Here in Chicago, our Lite Rock radio station has completed its annual transformation into The Holiday Lite, playing Christmas music round the clock, so it’s definitely not too soon to begin the annual litany of analyst prediction posts…

In that spirit, I want to spend some time in this post and the next taking a look at my picks for noteworthy ECM 2012 trends:

  1. The rise of Information Lifecycle Management (ILM)
  2. The evolving relationship between compliance and social media
  3. ECM goes viral
  4. Realistic retention
  5. Mainstream Enterprise 2.0
  6. Mid-tier ECM steps up to the plate
  7. SharePoint decision time

#1. The Rise of Information Lifecycle Management (ILM)

Information Lifecycle Management (ILM ) is a hot topic on all fronts these days, from vendors and standards bodies to customers and practitioners in the trenches. And while it has similarities to enterprise content management (ECM) and records management (RM). It differs in some fundamental ways.

More so than either ECM or RM, it refers to the management of information throughout its lifecycle from a broader perspective than just retention or legal obligation. The goal is to meet the needs of the total organization (compliance, IT and lines of business) for information management with optimized people, process and technology.

The term has been in use in pockets for a few years now, but until recently, operationalizing ILM has been mostly aspirational, primarily because ECM technology wasn’t mature enough to support it. Recently, however, ECM vendors have begun to build suites of tools to address ILM more holistically. Jury’s still out whether they’re ready for prime time, but at least they’re out there.

And beyond technology, disciplines like RM, litigation management and compliance are beginning to adopt an ILM perspective on their activities. You hear a lot of talk in these disciplines about business value and practicality (more on this in #4), both products in part of the increased cache of ILM as a legitimate organizational activity.

#2. The Evolving Relationship Between Compliance and Social Media

Another area poised for significant transformation in 2012 is corporate social media compliance. Compliance and social media have a rocky past at most organizations, where initially laws, regulations and industry standards were viewed as reasons not to get involved in social media, especially since this whole social media thing could just be another fad, after all.

Once it became clear that social media wasn’t just another fad, and once businesses began to better understand how social media could positively impact core, value-chain activities, this initial attitude had to change, which it did: compliance was no longer a reason not to do social media, it simply made doing social media more challenging.

Most organizations are still at this point. They know they have to get involved in social media, they imagine that their competition is working furiously on social media (they’re right), but they’re facing some difficult compliance challenges…not the least of which is the absence of legislation/regulation addressing social media for most industries.

What’s on the horizon for most organizations in the coming year is a view of social media compliance as a strategic asset, a competitive differentiator. All the difficulties that compliance raises for effective social media are barriers to entry that make solving them all the more valuable for those organizations that get there first. Those that are late to the game will still have to work hard to solve these challenges, but they’ll be playing catch up rather than enjoying first- or early-mover advantages.

Some forward thinking firms are already there, but I think the light bulb will go off for a large number of organizations this year, and they’ll begin looking for ways to capitalize (and monetize) this new view of compliance and social media.

Shepley 2012TrendsFigure1.jpg Figure 1 – The Changing Face of Corporate Social Media Compliance

#3. ECM Goes Viral

This trend, ECM becoming relevant for a wider range of industries than financial services, banking, insurance and pharma, has been around for a while, but boy has it ramped up lately. I’d say that fully 30% of my clients in 2011 were non-traditional ECM organizations like oil and gas, mining, manufacturing, petrochemicals and consumer product groups.

These are industries where documents have historically not been viewed as central to their value chains. Unlike financial services, banking and insurance, they make or sell stuff (or both), so most of their energy is channeled toward managing that stuff. That of course includes information about that stuff, but again, traditionally that information has been contained in non-ECM systems, like supply chain management systems.

It’s not that these organizations have radically changed their business model or something, but rather ECM has become important to them for a few key reasons:

  • Social media has brought content front and center for all organizations -- tribal knowledge is poised to be memorialized in systems and organizations are going to have to figure out how to deal with it.
  • Electronically stored information (ESI) volumes have reached the point of unmanageability given current ECM practices/technology -- this straw broke the camel’s back a long time ago in financial services, insurance and banking, but for these second wave ECM industries, they’re hitting it now.
  • Core ECM technology has matured, those on the trailing edge can now (more) successfully adopt it -- although not perfect and by no means a slam dunk, ECM technology has matured greatly the last few years; in fact, most of the problem deployments I see struggle less because of technology and more because of how folks implement it, i.e., with little to no (mostly no) planning, strategy or governance…but that’s another blog post.

The Final Word

Okay, so much for #1 - #3. Next time we’ll tackle the last four. In the meantime, I’d love to hear what folks think of my take on 2012 trends so far -- dive in and offer some of your own picks for trends…we’d love to hear what folks out there think about ECM 2012.

Editor's Note: For more from Joe Shepley, check out these articles: