and manage documents to something that is now being used to push content out to both mobile devices and collaborative platforms in all corners of the enterprise and even beyond the firewall.
In practical terms, this translates to a number of questions that enterprises need to answer before they can move forward. They include:
- Which systems do we use for collaboration?
- Which for document process workflows and for emails?
- What do we use of long term records management?
- Do we consolidate and migrate or connect and federate?
- Do we hook up to mobile devices through the firewall or do we use the cloud?
At face value, this poses a real existential crisis. But is it really? Is this any different than the crisis in enterprise information management that has characterized the ECM space since the beginning?
AIIM also identified another major problem that has been haunting the enterprise since the very beginning. In fact, this problem places a question mark over the purpose of document management and ECM systems in the first place.
According to research published August, the paperless office is as far away as it every was. Despite the growing number of technologies that facilitate easy, secure document capture using centralized, disparate and even mobile devices, the move towards the paperless office and processes is tediously slow.
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