workers in a digital workplace
Digital workplaces enable new, more effective ways of working as well as raise employee engagement and agility. PHOTO: CityofStPete

Enterprise content management (ECM) has moved on from the big proprietary systems of the early 2000s to the agile, flexible, cloud based content management systems (CMS) of today. Enterprises looking to invest in content services need to consider the key characteristics that separate one system from another — interoperability, reliability and accountability.

Content Services in Enterprises

As Stéphane Donzé, CEO of AODocs noted, these traditional systems are inherently monolithic and proprietary with high implementation costs and contractual lock-in. Content services platforms (CSPs), on the other hand, provide the modularity, agility and scale that digital workplaces demand. So what is the difference? The approach to CSPs is, as he said, "becoming more and more Lego-like, allowing organizations to easily integrate with other systems and the growing number of ready-to-use modules available on the market, particularly those that are AI-focused .... Being locked into an ECM prevents companies from evolving with technology and leveraging these new components that allow for more efficient workflow and scalability." 

The key differences according to Gartner, is that they represent two distinct ideas, which are outlined in its Reinventing ECM research, the paper that first postulated the end of ECM. The report reads: “Content services are a set of services and microservices, embodied either as an integrated product suite or as separate applications that share common APIs and repositories, to exploit diverse content types and to serve multiple constituencies and numerous use cases across an organization.”

In practical terms this means that ECM always had the mission of achieving a wide array of content-related operational goals using a centralized platform; CSPs, on the other hand, embody a new approach — one focused less on storing documents centrally and more on the strategy an enterprise uses to deal with its growing content, data and document needs.

Related Article: Stop Worrying About ECM Vendors: It's All About Your Approach

The Problem With Legacy ECM

CSPs are about service-oriented processes over content-oriented processes. It’s about agile and flexible services that solve real business challenges.

There is a problem though. ECM systems have been around for many years — attempting to centrally manage documents and transactional processes — meanwhile, companies today require a modern and flexible solution — one that takes a practical approach to how they manage information. David Jones, director of product marketing at Nuxeo, said the reality is organizations have invested in various legacy systems that store business-critical content — but in a way that restricts access to that key business information.

Despite the promise of extended access, integration to other systems and new tech such as mobile and cloud access — businesses are simply not ready to rip-and-replace. CSPs that can connect with existing systems can deliver instant benefits and significant savings.

AI and ECM

So how do you solve the problem of bringing these systems together? Many enterprises are turning to machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). Machine learning will not only be used to build smarter applications, but also to build applications smarter, Hans de Visser, VP outbound product management at application developer Mendix, said.

In 2018, the first AI-assisted programs in the low-code space were launched. Low-code platforms render ideally for AI-assisted development as low-code abstracts from lower level technology using patterns to define the application domain, UI and logic.

Since most low-code platforms are cloud based and hold millions of models in their repository, anonymized models are the ultimate source for neural network-based machine learning to guide developers while they are building application models.

The result is that AI technology can streamline workflow and simplify solutions, said Gabriel Shaoolian, founder and executive director of DesignRush. With AI technology, it’s easier than ever to gather data and draw actionable conclusions that can increase revenue, drive business growth goals and establish your business as a leader in the industry. AI can eliminate repetitive tasks that take up time, reduce the risk of human error, lower costs and better prepare your business for the evolving world ahead.

Similarly, AI tech establishes stronger customer relationships, giving your brand real-time insights into how your audience perceives their brand, what questions they’re asking and what ways you can strengthen this bond. This intuitive integration can manage large amounts of data and unearth successful ways to make your audience happier.

Integrating Silos

Maureen Geudtner, Laserfiche's product marketing manager, points out that content services providing the capability to integrate new technology offers a cornerstone for building a digital workplace.

Integrated content services provide the foundation of the digital workplace. “By providing the tools to break down data and information silos, integrated content services foster teamwork and collaboration with employees and external stakeholders,” she said.

The content services ecosystem driven by AI is now able to manage one of the biggest challenges ECM has faced since the first systems started appearing in the late 1990s, silo isolation. AI driven ECMs working in digital workplaces can now include multiple integrated components — such as enterprise document management, data capture and extraction with secure storage that supports access control, retention and classification — to facilitate search across internal and external repositories and data sources.  “By gaining control of data, organizations can automate and transform business processes, grow business intelligence and engage people with up to date knowledge and content,” Geudtner added.

The fragmentation of content across multiple systems is a stressful and time-consuming problem that will continue to drag down productivity unless businesses take a very deliberate approach to solving it. Content services is a relatively new strategy that has emerged to address this pain point, and adopting this approach for the digital workspace is critical for businesses that rely on a variety of systems for storage, collaboration and management of documents throughout the company.

AI and Content Services

AI coupled with content services can fill the gaps in the digital workspace left behind by legacy ECM strategies, Brian Kelley, IT-Ops manager for North America at Wrike, said that on paper the functionality of the two types of systems are similar: they both store and index files, track versions, enable collaboration and allow easy searching and management. CSPs, however, use APIs, integrations and automated processes to connect systems and eliminate the silos that users of ECM tools often blindly work within. “Integrations enforce consistent digital workflows and boost team productivity by making it easier to find information that was previously scattered across solutions. They can also help ensure compliance with records management in industries like finance and healthcare where privacy is of the utmost importance,” he said.

Content services are modular in nature, so departments have options to customize their solution with integrations and add-ons that are relevant to their specific needs. Using these intelligent services, for example, a marketing team could add access to a digital asset management (DAM) solution to their platform, or a sales organization could include a searchable database of collateral and enablement resources.

Content services combined with AI are essential for breaking down silos in an enterprise that slow down productivity and delay projects. Adoption of content services paves the way for automated processes that can save time and connect employees with the information they need to work most efficiently.

“In today's economy, that increased efficiency may mean life or death for your brand when competing against fast-growing, digital disruptors,” he said.