AIIM: Enterprise Content Management at a Crossroads as Content Chaos Reigns

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David Roe avatar

The Enterprise Content Management (ECM) space is shifting again. Research just published by AIIM shows that enterprises are still looking for a one-system-fits-all approach, even if the evidence shows that information consumers are accessing data in numerous ways that traditional ECM deployments are finding difficult to cope with. Content chaos, it seems, still haunts enterprises.


The findings are contained in the AIIM annual industry watch report that appears this year under the title ECM at the Crossroads and poses the questions as to where ECM vendors should be directing themselves and what technologies they should be developing.

It’s not new for ECM vendors to find themselves in this kind of quandary, after all it has changed radically in the past 10 years since it first really rooted itself in the enterprise. In that ten year period, the report says, ECM has movedfrom being a tool, or set of tools, used locally to capture and manage documents to something that is now being used to push content out to mobile devices,to collaborative platforms, to all corners of the enterprises, and even beyond the firewall.

AIIM enterprise CMS systems usage

This, the report says, is how and why ECM is now finding itself at the crossroads. The result of a web-survey that elicited 538 responses from the AIIM community between March 15 and April 04, 2013, it shows that enterprises are still struggling with information management issues.

ECM Questions

If in the past, the report argues, there was a clear roadmap for ECM that pointed the way forward in meeting its primary information management goals, it now has to answer of a number of questions:

  • Which systems do we use for collaboration?
  • Which for document process workflows and for emails?
  • What do we use of long term records management?
  • Do we consolidate and migrate or connect and federate?
  • Do we hook up to mobile devices through the firewall or do we use the cloud?

At face value this poses a real existential crisis, but is it really? Is this any different than the crisis in enterprise information management that has characterized the ECM space since the beginning?

Yes, there are new technologies and yes there is more management required with more channels pumping information into the enterprise, but the fundamental problem of planning is still the core issue.

While the report suggests that ECM is at a crossroads, a quick look at our coverage of this issue through other AIIM reports over the past four years, shows that the fundamental questions are still exactly the same: how do enterprises plan for the management of their data?

Traditional ECM

Most businesses, the research shows, are looking for a single system to carry out all their information management functions, even if at this point in time it's unrealistic. In fact, 54% have made the strategic decision to move towards a single-vendor, which includes 19% that intend to build around a new suite into the future.On top of that, 35% say they are going to stick with multiple, or best-of-breed solutions.

Even still, for most, ECM is still only something that they are developing at the moment with only 18% having completed company-wide deployments. Currently, 54% are in the process of implementing a company-wide system or integrating their existing document management and records management projects.

AIIM enterprise CMS systems in use

Despite the attempt to create some kind of single enterprise-wide system, 75% of respondents said that they have more than one ECM, document management, or records management system with a staggering 26% admitting that they have four or more systems.

Leaving aside document management, or file sharing, 66% of enterprises are using their main enterprise content management system for records management and 46% are using it as a collaboration tool.

How effective it is in managing content is questionable in that there is a huge amount of content outside the system. According to the research, 61% of organizations have more than half of their content outside the main document management or records management system.

There are many problems with this including the fact that this content, by being outside the system, is not searchable through the ECM. In addition, content that needs to be preserved is often outside the records management system and, consequently, outside of compliance monitoring, or data lifecycle monitoring.

ECM, Mobile

Mobile, it seems, is also causing some considerable problems. For a large number of companies, mobile access to content was cited as being very important (45%) or even vital (14%) with a quarter citing the need to offer off-line access to content as important (25%). Off-line access is only part of the story here though, with those looking for off-line access also looking for off-line editing abilities too.

Many companies also need to offer their employees access to enterprise content directly through mobile devices (30%) with 32 percent even ready to go as far as enabling a Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) policy to mobile access (32%), even if the preference is for access through devices that have been issued by the company (57%). Where there is no official BYOD policy, or where enterprises have not issued company devices, 22 percent have said that their systems have been accessed using unapproved devices.

Learning Opportunities

AIIM enterprise CMS systems mobile

At a time when many enterprises are looking at investing in analytics and business intelligence tools, it also poses the question as to how effective this tools will be if large amounts of data cannot be found.

It is surprising then that in a scenario where mobile access is so important that only 11% of those surveyed said that they have an optimized browser interface that gives access to their ECM.

On top of this, at a time where collaboration and file sharing are considered key functionalities, only 10% have specific apps for this, and 21% allow third parties to access their on-premises systems through V+N, and 4% through the cloud.

ECM and Cloud Computing

The cloud is also posing problems for organizations that are struggling to manage their content. In the absence of enterprise-grade file sharing, 25% say that enterprise users are using consumer-grade file-sharing apps and that this use is unofficial.

But file sharing is only a small problem compared with the basic problem of putting, or storing content in the cloud. Half of organizations say they are unlikely to ever put content applications in the cloud because of concerns over content governance and security.

AIIM enterprise CMS systems cloud computing

Repository fragmentation was also a major concern in moving content to the cloud while data retention and polices around retention were also problematic.

This probably explains why records management in the cloud is the most popular cloud application, with 47% actively considering it and 14% already doing it.

In these instances, some enterprises are starting to look at hybrid cloud-on premises deployments and generally from the vendor they are using at the moment.In these cases (17%) the amount of content that is placed in the cloud ranges from 10% to 50% and even as much as 75%. Finally, most users of social platforms as part of their ECM will deploy it as part of an on-premises deployment rather than in the cloud.

And we're back to where we started. In an ideal world, enterprises would like to see all their information management needs through a single system. However with the rise of cloud computing, increasing dependency on mobile and mobile applications, and with big data and analytics also becoming increasingly important the challenges are getting even greater.

What enterprises need to consider, the report concludes, is whether a single system is a realistic aspiration, or whether enterprises need to change their strategies and embrace best-of-breed solutions for specific tasks.