Is 2011 the year organizations allow their enterprise content to take flight and ascend into the cloud? According to Industry analysts, maybe not. Gartner (newssite) is conservatively predicting that only 10% of enterprise content will be cloud-hosted by 2015. Enterprise content management (ECM) vendors however, are betting the analysts are wrong.

Why Go All the Way to the Cloud?

Cloud computing is forecast to be one of the top technology trends in 2011 -- the market is worth billions and continuing to grow. Despite the rapid increases in cloud computing however, ECM only comprises a small percentage of applications in the cloud.

Lingering Challenges

Content management in the cloud attracts many organizations because they have no hardware or software to install and no servers to buy. Many offer monthly subscription-based payment and infrastructure that can scale on demand, making ECM accessible to organizations that have ECM needs, but not ECM budgets. Sounds magical -- so why are organizations embracing it at a pace only slightly faster than grass growing?

Privacy and security are the most frequently cited concerns. A large portion of ECM content is private, it must be managed to ensure control and governance. Adopting a cloud ECM requires trusting someone else to protect your information, and that’s not a risk that some are ready to take. Nobody wants to wind up on the front page of a trade journal for exposing something that should have never been exposed. Other challenges include:

  • Support for customizations
  • Integration with internal systems
  • Legal policies that make the implications of taking content off premises unclear

The Spring CM Perspective

I recently spoke with Jeff Piper, Founder and VP Professional Services and Partner Development, and Roger Bottum, Vice President of Marketing, for SpringCM (newssite) about their solution and the challenges of cloud ECM.

Gartner ranked SpringCM, which offers a public single instance, multi-tenant cloud ECM platform, as a visionary in the latest ECM Magic Quadrant. The platform includes capabilities expected in an ECM -- document management, collaboration, workflow and reporting -- but it differs in ways that can be valuable to customers.

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updated user interface

Piper said,

Ease of use, deployment speed, support for integration and affordability are core areas of focus for us. The initial investment is much smaller, time-to-value is much quicker and adoption has less overall risk.


SpringCM platform

Because of this commitment, SpringCM provides capabilities that are lacking or challenging for many traditional ECM tools. SpringCM’s ECM platform exposes a web services API that allows programmatic access to features like uploading files and performing check-ins. This makes the platform easier to integrate with than many on-premises ECM solutions.

Learning Opportunities

In addition, SpringCM offers several pre-built adapters to other platforms like SharePoint and Salesforce.com, as well as dozens of applications for processes like contract and invoice management. This combination of features can reduce the time and effort for organizations to adopt content management and leverage the platform to support internal business processes. The fact that enhancements and new features are made available every 10 weeks, without requiring internal installs, makes the capabilities even more attractive.

Bottum and Piper agreed that privacy and security are major areas of concern for most customers considering adopting the platform. According to Bottum,

SpringCM is dedicated to staying on top of the latest security trends. We offer security that is as good, if not better than many on-premises solutions.

SpringCM’s platform is SAS 70 Type II certified, is audited by external security auditors, offers multiple types of data encryption and allows administrators to set access privileges at the document, folder or individual level, ensuring that only authorized team members have access to sensitive content. The platform can also integrate with internal user directories and the company is currently working on implementing identity management.

What You Need to Consider

SpringCM isn’t the only ECM vendor fully embracing the cloud. In fact, almost every ECM provider is working feverishly have “cloud” somewhere as a bullet point on their feature data sheet. Organizations are going to have to be savvy in deciphering what that bullet point actually means.

Simply “running in the cloud” is easy. Actually maximizing the value of the cloud automagically in an ECM infrastructure that wasn’t natively built to take advantage of it is harder  -- taking an on premise solution and hosting it externally isn’t enough. Customers need to carefully evaluate if a vendor’s definition of “runs in the cloud” has any resemblance to their organization’s actual needs.

Is your company considering performing ECM in cloud? We would love to hear your thoughts.