Enterprise content management looks set to make a comeback this year. While most of the curtain calls over the past year have been in the mobile and social media space and enterprise content management has been neglected in many enterprises, new research from Forrester suggests that companies will be investing again in ECM in the coming year.

Even the title of the research by Alan Weintraub -- "Enterprise Content Management Emerges from an Economic Slump" -- suggests a better year for enterprise content management vendors, even if cloud computing, mobile content access and enterprise collaboration are among the main drivers of this surge.

Content Chaos and Investment

The research, the result of a survey of 252 content and collaboration professionals that have decision making roles in the enterprise, shows that there will be a steady stream of investment in Enterprise CMS over the year even if product satisfaction and ROI are still obstacles. However, Weintraub adds, mobile and the cloud could overcome those obstacles.

Comparing the Enterprise CMS industry to a groundhog emerging after winter, Weintruab makes the observation that ECM during the 2007-2009 recession was considered something that would be “nice to have” rather than an enterprise necessity.

Put this in the context of the AIIM reports for the past two years on the State of the ECM industry, which underlined the fact that most enterprises are still struggling to manage content chaos, and you begin to see a pattern: lack of investment results in content chaos.

At one level that is certainly true, but the roots of content chaos are many and need to be dealt with individually; it is also notable that in many enterprises where significant investment had been made content is still chaotic.

The recession also saw another trend emerge in the ECM space. While enterprises cut back on ECM projects to shave their maintenance costs, vendors were raising their prices to cover existing costs.

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Enterprise CMS in 2012

But, Weintraub says, this year investment in ECM will rise again, whatever the costs needed for efficient management of content. Of the 252 IT decision-makers surveyed for this report:

  • 71% indicated their firms will invest in ECM initiatives in 2012
  • 43% of those who indicated increasing investment are from companies with annual revenues of +US$ 1 billion
  • 57% of SMBs will invest up from 49% in 2009
  • Another point worth noting, Weintraub says, is that unlike in previous years, there is a 10% increase in the number of business managers involved in these decisions, in a shift away from systems integrators and consultants.

Usability Drives ECM Investments

Unlike the recession years where compliance and process automation were the major drivers in ECM deployments, content sharing and improved search were the primary preoccupations over the course of 2011.

According to Weintraub, the move represents a move from cost cutting, or avoidance, to revenue-based benefits that encourage and promote employee efficiency by making content available and trustworthy.

Unsatisfactory Enterprise CMS

Even still, despite the changing focus on better and more searchable content, there is still a high level of dissatisfaction around ECM deployments. Of all those surveyed for the research only 40% said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their deployments. The principal reasons for dissatisfaction include:

  • Poor content strategy: With a 33% increase over 2009, one of the biggest reasons for dissatisfaction was content that is ungoverned and difficult to find as well as inconsistently tagged.
  • Project implementation: Lack of technology expertise, change management and executive lead to weak project implementation, and questions over the immediate value of ECM implementations.
  • Business sponsorship: The lack of business support for ECM initiatives makes it difficult to enumerate business value leading to lack of support from senior business management.
  • Unfulfilled expectations: The number of people dissatisfied because of technology has dropped to 24% down from 41% in 2009, indicating that technology is not the main factor in successful ECM implementations. Almost half of respondents cited costs and implementation issues as obstacles to success.

ECM Challenges

Without planning, challenges in ECM deployments arise with unexpected integration and migration costs typical of the problems that arise when deployments are not planned.

These costs are often aggravated by the spread of SharePoint and file shares, particularly if organizations don’t implement SharePoint governance from the very start.

The result is the proliferation of sites without control, making it difficult to find content, which is compounded by user refusal to get rid of bad habits, resulting in the failure of many ECM initiatives.

However, it’s not all bad and the application of new technologies and abilities will go some way to making the business case of ECM. In particular, mobility and cloud computing look to be the drivers of this.

Enabling access to information wherever and whenever is enabled by cloud computing and mobility. Technologies like smartphones enable the delivery of information anywhere, while cloud computing make the delivery of content faster and cheaper than the on-premise model.

And this is shown in the survey. Of all those interviewed, 97% said that they either had, or have plans to provide mobile support to their Enterprise CMS deployments.

Content technologies targeting the review of content on mobile devices are top of the wish-list, but business and transitional applications will catch up, bringing increased business value to ECM deployments.

Mobile applications come with a price however, as many enterprises will struggle to determine exactly how to create mobile content, how that content will be governed and how that content will be created for the mobile channel.

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5 Enterprise CMS Trends

Weintraub has a number of conclusions, which he precedes with the interesting observation that the primary ECM driver is no longer the need to meet regulatory requirements, but rather the ability to better leverage information that is created and used to run businesses. As a result:

  • ECM investments in the coming year will focus on employee productivity. Enterprises will be driven to get better value from content, increasing the value of employees' job functions.
  • New ways of delivering content will not fix poorly formulated or non-existent content strategies.  ECM deployments will not do what they are supposed to do in these circumstances as users will not be able to find content. Information architects must rebuild solid taxonomy foundations to foster easy and accurate content findability, access and reuse.
  • SharePoint sprawl means that information architects must refocus on governance. SharePoint site proliferation has meant that content lacks uniformity in definition and navigation. This needs to be dealt with.
  • Mobile access to content is not just desirable, but now a requirement. Workers will demand equal access to content no matter what device they are using. This will also lead to the creation of cloud services built from the ground up.

There is a lot more in the research and its well worth taking a look if your enterprise is considering ECM investment in the coming year.