Despite the pessimism from some corners, the impending death of Enterprise Content Management is overstated. Rather, from what I see, the intelligent content race is on.

The Commoditization of Content Management

One of the things that you hear quite a bit in the Content Management circles these days is how the management and storage of content is becoming a commodity. With the rapid spread of SharePoint and the emergence of cloud-based document sharing services like, Google Docs and Dropbox, it is a trend that is becoming hard to ignore.

While the basic storage and sharing of content slowly becomes a commodity out in the mystical cloud and in the depths of SharePoint sites, the vendors have been leaning on the advanced features that they offer in their platforms today. The challenge is that the "commodity" systems can easily see those needs and add them to their platforms. As this occurs, the reach of the commodity factor extends.

Why We Need Intelligent Content Management

At the recent EMC World in Boston, Alexandra Larsson of the Swedish Armed Forces discussed how their system uses TIBCO’s Spotfire to stream actions occurring within the Documentum repository live to a screen. The tool is used to spot trends among users, allowing HQ staff to respond to situations more quickly and efficiently. This example generated quite a lot of buzz from attendees and those remote participants tracking the show via Twitter and the blogosphere.

In most organizations, content never stands alone. It may be part of a transaction, an employee record, a website, a creative project, a medical case, or any number of things. The ability to bring the content and all of the information (context) that went into the creation and use of that content is becoming more critical as organizations realize that simple access to content is simply not enough.

Governments want to know who might have ever looked at, or searched for, one particular file out of millions. Web managers need to know which pieces of content are driving traffic. Customer service reps need all relevant content and data for every client available and readily digested. The need to know how content is used extends across all industries.

Thus enters Intelligent Content Management.

Three Forms of Enterprise CMS Intelligence

The concept of Intelligent Content Management is the idea of deriving more value from existing Content Management systems. There are a few ways that the vendors are looking to deliver that value to their customers.

1. Content Analytics

The first part of the story is Content Analytics. The proposition behind Content Analytics is to mine the content already resident in the repository and identify trends and exceptions.

The search engines that are being embedded are offering improved algorithms and allowing the display of results in ways that go beyond the simple list. Faceted search capabilities are allowing users to look at their results from different angles, providing instant filtering on several dimensions of your content.

2. Business Intelligence Tools

The second effort at enhancing the value of existing information is focused on the application of Business Intelligence tools to better visualize what is happening at any given moment. This goes beyond just placing all of the metadata into a data warehouse for analysis -- it involves constant monitoring of key components within the repositories themselves. The value, potential, and interest for this capability was evident in the response to the Swedish Military system.

This is likely, and hopefully, part of the logic behind the new partnership between EMC and Informatica. While it appears on the surface to be a resale agreement, you get the sense talking to the EMC people that they want to build solutions using tools from Informatica that will allow users to access more precise information from their repositories, not just the hoards of data that they can get today.

As always, the devil/implementation is in the details. IBM and Oracle already own BI tools, so they can also have the potential to provide a one-stop-shop for this functionality.

The blending of all that metadata, audit logs, and Content Analytics should offer people a new way of looking at their content. Context is the key here, and this is just the beginning.

3. Content Management Interoperability (CMIS)

Most content is not just content. Starting with documents which contain “unstructured” information, you then add metadata and presentation, creating content. When you provide that content in context, it becomes information.

This is where integration and federation comes into play. With CMIS, the ability to pull content into other applications is much easier, but the information also needs to flow in reverse. The most successful systems that I have seen have information from all systems come into a single, purpose-built dashboard.

The ability to talk to other systems is going to become more important to the Content Management vendors. Historically, they have worked hard to integrate with systems, but integration only works within an organization. The necessary context for content is becoming more likely to reside outside of the control of IT, where those old integration efforts fail.

Being able to interact with the same piece of content from within both SalesForce and SharePoint, while sharing it with external partners, is becoming the common scenario and not the exception.

Moving into the Future

There are a lot of things that will make this all easier, and those are hurdles that the Enterprise CMS vendors must master in order to bring their vision of Intelligent Content to fruition.

The key will be to create an approach that unifies the traditional business intelligence field with the next generation of content management systems. Once that happens, we won’t need Intelligent Content Management because we’ll have true Information Management.