For almost 15 years, companies large and small have been publishing intranet sites to either share information and files with their employees or allow cross sharing between many and possibly all employees. However, an intranet site is only as good as the freshness of its content and the ease with which that content can be obtained. And in today’s world, there are so many alternatives for individuals to share what they want, when they want.

Today’s enterprise content management (ECM) systems have become both impressive and in some cases oppressive. OpenText ECM and EMC/Documentum ECM will both cost an organization over $100,000 for their first 100 users. This doesn’t include the costs for servers, databases and operating systems. Microsoft Sharepoint and Alfresco require license fees of over $15,000 for those 100 users. All of these products have many features that cause both publishers and users to require training and continuous encouragement.

In Steps the Cloud and Sharing Apps

Services such as Dropbox have become the new simple and easy way to share files. Much like, the Dropbox website shows a logo and a sign-in link and not much else. Once you’ve downloaded the Dropbox client to your Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad, Blackberry or Android device, you’re ready to start sharing files. Box also has made sharing and “drag and drop” simple.

But these applications aren’t real collaboration tools -- just quick and easy methods to do what users at the core want to do. Share files and information. So what can ECM vendors do to encourage both viewing and publishing in a secure, truly collaborative ECM?

File and Document Focus

ECM applications should help companies produce sites that satisfy the needs of their users, not the egos of their management team. Many intranet sites are used for internal cheerleading articles and company rules. With email attachment limits and ever larger files, average employees look to ECMs to share and consume files. While collaborative features are important, so is sharing.

Go Mobile

Kat Liendgens, CEO of Enterprise CMS vendor Hannon Hill, has mobile as a key focus in 2012. Kat pushes that “in 2012, the ability to manage mobile sites with minimum effort and overhead will become a mandate.” Just as with Dropbox, users must simply be able to push and pull content from multiple different devices with ease.

Further, more and more employees are using their own phones and tablets as part of their activities. Larger ECM application suites should find ways to extend their reach to these devices in ways more similar to Dropbox. Further, ECM should better address reach to external users who may also be on a mobile device.

Fast and Simple Search

Implement ECM with search in mind. While most web sites and intranet sites provide a search function, search isn’t what the site is about. Many of the newer knowledge base applications, such as, have taken a page from Google. Google Instant shows results as you type, as does Desk. This is a great way to shows users the value of adding to and using a shared repository of files and data.

ECM vendors have been providing connectors between their applications and the Google Search Appliance. However, the user interface in these integrations needs to be more minimalistic and simple, as Google itself provides at

Perhaps the story for ECM in 2012 is that simpler is better. Users are taking to the cloud to share files and content with or without their organizations. Perhaps the cart is before the horse.

Title Image courtesy of Michael D. Brown (Shutterstock).

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