ECM futures

2016 was a Year of Unprecedented Change for ECM. What’s in Store for 2017?

Happy 2017 from all of us at OpenText!

Flipping the calendar is always an occasion for a few moments of reflection and prognostication. And, as 2017 finds its footing, my thoughts keep returning to the words of one of 2016’s newly minted Nobel Laureates: “The times they are a-changin’.” In both the larger world and our smaller, tech-focused arena, change seems to have moved from constant to relentless — it’s everywhere and the pace is increasing.

The impact of change can be uplifting or devastating. Some of 2016’s amazing revelations were seen in things like a robotic arm being successfully wired to a paralyzed man’s brain, the Chicago Cubs winning their first World Series in over 100 years, and Amazon making a delivery via drone. These were countered by the loss of a host of cultural luminaries, from David Bowie to Prince to Leonard Cohen, Muhammad Ali, Harper Lee, Princess Leia and way too many others to list here.

And, of course, let’s not forget 2016’s biggest example of change, a certain federal election that I can’t help but filter through ECM-tinted goggles: Did a presidential candidate’s basic email governance issues alter the course of modern history? Only time will tell, but I’m thinking this point may come up in more than a few Information Governance presentations over the rest of this decade.

That was just one instance where information management influenced change — and vice versa — in 2016. See below for more:

  • Box continued to dance with the IBM elephant
  • Hewlett Packard Enterprise continued to restructure, agreeing to multi-billion dollar deals that will spin-off/merge its Enterprise Services division with CSC and its software business (including Autonomy) with Micro Focus
  • Lexmark was sold, with its software unit reportedly put up for sale immediately by its new owners
  • OpenText celebrated its 25th anniversary by announcing its intention to acquire Documentum
  • Increasingly staggering tales of data leaks and hacking garnered even more of attention thanks to everything from the Panama Papers to the Democratic National Committee to Yahoo
  • Digital Transformation continued to expand the possibilities and expectations of content within enterprises, often resulting in a not-entirely-comfortable spotlight being turned on ECM’s history of implementations and adoption

Together, these disruptors tell a tale of a sector seemingly in the throes of transition and uncertainty. It was enough for some industry analysts and experts to begin sounding the death knell for traditional ECM platforms: They’re too complex, too unwieldy, and too expensive. Maybe they have a point?

More than a few commentators also raised the suggestion that the very concept of enterprise-wide content management is obsolete — the market is oscillating back towards standalone, easily digestible solutions to specific use cases rather than bulkier, unified platforms. This piecemeal approach comes with its own set of issues, though. Employing independent, niche apps for specifics like content creation, collaboration, and sharing can run counter to maximizing integration, security, compliance, and analysis. All of which are absolutely essential to realizing success in the coming years.

ECM in 2017 and Beyond

Future ECM success will be found in technology that can be both a platform for massive, document intensive business processes as well as a lightweight solution for integration and built-for-purpose apps. Success will be seamless collaboration inside and outside the confines of the firewall. And successful ECM will still bridge information sources, aggregating data to drive processes through contextual workspaces – all while providing the governance capabilities we still need.

Critically, ECM will sneak into the background as part of applications and processes; functioning as a fully integrated, behind-the-scenes facilitator supporting productivity.

Bonus points are awarded if it allows organizations to leverage the sizable capital and knowledge investment they already have in their current ECM platforms.

How do we get there? OpenText has a vision for the future of ECM:

  • Cloud-First — quickly deployed, elastic, always available, and constantly updated
  • Independently Consumable — micro-service architecture and REST APIs make it easy to embed ECM in lead business applications and purpose-build new, lightweight apps
  • Consumer Experience — simple, clean UIs; self-administered to maximize adoption
  • Analytics — built-in for light-touch insight into usage, workflow, and continual improvement
  • Repository Agnostic — stands independently or integrates with existing storehouses to eliminate migrations and leverage existing investments
  • Application-Centric — a platform designed for the development of low- and no-code apps to solve specific business problems

Can it be achieved? Yes. And it starts with the understanding that you don’t have to throw away your legacy ECM platform like an old 2016 calendar. Build on it. Start small. Aim for targeted solutions by thinking in terms of “content services”: Address your specific business needs strategically, then source and apply the appropriate technology to solve them, integrating it with the core infrastructure you already have.

Whether it’s extending ECM functionality further into your business processes, enhancing content sharing and collaboration, or creating purpose-built apps to achieve specific goals, the foundation you’ll need is probably already there.

That’s the key to the future of ECM; one that can be realized more quickly and successfully by fully appreciating the fact that “the times they are a-changing.”

About Stephen Ludlow

Stephen Ludlow
Stephen is Senior Director, Enterprise Product Marketing at OpenText.

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