What is Content Services?

A new generation of content services are changing the way organizations approach ECM. What are they and how do they work?

In a previous blog, we looked at how Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is transitioning to become content services. It’s a change driven as much by a new way of thinking about information management as it is about new technologies. While ECM focused on the preservation and protection of content, content services build on that and use innovative technological advances to extend the focus to include information access, sharing and collaboration.

Bottom line: The era of trying to implement a monolithic, enterprise-wide ECM platform for the all-inclusive control of content is over. While the objective is still necessary, the traditional approach was too unwieldy and complex to work consistently. Everything from scope to training took too long and rarely met organizational needs. And the growth of vast new pools of digital information has just made the idea even more untenable.

ECM is dead. Long live ECM.

So, with the capabilities of ECM now living on in a new model, just what are content services and how can your company benefit? Gartner’s new definition for this market is as follows: “A content services platform is a set of services and microservices, embodied either as an integrated product suite or as separate applications, that share common APIs and repositories, to exploit diverse content types and to serve multiple constituencies and numerous use cases across an organization.”

Gartner also goes on to explain that “content technology markets are evolving towards three areas: platforms, applications and components.” Taking each in turn:

Content Services Platforms

The content services platform can be seen as the evolution of existing ECM solutions. The content services platform has its own repository and integrates with other repositories to deliver enterprise-wide content lifecycle management, information access and governance. Common services available from these platforms include document and records management, data capture and indexing, categorization, workflow management, version control and analytics.

Content Services Applications

Content services applications provide solution-focused capabilities that address specific use cases across the organization. Examples of content-enabled applications include vendor invoice management, employee information management, contracts management, as well as vertically focused applications such as those for life sciences or engineering.

Content Services Components

Content services components are utility-based services that add additional functionality to existing applications. For example, a content services component may be a utility that enables language translation, external file sharing or document capture.

Content service platform providers—such as OpenText—deliver a variety of content-enabled services, microservices, tools and repositories that allow organizations to design the best content services platform for their individual needs based on these three elements.

Do content services mean you’re starting at square one again? NO!

It should also be very clear that content services do not take the place of your existing enterprise content management system. This is an evolution in ECM solutions. It’s not about “rip and replace.” It’s about building on the investments you’ve already made in ECM systems—enhancing the value in those systems by integrating new capabilities. If your ECM solutions have allowed you to capture, manage, store and preserve content through the organization, content services can extend that and improve information sharing, automation, collaboration and analytics.

As mentioned earlier, the real change is not about technology. It’s about asking different questions related to the use of content within your organization—and now being able to integrate solutions that give you the answers you need. Traditional ECM software was focused on the capture, storage and management of content. Content services, on the other hand, address very different questions: “How do I give users access to the information they need, when and where they need it, and in a format that’s easy for them to work with?”

Content Services: What’s in a name?

Clearly, there’s a step-change underway in the strategy and practice of information management. And that new definition requires a new taxonomy.

For many companies, the enterprise content management system has been seen as the province of the records management and compliance teams. For others, the term has little impact at an enterprise level. As an AIIM survey found, of companies using ECM software, only 12% felt it was well understood by their organization. However, around half those same respondents felt that ECM remained a useful term as ECM evolved—around the same number thought that terminology wasn’t as important as getting the content functionality they needed.

There was, however, broad agreement on how ECM was evolving:

  • The majority (79%) agreed that we are now living in a multi-repository world
  • 73% agreed there is a need for content management capabilities that are increasingly embedded rather than housed in a separate ECM system
  • 69% felt the content management capabilities they required varied wildly depending on the business process

As John Mancini, President and Chief Evangelist of AIIM, colorfully summarizes the reason for ECM becoming more end-user focused: “The user experience in creating and sharing content is central…users are demanding the ability to disaggregate content capabilities and to be able to buy and consume content by the drink rather than the gallon.”

The components residing within the parameters of “content services” satisfy this new approach to enterprise content creation and delivery in a way that would be difficult to incorporate into traditional definitions of enterprise content management.

What are the benefits of Content Services?

Content services platforms allow organizations to realize the full value of the content and data they have available to them. Rather than isolating content in a separate repository where it’s difficult to access and out of context, content services are a major step forward in connecting people, processes and content across organizations—and with their customers, suppliers and other business partners. Key benefits include:

  • Empowering knowledge workers
    Content services software enables you to deliver the right content to the right people at the right time. Users can access and interact with the content they need from within the application they’re using through customized workspaces. The best content services platforms allow for low-code or no-code development of plug-ins that decouple the user experience from the underlying content repository. The user now has access to dynamic and personalized content in the context of the applications they use every day.
  • Repository agnostic
    Every sizable organization has information held in several different repositories. Rather than attempting to identify, capture and centralize all that content, a content services platform allows content to live where it’s been created, yet be properly governed and easily accessed; breaking down the information silos that have been built up over the years. By being able to gain much greater control of all content spread across the organization, you can begin to apply advanced analytics to improve decision making.
  • Improving information access and sharing
    The best content services platforms ensure that content is “born managed.” Intelligent and automated metadata and categorization capabilities mean that any piece of content can be managed throughout its entire lifecycle—from creation to disposal. It enables all content, wherever it resides, to be quickly and easily searched and retrieved. The process services within some content services solutions allow you to automate and manage the flow of content within and across departments—as well as externally with customers and partners—to meet your specific business requirements.
  • Enhancing information governance and compliance
    A comprehensive content services platform will provide a single, trusted source that delivers integrated records management, intelligent metadata management, archive and search capabilities and version control over all business content, whether it’s stored within the platform itself or in other enterprise repositories such as Microsoft® SharePoint®, SAP® applications, Salesforce file systems or email. You can create a single source of the truth for any piece of content and ensure that all content activity complies with internal information governance policies and procedures as well as external regulations and government mandates.
  • Moving to “Cloud First”
    Content services are a major step toward shifting content management to the cloud. These new ECM capabilities are delivered as web-based services—content services platforms can be quickly deployed and are easily scalable. Their benefits are available to on-prem and cloud enterprise applications and can be accessed from anywhere, on any device. However, content services don’t mean an abrupt step to ECM in the cloud. Most companies will require much more than ECM cloud solutions. The best content service platforms enable the seamless integration of new content services with existing on-premise ECM systems to provide hybrid content services.

Why consider 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:

In our next blog we’ll look in more depth at what you should look for when selecting your content services platform.

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.

1Gartner Magic Quadrant for Content Services Platforms, Karen A. Hobert, Michael Woodbridge, Joe Mariano, Gavin Tay, October 5, 2017

Alison Clarke

I'm the Product Marketing lead for OpenText ECM products such as Content Suite Platform and Content Server. I'm passionate about helping customers find new ways to distill value from information, making end-users and teams more productive with ECM-enabled solutions.

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