Forrester named OpenText, Microsoft, IBM, OpenText Documentum, Alfresco, Box and M-Files leaders in its latest enterprise content management (ECM) wave for business content services.

But don't let the familiar faces fool you: underneath the surface is a market undergoing big changes.

The spread of new technologies like predictive analytics and advanced file sharing are forcing long-standing leaders into building new platforms and applications as well as developing "cloud first" roadmaps to keep ahead of smaller, newer, agile ECM vendors.

Cheryl McKinnon, principal analyst with Forrester and author of this year’s Forrester Wave: Enterprise Content Management — Business Content Services, Q2 2017 (fee charged), noted a clash was underway: 

“I think the area around the business content services is the really interesting part of the market because it’s in the fastest transition,” she told CMSWire.

“Where organizations are focusing on knowledge worker outputs that require collaborative management, document management, file sharing, this is where I see the biggest evidence of a collision between ECM and the EFSS [enterprise file sync and share] market.”

As a result, major market players are exploring new licensing, user interfaces and deployment options to manage new content co-creation processes as enterprises pull external participants — customers, partners, suppliers — directly into the enterprise sphere.

Two Kinds Of Content Management

This is the third Enterprise Content Management Business Content Services Wave since Forrester split the field in two due to growth in the market. 

In 2015, it spun off what it describes as transactional content services into a separate, but related Wave.

Forrester defines the two as this:  

Business Content Services: These services manage the content generating within the enterprise that drives the day-to-day work experience. Management of office documents, spreadsheets, emails and multimedia among other formats fall under this category and capabilities include document management, collaboration technologies and file sharing through flexible user interfaces, among others.

Transactional Content: These services manage content typically originating outside the enterprise (e.g. from customers and partners) and are supported by highly structured processes. They include the ability to scan documents or print streams generated from back-office applications. These services typically include multichannel capture, e-forms and business process management.

ECM Wave Leader Trends

This year’s Wave placed 15 vendors into three categories:

  • Leaders: OpenText Content Suite, IBM, Microsoft, OpenText Documentum, Alfresco, Box and M-Files
  • Strong Performers: HPE, Hyland, iManage, SpringCM, Everteam, Kofax and SER Group
  • Contender: Upland Software


“Microsoft continues to be the big gorilla in the room when it comes to ECM just by the number of users on the product including SharePoint on-premises and SharePoint Online and increasingly Office 365 and OneDrive,” McKinnon added.

“In fairness to Microsoft, it has invested quite heavily in a cloud-first strategy and I think it really paved the way for more regulated business and risk averse business to start putting their content in the cloud. It educated the market in terms of cloud services being appropriate for storing corporate documents, sharing them securely. I think they’ve been an interesting pioneer to watch in that space.”

The release of SharePoint 2016 and SharePoint Online was a major point of interest in this year's report.

Of note, the report reads:

“Microsoft’s launch of SharePoint 2016 and ongoing investment into Office 365 and SharePoint Online have proved to be significant catalysts in enterprises’ decisions to move their enterprise content to cloud services.”

It adds Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft's pursuit of a strong hybrid development strategy for enterprises that want to move to the cloud, but want to do so in slow, incremental stages.

OpenText Documentum

It remains to be seen how OpenText's closure of the Documentum deal in early January will impact the Wave over the coming year.

According to McKinnon, research for the Wave was already underway when the deal was announced, but had concluded before it formally closed, so it was impossible to take its impact into account in the final research. But a few pointers suggest the post-acquisition strategy is going well:

“It has been interesting watching some of the quick integrations that it [OpenText] has brought to market. There might be some product overlap but there are some interesting low hanging fruit and opportunities,” McKinnon said.

“I think there are some pretty interesting areas too. Jointly they can innovate more quickly and they can cross-sell opportunities there. I’m hearing some relatively positive signals in terms of commitment to roadmap with no sudden jolts with no major disruption moving forward."

Even still, with Content Suite, Waterloo, Ontario-based OpenText was already a formidable player in the Leaders’ segment. The Wave reads:

Learning Opportunities

“OpenText has modernized its user experience with its major 2016 release. OpenText continues with its hybrid approach, making its Content Suite available in the OpenText Cloud, as well as customers’ preferred public cloud services such as Azure or Amazon.”

OpenText Content Suite has become one of the preferred offerings since it focused on productivity use cases and integrated with other heavyweight enterprise applications including Salesforce and SAP SuccessFactors.


For its part, Armonk, New York-based IBM has been pushing the case for its supercomputing capabilities with Watson across all its business lines. 

In the case of ECM, the report notes the progress Big Blue has made incorporating those cognitive services into its content and case management applications, and how it has adapted its core content offerings to work in different cloud models in its cloud data centers.

Closing the Gap Between EFSS and ECM 

One of the most notable trends the report uncovered is the move by EFSS vendors towards the ECM space. According to the report, EFSS providers are closing the features gap to such an extent that some of the better-known players like Box and Google Drive can now handle low-level ECM needs.

And the competition is emerging fast. Dropbox, for example, upgraded its Business offering to provide document management at a team or departmental level.

“If you look at some of the cloud-based sync and share vendors that are out there, they are investing quite a bit in their underlying content platform and lot more of the repository type of services, like Box, Dropbox and Google Drive. These are starting to encroach on some of the more document-centric use cases of ECM,” McKinnon said.

She also pointed out development in ECM file sharing between repositories has progressed, but not at the rate it needs to:

"Most ECM vendors are behind synching and sharing, not just from their own repository, but also from any content store to any other content store and providing granular content controls around things like syncing at folder level, project level, file level,” she said.

“That’s where the next level of innovation needs to happen, a lot more of that control around user’s preferences.”

New Collaboration Expectations

The report expects continued development in collaboration for ECM in the months ahead. While most ECM systems have included some form of collaboration capabilities for a few years now, expectations are changing. Users want ready access to collaboration feature built into the systems.

“I think the user expectations are starting to change in terms of what they want. It’s not about building an entire social within ECM,” McKinnon said.

“It’s more about that intelligent collaboration around teams and projects, and embedding things like analytics to demonstrate what content is needed and who is the content expert on given issues. That’s where the innovation is happening there."

Consolidation and Innovation Ahead

Over the next 12 months several things will characterize the ECM market, including more mergers and acquisitions in a space crowded with established vendors and disruptive newcomers. In terms of functionality, McKinnon said,

“The next round of innovation is going to happen in two areas. The first one is in intelligent embedding of analytics into their stack and I don’t mean just recording — pulling out themes and concepts — but actually presenting recommendations and next best step in terms of a workflow, there are still a lot of greenfield opportunities there.”

“The other area that is going to be interesting to watch is what some of the public cloud providers are doing. Google, for example has invested in new core repository services to the point where they can contend for some of the more basic ECM use cases. What happens with some of the pure-play vendors will start to disrupt this market as well.”