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Forrester names some familiar brands leaders in its Transactional Content ECM Wave, but also offers some unconventional advice PHOTO: Michigan Municipal League Follow

Forrester split its enterprise content management (ECM) Wave in two in 2015 to differentiate between business content services vendors and transactional content vendors.

Yet you might think you're seeing double when comparing the leaders' segment in the two reports. With a few notable exceptions, the same vendors lead both Waves.

OpenText, Hyland, IBM, Newgen Software and Kofax led The Transactional Content Wave, while OpenText’s Documentum scored a spot in the leaders’ segment in spite of the acquisition only closing in January of this year.

In comparison, OpenText, Microsoft, IBM, OpenText Documentum, Alfresco, Box and M-Files led the Business Content Services Wave.

Alfresco and M-Files still ranked in the The Forrester Wave: Enterprise Content Management — Transactional Content Services, Q2 2017 (fee charged), only in this case as Strong Performers, falling very close to the dividing line between leaders and strong performers.

Given the level of investment these companies are making in expanding their capacity and reach, it would come as no surprise if all they were named Transactional leaders in next year’s Wave, along with other Strong Performers including Laserfiche, Everteam, Upland Software and the SER Group.

Transactional Content Investment

This increase in development is one of the dynamics that characterizes this year’s Wave, according to Forrester principal research analyst and report author Cheryl McKinnon:

“The interesting finding is the progress made by some of the smaller and midsize vendors in terms of their investment in more of the transactional capabilities such as Business Process Management or capture, either through acquisitions, through their own R&D investment or through partnerships,” she told CMSWire.

“For example, if you look at a vendor like M-Files or Alfresco, or even Everteam, they have made substantial investments in transactional capabilities compared to the last 2016 Wave. It’s not so much moving away as expanding their portfolios, recognizing that there is a set of ECM use cases that they are growing into and that they are adapting to.”

The notable absence from the Transactional Wave is Microsoft, but given the focus of this area of ECM, it is no real surprise.

Transactional Content Problems

Transactional Content, the report reads, “often originates outside of the enterprise from third parties such as customers and partners. Highly structured processes support these high-volume activities, such as accounts payable or customer claims processing. It includes scanned documents or print streams generated from back-office applications.”

McKinnon explained that the problem for most vendors in this space is the very nature of transactional content and its relationship to other applications and business processes that make it difficult to develop.

“Some of these transactional use cases are the hardest to [achieve]. You are talking about hardcore back office processes like accounts payable, invoice management, customer onboarding, claims processing. These are often highly integrated with other line-of-business applications so they need connectors, they need API capacities,” McKinnon said.

“The volume of content that these handle are certainly more substantial than you would see in the businesses content services cases. Think that in some cases there are hundreds if not thousands of claims per day. So the volumes and complexity of these cases are some of the most challenging ones for enterprises and it is interesting to see some of the mid-sized vendors tackling them.”

Searching for a Transactional Content Vendor? Look to Related Markets

Thirteen vendors total made it into the Wave. In alphabetical order, they are:

Alfresco Software, Everteam, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Hyland, IBM, Kofax, Laserfiche, M-Files, Newgen Software, OpenText Content Suite, OpenText Documentum, SER Group and Upland Software.

The report also notes other vendors that failed to meet the inclusion criteria offer credible alternatives.

In this respect, organizations should look for business content services specialists that focus on the more collaborative, document-management-focused segment of ECM, as well as European vendors with global expansion plans, like Rubano, Italy-based provider Siav or Krakow, Poland-headquartered Comarch.

The report suggests enterprises look to vendors in related markets, including those providing business process management, case management and multichannel capture. Many of these vendors offer BPM engines as standalone products, as well as packaged frameworks for case management.

Growing Push Towards Business Process Management

Business process management is growing in importance, with several vendors investing heavily in BPM to expand their horizons.

“Alfresco is an interesting example of this. It has invested in its own business process for scratch. The launch of the Activiti project as an open source project a couple of years ago. It has, through development, taken it to a point where it has brought it into its overall stack as either a standalone or as an integrated service,” McKinnon said.

Similarly, Everteam acquired the vendor Italia about 18 months ago because it helped kickstart its capabilities in this area.

“If you think about it, process is how a lot of work gets done and the ability to use underlying BPM engine to orchestrate that work, to apply business logic, and in many cases to integrate line of business, really can become the powerhouse of an ECM deployment.”

She also points out that this interest in BPM is likely to continue over the coming year as technology improvements make things easier.

“I think it will continue to be a primary concern for several reasons. If we look at the adjacent markets we are starting to see the rise of the low code, or no-code, applications that can sit on top of other stacks,” she said.

“As we see this modernization of BPM we are going to see it impacting on ECM as it’s going to help organizations design and deploy process-orientated apps much more quickly so you won’t need a heavy developer skills set to design a business process like we did several years ago."

A Taste of the Transactional Content Wave

The report included interesting insights about individual vendors, but a few stood out. 

Documentum

With the Documentum deal finalized at the end of January, speculation is rife about what OpenText will do with it.

With the acquisition, OpenText bought Documentum, InfoArchive, Leap, Application Xtender as well as some vertical solutions. The report reads:

“OpenText Documentum continues to be a solid offering, particularly for security-conscious regulated industries with rigorous compliance, governance and retention requirements. Integration with portfolio tools such as InfoArchive provide a compelling application data archiving option, and the Captiva multichannel capture tools offer a broad set of imaging, optical character recognition (OCR), and data extraction tools.”

The report notes customers have high levels of satisfaction for its low- and no-code application development and e-forms capabilities. But it warns Documentum will have to work to keep its customers.

“In respect to Documentum especially — and this is not specifically to do with the OpenText acquisition — it has been eroding its install base over several years, off into competitive products including the smaller vendors, some of whom have been specifically targeting its install base. There are always questions about the roadmap with acquisitions like that, but I think OpenText has done a good job shoring up some of that concern,” McKinnon said.

“It is a very focused vendor in this market. It has articulated publicly several times a commitment to a roadmap, so I think the OpenText acquisition should make Documentum customers feel a little more stable in terms of their platform. But certainly, the competition has been attacking its install base for several years. This should help with that.”

IBM

IBM and its use of Watson has created a lot of interest across all kinds of technology spaces, including ECM. The report points out that the company is looking to integrate its cognitive services, using Watson, with its content, capture and case management offerings.

“I think there is a big untapped opportunity there. I would like to have seen more of their cognitive services embedded in their ECM offering by now,” McKinnon said.

“Where they have done some interesting work is inside their capture capabilities, more cognitive intelligent capacities. Like when, for example, you capture a document and convert it to an image format — you can now pull the information out of that."

Kofax

Kofax also did well on the back of its First Mile management offerings, which amalgamate transactional content capabilities from Lexmark Perceptive, ReadSoft and other integrated products.

Formerly branded Lexmark Enterprise Software, the products are now under the Kofax portfolio, allowing customers to address a broad set of processes, including those with high-volume capture requirements.

“They have also been investing in some interesting areas of innovation like their whole agility stack, while the ECM technology that came out of the Perceptive acquisition is working well. They have been talking about their next generation emotion platform for a few years now and we still haven’t seen much of that,” McKinnon said.

“This is certainly an area that I am watching across all these vendors: how are they re-architecting, how are they adapting to this world of the cloud, and who is making the steps to replatform to take advantage of some of the cloud services out there.”