Content services, and content service platforms have been around for a long time. They were not always called that, but the functionality, to a greater or lesser extent, was available through enterprise content management (ECM) systems. However, as anyone who follows the ECM space knows, Gartner put a nail in the that coffin in 2017 when Michael Woodbridge predicted the ‘death of ECM’, even if, in practical terms for organizations little changed.

ECM Is Dead

“ECM is now dead (kaput, finite, an ex-market name)," Woodbridge wrote, "at least in how Gartner defines the market. It’s been replaced by the term Content Services, a strategic concept that covers three aspects, namely Content Services Applications, Platforms and Components.”

Since then — that is for the past three years — Gartner has renamed its Magic Quadrant for ECM as Magic Quadrant for Content Services Platforms (CSP). The most recent one (registration required) was published late last month.

In it, Gartner points out that buyers of CSP technology now have many options that can enable them to truly implement an enterprise vision of content services. Advances in federation, intelligence, cloud deployment and user experience mean that the market provides a more modernizing set of capabilities than ever before.

Clearly many companies are providing what buyers need. There were 18 vendors in all with Microsoft, Hyland, Alfresco, Box and OpenText leading a market that is undergoing profound changes. Leaving aside the fact that Gartner expects a lot more consolidation in the market over the next 18 months — like what happened Hyland and Alfresco earlier this year — there are also three main trends that will shape the market over the coming year.

  • Organizations are moving CSP services to the cloud
  • Organizations often demand simplicity and ease of adoption and are often prepared to compromise in terms of richer governance and functional services.
  • There will be the development of viable, useful and integrated intelligent services

Moving to the Cloud

According to Gartner, the move to the cloud has been accelerated by the response to the COVID-19 crisis and the need to implement and maintain content flow to employees as and when they need it. The cloud is the technology to enable that. The research shows that some of the more long-standing vendors have been late to the game in providing a cloud offering, which has had a negative impact on organic growth and market share. In addition, cloud office (and in particular Microsoft 365) is now the dominant productivity interface and, therefore, all content services must integrate seamlessly with it.

The scalability, flexibility, and integrative nature of cloud-based CSPs are three of the major reasons why it is a must-have for any business, Simon Elkjær, chief marketing officer of Denmark-based avXperten, said. It does more than just offer ‘easy storage’ because what it offers is a quick system that is badly needed in a fast-paced industry. Now that companies are forced to go remote due to the pandemic, we need cloud-based CSPs more than ever.”

"If enterprises want to be productive and reap good results in such a difficult time, then they better start polishing their gears and prepare to embrace the giant that is cloud-based CSPs,” he said.

Moving the CSP to the cloud is a necessary step for the preparation for the future, Petra Odak, chief marketing officer at UK-based Better Proposals, which develops workplace proposal software, said. While the current events are forcing lots of companies to go remote, there are many business professionals who believe that this move to the remote workplace is not just temporary. “With tech giants such as Hewlett Packard moving out of the Silicon Valley, it’s becoming evident that the big players realized just how much money can be saved by using a remote workforce,” she added.  “So, if you’re not using a cloud-based CSP just yet, you should be for one simple reason — you will have to do it at some point in the future.” In sum, it is better to get prepared ahead of time and help yourself and your team adapt more easily.

CSP in the Cloud

Moving to the cloud, however, is not necessarily easy to do. Westlake, Ohio-based Hyland is a leader in Gartner’s 2020 Magic Quadrant for content services platforms. Its flagship product, OnBase, is a CSP designed to manage formal, operational and business administration content, processes and cases. It provides a broad range of rich services covering content and process, information governance, and collaboration from OnBase and other content services offerings in its portfolio.

Learning Opportunities

Ed McQuiston is chief operating officer at Hyland. He told us that transitioning their customers to Hyland Cloud Services has been a strategic initiative since well before the COVID-19 pandemic, but many customers and prospects lacked the appetite to make cloud offerings a priority.

When COVID hit and businesses were forced not only to transition to managing their employees virtually, but engaging their customers in the same manner, cloud discussions instantly accelerated at Hyland. The reliability that a cloud solution can provide; the accelerated value, reduced risk and decreased responsibility of in-house data maintenance, was not just a nice to have anymore, it became a requirement to keep businesses running.

Globally speaking, he added, the pandemic has driven organizations to rethink the way they do business. Convenience in creating, storing, securing, and sharing content is now an expectation for many of our customers. The 'cloud convenience' factor in this new normal has reshaped the way companies approach doing business now and into the future. Citing a recent paper on transformation from Naviant, Digital Transformation: Removing Adoption Barriers to Cloud Content Services, McQuistion points out that the future of work and how people want to interact with information is changing; new regulations demand robust information security, team file sharing and collaboration must span time and space, and intelligent automation is ready for prime time.

While there are many initiatives organizations can be focusing on to thrive in this new normal, moving to a mature, proven and secure cloud-based content services platform is a step in the right direction. “There are no signs of this digital transformation era slowing down anytime soon, so I encourage organizations to take this opportunity to reimagine the possibilities within your organization in leveraging a cloud-based content services platform,” he said.

Effective CSPs

An effective CSP should offer the intelligent capture of content as well as the management of this content, Blake Hardwick marketing manager at New York City-based Greenberg & Stein, concluded.  It needs to be able to effectively capture and transform all content into a digital space so that it is more easily accessible and allows for data to be used more effectively in the future.

It also needs to organize content so that the process of accessing and maintaining it is structured and efficient. This will help business leaders to make better business decisions as well as will prevent issues arising from situations such as during the auditing process.

In fact, with the resources that are not available through the cloud and the data and content management demands now facing enterprises, even with a content services platform moving to the cloud, or using a CSP through the cloud seems to make the most business sense in a world that is drowning in data.