It’s that time of year again: a chill in the air, Starbucks holiday cups, Christmas music emanating ceaselessly from every speaker in every store, lines and crowds everywhere, and, yes, 2020 trends and prediction blogs from talking heads across the land.

As a member of this venerable guild of talking heads, I feel the need to throw my hat in the ring every year at about this time, so (deep breath) here goes — my thoughts on 2020 trends in information management:

  • Microsoft widens the net.
  • Traditional enterprise content management (ECM) continues to lose relevance.
  • Microservices on the rise.
  • Privacy.
  • The customer journey.

Microsoft Widens the Net

The ascendancy of Microsoft for information management has been a trend year over year since at least 2015 and shows no signs of stopping. Initially, Microsoft stole market share in the traditional ECM/document management space through the functionality delivered in Office 365 via Exchange, OneDrive for Business and SharePoint. Then it moved into collaboration with Teams and into cyber with a range of under the hood services related to data loss prevention, identity and access management, information rights management, and end-point protection and from there into compliance generally with e-discovery and Compliance Center.

In the last year, however, with the improved and extended functionality inside Office 365 as well as more recent Azure products (especially Azure Information Protection), Microsoft is poised to make it very difficult for CIOs to consider spending money on any solution other than its for capabilities provided as part of the Office 365 or Azure environments.

Based on what I’m seeing at clients and out in the industry in general, I don’t see anything reversing (or even slowing) this trajectory. Out of the 30 or so projects I’ve been on in 2019 and the hundred or so other firms I’ve had the chance to speak with, only one (one!) is holding out against the Microsoft juggernaut.

The other 129 are at some point in the process of evaluating 1) what non-Microsoft applications they have that provide essential capabilities, 2) how many of these capabilities Microsoft provides and 3) whether they can jettison non-Microsoft providers and simply leverage the Microsoft products and capabilities they’re already paying for. And, spoiler alert: in at least nine out of 10 cases, the CIOs are deciding to go with Microsoft and sunset these other products. I predict this trend will continue in 2020.

Related Article: Microsoft Ignite 2019: Not Your Grandfather's Microsoft

Traditional ECM Continues to Lose Relevance

Given the expanding role I’m seeing for Microsoft in organizations, traditional ECM (delivered by vendors such as IBM, OpenText/Documentum, Alfresco, Hyland, etc.) is continuing to lose relevance. No doubt, this process started somewhere around 2012 or 2013 (before Office 365 and Azure were viable forces in the ECM market), but Microsoft’s full court press on Office 365 and Azure hasn’t helped.

There are other forces at work beyond Microsoft, however: The trend towards vertical, line of business applications rather than horizontal, enterprise platforms; the trend towards cloud based solutions; the increasing pervasiveness of SaaS, subscription models for software delivery; and, perhaps most significantly, the incredibly poor track record of traditional ECM solutions to deliver value to organizations.

Talk to most organizations, and if they’re getting value out of ECM at all, it’s in spite of the product (and with great pain and suffering). I see no reason to believe this will change for the better in 2020 — and in all likelihood, it will continue to devolve.

Related Article: Content Services Threaten to Repeat the Mistakes of Our ECM Past

Microservices on the Rise

Cue the buzzword: microservices is the hot trend, not only in ECM but other key domains as well (especially workflow and process orchestration).

In one sense, “microservices” is just a new way to describe vertical, line of business applications (a well-worn concept). But, and this is an important “but,” it marries this well-worn concept with new methods and modalities for defining, building, delivering and supporting applications.

Which gets us into more buzzwords, like business agility, citizen developers, digital workplace, etc. Without getting lost in the weeds of any or all of these, suffice it to say a microservices approach to ECM involves:

  • Finding discrete business problems to solve.
  • Defining lightweight, minimum viable product (MVP) solutions.
  • Developing them in an agile way, using cloud-based or SaaS (or both) products.
  • Leveraging configuration rather than customization.
  • Planning for iterative development quarter over quarter (rather than big bang, waterfall-based three year development cycles).

Despite being a buzzword (and somewhat new to the ECM space), microservices have shown real results in other domains, such as analytics, big data and robotic process automation. Given both Microsoft’s encroachment on traditional ECM and traditional ECM’s failure to deliver real value, it’s no surprise organizations would further accelerate their flight from traditional ECM through forays into microservices.

Related Article: Microservices Make Inroads: Reinventing Scalability

Learning Opportunities


Check out any survey of C-level executives and corporate boards in the last two years, and privacy is a near-ubiquitous top three concern — and typically it’s the primary one. And, beginning with the GDPR, it’s been top of mind for regulators as well. In the US, California’s CCPA is the best-known example, but at least 10 other states have similar regulations, and at least five proposals for regulation at the federal level are currently being bounced around. All of which is to say that privacy is poised to be top of mind for corporations in 2020 — and will likely continue to be for years to come.

What this means for privacy professionals is clear enough, but for information management professionals, it means they need to pivot away from simply enabling good information management to enabling stronger privacy controls — if they want to be relevant (and enjoy the support and funding that entails).

In 2020, I believe that those information management professionals that make this pivot will succeed, while those that don’t will find their relevance dwindle and eventually snuff out — if not by the end of 2020, then certainly sometime in 2021.

Related Article: What if You Just Ignored the GDPR?

The Customer Journey

Another buzzword, but one that is rapidly becoming part of day-to-day business parlance: the customer journey has gone from fuzzy marketing speak to a (if not the) driving orientation for many organizations.

At its most basic level, the customer journey is all about trying to understand what the customer needs, how they want to meet those needs and then reorienting and reengineering how you do business to satisfy these needs. 

For example, utilities have for decades thought of themselves as delivering electricity or gas, motivated in large part by being monopolies (or nearly so) in most markets. Today, however, customers have far greater choices of how to source their energy needs and are concerned with more than simply getting on the grid. 

An increasing number of disruptive energy companies have realized that customers are looking to satisfy a wide range of needs (e.g., reducing their carbon footprint, connecting their devices to the grid, understanding their energy usage and better managing it, etc.). A focus on the customer journey, then, means understanding these various motivations and engineering your business to address them.

For information management, as we saw with privacy, enabling good information management will not be enough. To remain relevant, IM will need to assist with the broader organization’s focus on the customer journey, i.e., how getting the right information to the right person at the right time enables effective support of the customer journey.

Related Article: No One Cares About Information Governance but You

A Bright Future

Despite the struggles information professionals have faced to be relevant over the last 10 to 15 years, the trends I’ve identified shouldn’t be seen as a nail in the coffin, but rather an exciting opportunity to take IM to the next level and deliver significant value to the enterprise — not only in 2020, but for a long time to come.

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