What did we learn from 2010?

The clear message is that a more difficult economic climate is gearing mindshare towards cost-effective solutions, especially when it comes to ECM systems. Mobile technology and SharePoint are forcing IT professionals to reassess their IT governance structure. And even though 2010 brought the dream of the cloud, the question remains how much that dream will actually be realized.

Agile ECM

As a concept, “agility” has caught the IT infrastructure world by storm, especially in enterprise content management, where unfortunately silos are the rule, not the exception. Customers are searching for cost-effective ECM systems that are agile enough to meet the needs of multiple departments, while still maintaining central control over standards, security and auditing. Across the industry, we see the vendors that are gaining market share are the ones that have leveraged the agile approach to increase cost-effectiveness. The ECM vendors who haven’t are scrambling to catch up.

Mobile Technology

While mobile technology is here to stay, it has pros and cons from both corporate governance and infrastructure perspectives. On the defensive end, ECM provides records management, audit trail and e-discovery response controls, but it’s difficult to control mobile content that rests outside an enterprise’s IT governance structure.

On the other hand, mobile technology makes information more accessible. The expectation is that the smartphone should have a viable ECM dashboard interface, and ECM vendors that are ahead of the pack have developed iPhone and iPad applications. In 2011, it will be important for users and industry experts to begin developing useful standards relative to how social collaboration and mobile technology will intersect with content management.


SharePoint 2007/2010 has done many things, but the most important thing it’s done -- at least to the ECM industry -- is brought high visibility to content management. SharePoint isn’t traditional ECM, because it has focused more on the collaborative and portal capacities of ECM, while de-emphasizing capture and DoD 5015.2-certified records management.

The result is that while the current trend for ECM is to solve business problems, including vertical and horizontal use case scenarios like case management, contract management and AP processing, SharePoint is defining ECM to improve operational efficiency horizontally from a platform perspective.

That’s great for individual contributors and teams, but SharePoint is forcing IT professionals to provide governance and management oversight to these team sites that pop up. This content needs to be managed, and whether by choice or not, SharePoint is encouraging IT departments to adopt an ECM back-end to manage collaborative content created through SharePoint.

The Cloud

The cloud is a great dream -- auto-refresh of versions, no software and a true one-and-done experience. The question remains, though, to what extent can the dream be realized?

At Symposium 2010, Gartner analysts predicted that content management’s adoption rate for moving to the cloud is much slower than what cloud vendors are predicting -- something like 10% of content on the cloud by 2015. Organizations that are considering a cloud strategy are already past the make-or-break consideration of security of on-premise vs. cloud. High availability is also a consideration of the past. Depending on the organization, integrations may be a critical factor, since not every application is jumping to a cloud environment.

All else being equal, the real question for organizations to ask is if they are looking for enhancement or replacement. That is, a rich client interfacing with a cloud environment to take advantage of cloud capabilities and augment existing business processes, or a total replacement for existing processes and a leap to the new age of cloud, cloud, cloud?

At Symposium 2010, Mark Gilbert said that a majority of Gartner client’s ECM challenges lies in an early phase: information governance. We see this trend continuing into 2011, with concerns around governance continuing as executives struggle to update their information governance strategies to reflect the new realities of technology, the economic climate and increased regulation. We also see organizations maximizing ECM as a business solution and framework to solve business problems with custom use scenarios -- what Gartner calls “composite content applications.”

But ultimately, 2011 will be a huge year for ECM as vendors evaluate various game-changing elements such as cloud computing, deployment flexibility and transactional content management, one of the fastest growing areas outside of cloud/social collaboration.