How do you relate to a packed room of developers? Talk about Monty Python and the Holy Grail, of course. And that’s exactly what John Powel, CEO of Alfresco did. By comparing the Brave Knights to content application developers, he articulated companies’ ongoing need to penetrate impenetrable fortresses.

Alfresco DevCon: The History and Future of ECM

On the first day of the Alfresco Developers Conference NYC 2010, the keynote address tackled issues of unstructured content, engagement and control. John Mancini, President of AIIM International outlined the short history of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and its future as impacted by social technologies, which demand more engagement, as well as systems of records.

However, like others in the enterprise are discovering, the more prevalent technologies become within the consumer marketplace the more prevalent they are becoming in the workplace. But, it’s not surprising that social technologies and content management technologies tend to reside on opposite sides of the technology evolutionary curve. It’s time to bring them together.

A Short History of Enterprise CMS

Solutions were expensive, driven by business, not IT. Use case, not ROI, mattered. Ease of use didn’t matter. In the last ten years, web based technologies began to impact the industry. Additionally, companies faced more risk. Thanks to Enron, there were more concerns about managing risk. Then there was SharePoint, which made it easier to share information and knowledge. User frustrations over cost and flexibility increased. Such frustration gave way to SaaS and Open Source.

Systems of Engagement vs. Systems of Record

Then, while enterprise IT found itself in a holding pattern, a consumer revolution began. As users became more engaged, collaboration became more important. How do you begin to document the collaboration process, when content is always changing, evolving and being shared? Meet the future of ECM.

Theories of the empowered employee have seeped into the developer world. Understanding how the consumer technology revolution is changing the way people work, can help developers understand what’s needed and why. Does this mean the end of a focus on systems of records? Mancini says no. Systems of records are very much alive, but we need to figure how to connect the systems. What are the connectors between the two?

Such questions lead to others, namely control. What does control mean when we talk about systems of engagement? With so many Web 2.0 technologies permeating the market, who is really in control and who needs to be? As expected, the answer is a combination -- collaboration of users and developers, executives and consumers.

Mancini understands however, that there are four important use cases to focus on when we think about content, control and management.

  1. Case management: How do you unify information processes to get a holistic picture of a customer or problem?
  2. Project Management: What makes projects fail? Communications. What are social systems about? Communication.
  3. Information Management: How do you use new tools to gather information, share information and analyze information?
  4. Customer Management: How to use customer facing social platforms to systematically engaging customers?

A Generational Shift in Engagement

John Newton, CTO and Chairman of Alfresco showed us how focusing on the generational shift in demographics can help us understand how people use and demand content. As well, a shift from left to right brain development is changing how we learn, engage and collaborate. More people are curious to learn and employ information technology. A new generation of drivers is setting the course, leading those of us who create systems to follow their lead.

Alfresco is smart. They are paying attention and determined to keep up with what’s coming next. By profiling how companies are using and thinking about technology, Alfresco can stay ahead. But even more, Newton showed that by examining how companies are competing with each other, you can see how value is created, which can lead to a better understanding of how systems of engagement are changing within and outside the enterprise.

Content doesn’t go away, it merely learns how to interact with social systems. Collaboration heeds documents, processes and strategies. And now we’re back to our original question: how do systems of records meet systems of engagement? By seeking out the efficiencies of one system, the effectiveness of another can be improved. By eliminating conflicts and enhancing connections, enterprise content and social content management become closer than ever.

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