Earlier this month, CMSWire guest contributor Aaron Levie asserted that “Mobility is the next great frontier for ECM.” (read: Mobile: The Next Frontier for Enterprise Content Management). He could very well be correct. When we talk about “agility,” and read its thesaurus alternatives like activity, adroitness, quickness, spryness or liveliness, how can we not feel a sense of forward motion?

The information worker of 2010 and beyond is desk-bound no more. Mobile is what we are, and agile is our goal in this fast-moving and competitive world of work. We perform our duties from meeting rooms, guest cubicles, team workstations, home offices, leased co-working spaces or on planes, trains and automobiles (where hands-free legislation permits, of course...). And as information workers, we need to be able to create, edit, consume and re-use content from inside and outside our formal corporate systems wherever and whenever the need to work presents itself.

If we look at Enterprise Content Management and how it's used, there are three distinct areas where mobile content management can push innovation and deliver new and useful ways of working.

(Editor's Note: Also from Cheryl McKinnon, Harvest Your Silos, Don't Smash Them: Information Agility with Open Standards)

#1 - Mobile Access to your ECM Repository

This first level of mobile ECM is where most mainstream vendors are (or are working toward) today. Specific mobile user interfaces for ECM products are being delivered either as apps for popular devices such as BlackBerry, iPhone or Android, or alternatively as browser-based search, navigation, edit or approval user interfaces that make traditional ECM applications easier to use with smart phones.

These useful first-generation applications help busy information workers continue to engage with their ECM systems, without having to flip open a laptop, scramble for wifi, or head to the office to upload new documents, approve workflows, or read or comment on a collaborative workspace.

Extending the reach of ECM outside of the traditional desktop/laptop tool set clearly is a useful first step for mainstream ECM vendors, though one that is likely to quickly feel dated and restrictive as content application requirements of information users become more sophisticated along with the mobile devices that they favor.

#2 - Mobile Access to Multiple ECM Systems via CMIS

CMIS was only formally ratified as an OASIS standard for content management interoperability services in May 2010, yet open source ECM providers were already delivering early versions of CMIS-specific browsers designed for mobile devices. This could shape the second wave of the mobile ECM trend, opening the door to multi-repository (even multi-vendor) access to corporate content.

Large enterprises are often compelled to use more than one content management system to meet specific industry requirements, or because they've been inherited though merger, acquisitions or decentralized IT decision-making. CMIS-compliant mobile browsers can allow busy information workers to access one or all of their critical content management systems, from a single UI, with a consistent navigation or search experience. Cross-repository search, view, folder browse, email and metadata display from a single simple window brings the power and agility of open standards to content applications.


Figure 1 – Sample screenshot of an open source Android browser with CMIS support. Source code available at: http://code.google.com/p/android-cmis-browser/

#3 - The Next Generation: Content-Centric Mobile Apps

The third wave of mobile ECM available to information workers is the brave new world of content or case-centric applications that are designed from the ground up specifically for mobile devices. This is where the new generation of platform and cloud-based ECM architectures can help innovative enterprises stay competitive and be more creative in how they author, capture and use electronic content.

The lessons learned over the last decade -- the importance of audit trails, metadata capture, retention rules and approval flows don't disappear; but instead proven, secure and flexible ECM platforms can be embedded as frameworks behind a new generation of applications.

Document assembly and signature tools for outbound sales teams or customer service agents, secure forms or photo upload tools for inspectors and case workers: here's where truly agile information management strategies will want to evolve.

Apps that are easy to use and take advantage of the popular mobile platforms, while ensuring enterprise information governance policy is met, have emerged as the third wave of mobile ECM... and the one that will help companies make the case to move to 21st century content management platforms.

Follow our continuing coverage of Information Management Agility including: