How to choose the best content services platform in 2021

In a previous blog, we covered the growth of content services as it evolves from traditional Enterprise Content Management (ECM). Organizations are now turning to…

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Alison Clarke

September 10, 202013 minute read

In a previous blog, we covered the growth of content services as it evolves from traditional Enterprise Content Management (ECM). Organizations are now turning to content services platforms to build on the strengths of ECM and create a holistic information management environment that connects, shares and governs content across the entire enterprise. In this blog, we investigate what features and capabilities you should look for in the best content services platforms.

I began my earlier post by saying that the era of monolithic, enterprise-wide ECM platforms is over. While this is true, it’s not the whole story. Otherwise, it would be difficult to explain why the global ECM market is estimated to reach over $93 billion by 2025—more than doubling its value in only five years.

In truth, the need for the effective management and utilization of enterprise content has never been greater. Every organization is faced with more and more information, in greater variety, being created at far faster speeds than ever before. In its 2019 survey “State of the Industry—Content Services,” AIIM refers to this as “information chaos.”

Enterprise content management software has always been about bringing order and control to your content, but this often came at the cost of usability and business value. As one executive told AIIM in their 2018 report: “I don’t care where and how content is managed, I am interested in how it is leveraged and the insight derived from it.”

To help achieve this, content management has shifted from the traditional ECM model of a central content repository–driven by risk and governance concerns–to a model where content services technology is utilized as a means to distribute content to the right person at the right time and within the application they need to complete their business task.

What are content services platforms?

Gartner, who are among the industry thought leaders analyzing the move from ECM to content services solutions, explained that “content technology markets are evolving towards three areas: platforms, applications and components.” The content services platform can be seen as the evolution of existing ECM solutions. It has its own repository and integrates with other repositories to deliver enterprise-wide content lifecycle management, information access and governance.

The platform delivers all the content management functionality that was previously part of ECM: document management, records management, workflow management, business process automation, data capture and indexing, data classification and categorization, governance, analytics, data archiving and disposal.

The new features within a content services platform simplify integration with the lead applications that drive instrumental business processes. Instead of users accessing a separate system to work with content, the content is made available directly within the user interface of the process app.

Content is managed in the content services platform, where it is automatically classified based on the process it relates to. In addition, the content is enriched with additional metadata from the lead application. Surrounding content with rich metadata provides additional context about the content, improving its value to the organization. Rich metadata provides a fertile landscape for analysis and automation.

In addition, content services can allow for the development of built-to-purpose content applications where users only utilize the specific capabilities they need to complete their work task.

The result: Users don’t have to jump from system to system to work with content. The content is delivered contextually to meet the information needs of the business user at that specific point within their work task. The user neither has to know nor care where the content has come from or how it is managed.

Content services: Pivotal to digital transformation

Digital transformation has been at the top of IT agendas for a number of years now. But the number of companies reaping its full benefits remains small. AIIM found that close to 80% of organizations thought digital transformation was “important” or “very important” for their business. But the number of companies reaping its full benefits remains small. Most feel they still have a ways to go in terms of the maturity of their digital transformation journey.

AIIM employed the Deloitte Digital Maturity Model to help survey respondents pinpoint their digital transformation progress. Enterprises only averaged a three out of five across the various categories in the assessment.

A primary reason: Content management in the world of Big Data has increasingly become a barrier to digital transformation. As the amount and variety of information flowing through organizations has increased, so has the number of content management systems it uses. The 2018 AIIM survey found that the average number of content systems has grown by 30% in the last five years but the majority of information still remains outside these content management systems, isolated in the likes of email systems, file shares and EFSS systems.

This landscape is a result of the users that actually create most of this information not seeing direct value in traditional ECM platforms—while being asked to perform extra tasks to ensure the platform’s effectiveness. Consequently, they’ve taken it upon themselves to find point solutions to their specific content needs. Apart from the obvious cost, risk and governance concerns of this approach, it has resulted in a situation where it’s impossible for organizations to gain full value from their content.

Content services platforms and applications are the solution. From a content services perspective, the digital transformation of an organization has two separate but inter-related components: The digital workspace and the digital business. The development of content services platforms has been focused on delivering content in a way that meets the needs of both elements:

Digital Workplace

Within the digital workspace, the focus is on user productivity. Content services are based around contextual content delivery, sharing and collaboration. The user should be able to access relevant content from the application or device that best suits their needs. The content services platform must facilitate communication and collaboration. Importantly, it must not act as an impediment to efficient and agile work practices. That means that the platform removes as much of the content management and governance tasks from the user as possible.

Content Services Platform provides link between the digital workplace and digital business.

Digital Business

Within the digital business, the focus is on process productivity. The content services platform allows for the seamless extension and integration of content services into business processes—while maintaining the document management, records management and other essential ECM functions needed for proper content management and governance.

It delivers comprehensive end-to-end content management; but in a way that drives process efficiency and automation. The content services platform provides the basis for business innovation and agility by deploying content in ways that enable entire workflows and processes to be transformed at scale.

The content services platform acts as the conduit between the digital business and digital workspace to ensure that any organization can maximize the content that it has—both within its business and, increasingly, with its customers, partners and suppliers.

What are the features of a content services platform?

What are the key features that you should look for when you’re selecting your content services platform? I recommend that the content services solution you choose includes:

Intuitive user experience
In the past, the user experience of some ECM software has been convoluted and unfriendly and lacked a compelling reason for adoption. Today’s content services platforms place a far greater emphasis on delivering a simple, intuitive user experience based around contextual and business-specific content delivery. It creates an experience that is easy-to-use, configurable and role-based—where content is managed in the platform and consumed in the lead application.

Content is managed and classified within the content services platform and transparently integrated into other enterprise applications. When new content is added to the lead application, the platform performs automated classification and metadata management in the background without the need for the user to manage every aspect of the content.

Intelligent content capture
The first step on the path to digital transformation is the transition from physical to digital content. It is the basis for digital content services, and a content services platform must offer intelligent and efficient content capture and transformation—not only from paper to digital but also from a wide range of electronic content sources including email, file shares, enterprise applications and social media. This is an essential first step in automating your business processes and performing traditional ECM tasks such as document management, records management and compliance.

Document management
The content services platform organizes and distributes content across lead applications, which requires a fresh approach to document management. The best content services solutions have moved away from a hierarchical folder structure to user-driven digital workspaces where content is much more naturally organized to suit the user’s individual work preferences and requirements. The document management process is driven through automated data classification that lessens the content administration burden while making content more easily accessible.

Records management
Like ECM before it, the content services platform must have enterprise-wide records management capabilities. The best content services platforms centralize RM policy decisions, and then apply those policies to content in previously isolated application and process siloes across the enterprise. By providing a structured and transparent way to maintain records from creation through to eventual disposition, records management software enhances corporate positions, ensuring compliance and reducing audit and litigation risk. Modern content services platforms seek to make the process more effective by automating as much of an organization’s records management capabilities as possible.

Data classification and categorization
Data classification and categorization lies at the heart of content services, and huge strides have been made in the automated capture and classification of highly diverse content types. Intelligent data classification allows content to be organized in the content services platform and tagged for quick retrieval, records management and compliance. Common data classification and categorization features include intelligent metadata managers, OCR/ICR file tagging and policy or roles-based classification.

Collaboration and productivity
Content services closely ties the content to the application. A content services platform must be able to interoperate with other applications, processes and information sources. Leading platforms offer seamless integration into enterprise and line-of-business systems to increase productivity. In addition, the content solution should include easy-to-use and feature secure internal and external file sharing capabilities to boost collaboration both within the organization and with partners and customers.

Workflow and process management
The best content services platforms include capabilities to drive content-centric business processes. As the platform is often responsible for feeding associated content into the lead applications, it makes sense that it takes responsibility for the workflows and workspaces that give people access to the content. Content services solutions provide functionality—as frameworks or templates—in areas such as case management, workflow management and task assignment and approval. In addition, content processing can be automated using the combination of trigger events and business-data-based rules to generate documents, update workspaces or start workflows. These events can take place in the content services solution or the lead application.

Automated integration across repositories and applications enables the indexing and retrieval of content from wherever it resides. Content services platforms offer powerful, context-driven search functionality that allows users to consume content on demand within the context of their business processes. Advanced search adds the ease-of-use to content services that people need to get the most from their content.

Information governance
Risk management and regulatory compliance are critical drivers for content services adoption. Today, every organization—especially those in heavily regulated industries—are faced with an increasingly complex and expanding regulatory environment. A content services platform must meet your governance requirements. It must be able to accommodate all your information governance policies and procedures as well as ensuring compliance according to the industry standards and regulations that apply to your business.

The platform must be able to quickly adapt to meet the changing regulatory environment. There is a raft of new legislation appearing throughout the world to address personal data privacy. For example, the introduction of GDPR in Europe has introduced new levels of personal data protection and data privacy obligations on organizations that require e-governance capabilities to be automated wherever possible.

Content and system security
New legislation such as GDPR has also placed the emphasis on system security. Content must be protected both in transit and at rest. The content services platform must include capabilities such as access control (ACLs), electronic digital rights management (EDRM), data loss prevention (DLP), authentication and encryption. File and template-based security can allow you to create highly granular permissions as can metadata that’s applied to the content from an integrated lead application. Advanced features such as content redaction, watermarking and digital signatures can help build secure content collaboration and sharing.

Analytics and reporting
The rapid development of artificial intelligence, machine learning and analytics has added a new dimension to what a content services platform can deliver. Organizations can now benefit from the ability to analyze a wide variety of content types within the application that created them in order to identify and extract the value they contain. Content services unlocks the value in any content form and allows for structured and unstructured data to be blended to achieve actionable insight to boost productivity and improve decision-making.

Application development and APIs
A content services platform should have a range of development and API services to enable the rapid design and deployment of focused micro-services. The “containerization” of apps speeds total cost of ownership as it accelerates the time to productivity for users. In addition, the platform should include APIs as well as packaged connectors to enable smooth and efficient integration of content services into other enterprise applications.

Cloud and mobile enabled
According to AIIM, eight out of 10 content executives are in the process of moving to the cloud. The cost, scalability and security benefits are too great for executives to ignore. However, security and confidentiality issues surrounding sensitive information still exist.

The content services platform you select should enable you to select from on-premise, cloud or hybrid cloud deployments to suit your organization’s security requirements. As well as cloud, every content services platform has to be mobile enabled so that users can easily access content on the device of their choice.

Mobility should not be a “bolt on” but natively built so core content functions such as access, creation, processing, sharing and governance happen naturally on a mobile device.

This focus on cloud and mobile is leading many organizations to consider managed content services—working with a provider that can manage your entire content services infrastructure.

Why choose OpenText for your content services platform?

OpenText™ is a recognized leader of both on-premise content services and managed content services, allowing for flexible deployments of content services platforms that meet your specific business requirements. This is reflected in recent analyst reports:

Learn more about OpenText Content Services and ECM solutions.

In our next blog, we’ll look at how content services is helping transform the energy sector.


Disclaimer: Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

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Alison Clarke

Alison is Director, Product Marketing for OpenText Content Suite and Extended ECM. Alison and her team are passionate about helping organizations use content services technologies to distill more value from information, supporting the needs of individuals and teams to improve productivity and strengthen information governance for the organization with content services-enabled solutions.

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