Companies faced enough challenges with content management ... and then along came mobile and the cloud. Demand for mobile access to company content has thrown a whole new set of monkey wrenches into the content management mix. But according to new research from AIIM, there might be hope yet.

The report on mobile and the cloud shows a steady increase in the number of C-Suite execs who embrace mobile strategies that allow content access outside of the firewall, though the enthusiasm is not necessarily reflected in practice.

According to the report, worries about cloud security — a common reason cited when discussing a move to the cloud — have dissipated, with 75 percent of respondents believing that cloud provider security is equal to, or better, than their own servers. This is up from the 37 percent who felt that way when surveyed in 2012. 

And also (perhaps) surprisingly, it pointed to SharePoint as the most popular cloud application among those surveyed, not customer relationship management (CRM) applications. It should be noted that the enterprises in question work with SharePoint in a private cloud, rather than the Microsoft-hosted Office 365 product.

These are just some of the report's major findings.

Cloud Capabilities and Concerns

The results come from a survey taken by 282 members of the AIIM community between June 5 and July 2. Those surveyed represent a mix of sectors, roles (though leaning heavily towards IT) and organizational size, although the majority (65 percent) work at organizations with 500 or more employees.

According to Doug Miles, author of the report and principal researcher at AIIM, the use, maturity and development of strategies for mobile access to enterprise content depends on what kind of content workers are looking to access.

“When we asked what the benefits of mobile access are, people cited access to content outside the firewall very high up on the list. When you look at ERP, for example, it’s not such a big thing that people can access that beyond the firewall so no worries there,” he told us.

“But when it's accessing project documents, or tender documents or any of that kind of content for external collaboration, then it’s a lot easier to do when it’s in the cloud.”

The report pointed to IT staff as the group holding the most conservative views on moving content to the cloud, surpassing records managers and information management staff.

Tiered Access

This conservative view was not shared by the majority of respondents. Three-quarters of respondents reported being happy with cloud security, and said that security offered by their cloud provider is likely to be better, or equal to their own.

With security concerns receding, enterprises are looking to reap the advantages of cloud-based ECM. The biggest operational benefits cited were the ability to work remotely, the speed of data availability and more effective collaboration. One-third of cloud ECM users noted a cost reduction in cloud deployments when compared with on premises.

“We do seem to be getting past the reticence about move to the cloud and we do seem to be taking a realistic view as to whether it works for them, or whether it doesn’t work for them,” Miles said.

Enterprises are setting up tiered access systems as a result, matching the system to the level of use. For example, for ad hoc content and content with no long term benefits they’ll use Box; for mid-term content and project collaboration, SharePoint in the cloud; for heavyweight asset management or records management, BPM; and for key workflows, on premises enterprise CMS.

Mobile Strategy

But all of the talk about location doesn't matter to most employees at the end of the day. It all comes down to access.

“No one complains that their company doesn’t have anything in the cloud. They don’t care where their data and apps are, as long as they can access them,” Miles said.

“The question they ask themselves is why I can’t get my content on my phone when I’m in this meeting or on this plane. So the crux issue is mobile access and if the cloud is a better way of achieving that then on-premises, then that is the way they are going to go.”

Seventy-six percent of respondents feared they'd be left behind if they didn't embrace mobile applications. Ten percent believed that their business is under threat from mobile. Furthermore, the report also indicates that many enterprises are not ready for mobile.

“It’s the classic scenario where everyone that could wanted to build an app. Writing apps was fun. Then security kicked in and it wasn’t fun anymore,” Miles said.

“Only of late have the mobile development application platforms come along that are more robust so you can develop multiple apps that links into the same back-end. But it astounds me that so few people have a policy on what to do with mobile.”

The Next Big Thing?

It’s almost brings us back to the old days (if they ever really ended) of ECM on-premises, when enterprises neglected the organization and governance of content.

This report shows that only 17 percent of respondents have a mobile information governance policy relevant to their business and just five percent employ anything that looks like a Chief Mobile Officer (CMOO). However, more than seven in 10 agree that there should be a single person with responsibility for mobile innovation. Of those that are using mobile ECM, 76 percent are seeing return on investment (ROI) within 18 months.

It's early days yet for mobile content management, but we can expect more developments. 

Miles expects e-forms on mobile to become the next big thing next year. There's been a fair amount of activity in the space with mobile capture, and coupling electronic clipboards with the back end. Whatever the next big thing will be, we are sure to see the maturation of mobile content management in the months to come.

The report is called "Mobile and Cloud: accessing, capturing and processing content" (registration required).

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  Title image by mripp.