Social media has changed almost every way that we interact. Even volunteering for extra work in your own company. Not three minutes after I tweeted that I was not going to attend AIIM this year, I received an email asking if I was serious about wanting to attend. It was a sly way of getting me to volunteer for three days in the booth with OpenText, but to be honest, I was glad to have the chance to do it. The AIIM conference is a great place to reconnect with industry leaders and customers to take the pulse of the ECM business.
With all due respect to those who title blogs to the contrary, the heart of ECM is still beating
In technology we cling to acronyms the way a shipwrecked sailor holds on to driftwood. ECM is no different. It has defenders and no small number of detractors who argue for its replacement. I am of the opinion however that we spend far too much time debating what to call it than actually doing something productive with it. Fortunately there were many very productive conversations at AIIM 2017.
This year, AIIM was especially important because it was one of the first opportunities to talk to free range customers about the acquisition of Documentum by OpenText. For Documentum customers, the message is clear – your investments are safe and these are not products that will simply sit on the sidelines. To do otherwise simply does not make good business sense. Similarly AIIM was an opportunity to give some OpenText customers a first look at what new toys are in the box for them to explore like LEAP and InfoArchive.
After attending this conference I can see no value in replacing, retiring, or even updating the acronym ECM. It is good for what it is in the right context. That said, OpenText is not just about content. Look at the home page and you will find we talk about Enterprise Information Management. It is not an either EIM or ECM situation but rather one is inclusive of the other. In the keynote John Mancini suggested moving away from Enterprise to Intelligent Information Management as a way to describe what we do. I like the use of the Information but I do not know anyone who would want Unintelligent Information Management so the message may not be as clear as it seems. More semantics.
Going beyond semantics – Content Services
What does change the conversation is the idea of Content Services and it was a frequent topic in my discussions. At some level it is really the same thing, but I do believe this is a shift in thinking. As you define your business challenges and understand how content is part of them, a services design mindset is fundamentally different from the past approaches.
Content services suggests a repository agnostic, API defined transactional model rather than the enterprise platforms driven by traditional ECM. You can obviously solve many of the same problems with both approaches but the model suggest CS would be more nimble, responsive, and dare I say, a less expensive option over time. The balance we must strike moving forward is how to thoughtfully migrate content workload into this model without sacrificing past investments in content systems and the information they contain.
Decomposition of a problem into meaningful segments that can be solved with discrete solutions made up of common services is new in ECM. The monolithic systems of the past were driven (by customer demand in many cases) to solve every conceivable problem in a single offering. We can eventually provide all these services in the cloud in products like LEAP, but it is important to note that this does not need to be a rip and replace strategy. Many existing systems can also be engines behind some of these services for those not ready to make that jump, while keeping their existing systems up to date.
Content services is not just another term for cloud delivered ECM or EFSS. In building cloud ECM, some have confused user influence over the buying decision and adoption with ownership of the information assets themselves. The “E” in ECM seems to move from “Enterprise-managed” to “Employee-managed.” While this design focus has had obvious benefits in experience, it sacrifices a critical point. Ownership of the content. Ultimately, does a user or a process own the asset.
The last time I spoke at this conference was in 2011 and pointed out even then that we needed to “appify” our existing ECM solutions. The context then was part of a mobile content management experience. This is, in fact, what products like LEAP are doing at the layer above content services. Regardless of your acronym of choice, it is an interesting time to be a part of the AIIM community and the OpenText ecosystem.