The information management landscape is a tremendously dynamic and exciting place to be these days. One big reason is because previously separate software markets are now merging.

Enterprise content management (ECM), business process management (BPM), enterprise file sync and share (EFSS), case management and capture are becoming one integrated solution through innovation and acquisition. Adding cloud and mobile capabilities makes it clear that we have entered a new era of content and information management.

It’s no accident that this is happening. If you’ve tried to buy any of these technologies in recent years, you have realized that there’s both commonality and confusion when it comes to content terminology.

Ask the One Right Question

The questions can fly thick and fast: Is my content structured or unstructured? Do I need transactional, persuasive or collaborative tools? Do I need document management, records management or content management? Do I need a system of record or a system of engagement?

But instead of getting bogged down in the terminology, the most forward-thinking IT strategists I know are asking a single, better question: How can I protect my organization and get the right information into the hands of the people who need it, when they need it?

Taking a Holistic Approach

Pondering that question leads to the conclusion that we don’t need ECM, BPM, FSS, case management and capture tools separately. We need elements of them all.

What’s more, it’s not just organizations that are figuring this out but vendors as well.  And it’s this more holistic approach to managing information that is resulting in the convergence of these markets. 

This is good news right?  Most IT leaders would agree that they already have to support way too many applications and information silos already.  So, this convergence of technologies results in simplicity for the buyer, right?  Well, yes and no.

The Pros and Cons of Convergence

While this is a time of growth and opportunity for the industry, it raises new questions for organizations looking to evolve their IT strategies: Should they look to partner with one vendor and draw from their portfolio of applications?  Are there any solutions which offer all of the capabilities they need on a single platform?  Should they go it alone and try to make boutique software purchases or fill in the gaps with their own developers?  

 The chosen approach is critical. IT departments today are working harder than ever to balance flexibility and control. On one side of the scale is pressure to respond rapidly to the application needs of each distinct business area.  On the other is the requirement to protect, secure and govern the information assets in an organization. 

3 Keys to Finding the Balance

While organizations are looking to find this balance, here are three things to keep in mind:

Using a single vendor doesn’t necessarily mean less complexity.

Vendors which are adding information management technologies to their portfolio of offerings through acquisition may offer a single point of purchase but that doesn’t necessarily translate to less complexity when deploying or maintaining solutions.

Learning Opportunities

Indeed, when a single solution is built using several different products — built on different codebases with distinct architectures — the ongoing ownership of these products can be highly complex and expensive, largely due to the additional customized code needed to connect these applications.

Bottom line: Look for a solution which gives you the ability to manage a wide spectrum of information such as content, processes and cases on a single technology platform. This will enable you to maintain, secure, integrate and upgrade a single system instead of several, thus reducing the total cost of ownership.

Don’t deal with the symptoms; fix the root cause.

The decision to purchase new technologies is often driven by the needs of individual business units. They have specific requirements and (rightly so) look to software to meet their needs. But without a higher-level vision, this can result in the organization as a whole investing in overlapping technologies and creating additional information silos.

Bottom line: Investing in a single enterprise information platform on which a variety of solutions can be built will empower your IT department to proactively provide solutions for individual business units while retaining control over the big-picture information management strategy.

Think beyond functional requirements.

Every individual software application an organization owns creates additional overhead for the IT department, whether deployed on-premises or in the cloud. These applications often need to be integrated with other applications, locked down to ensure the security of the information, not only while at rest but while being accessed and extended to a range of mobile devices and tablets.

Bottom line: By investing in an enterprise information platform with these capabilities built-in, much of this overhead can be eliminated. And in a world of heightened security risk, it’s absolutely critical to ensure that the majority of your critical business content is protected by enterprise-class security protocols and encryption technologies.

In short, customers who have used a single enterprise information platform as an integral part of their IT strategy swear that it has empowered their organizations to become more agile, efficient and effective.

Bottom line: I don’t know of a single organization that couldn’t use more of those qualities.

Title image "Kaleidoscope" (CC BY 2.0) by docoverachiever

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