The Future of Content Management

About a week ago, Julian Wraith asked the ECM world what they thought the future of Content Management was.  He then said that he was going on vacation and would check back in a week.  So like all good techies, I waited until the end of the week before even starting on the task.  I did want to answer because I felt my ECM Definition needs a vision to where I see ECM taking us.image

Before I dive into the topic, I wanted to frame my answer.  I am backing off the term ECM 2.0.  As I think on it, the “2.0” is over-used, and doesn’t really apply directly to ECM.  ECM may support and be an important part of an Enterprise 2.0 system, but that can be achieved with old tech.  I am still ECM focused and see it changing, but slapping a version number is not the way to indicate the evolution of ECM.

The last thing about this future state is that it will not be here tomorrow. It is a future that is years away.  Some organizations may be there soon on a small scale, but the full-scale vision is a world where we are all there. So without further ado…

The Future of Content Management is…

…Omnipresent Content Management. It is going to be everywhere, managing everything.  It will be transparent to the population (everyone will be an end-user), but omnipresent.  It will start to be realized as a  large number of silos interconnected.  Over time, a loooooooooong time, they will all disappear.  There are a few steps to get there…

  1. Get ECM Systems Everywhere: All content must be managed somewhere.  They don’t have to talk, but every system that creates content puts it into an ECM system.
  2. Link ECM Systems Everywhere: This is getting all the systems to talk to each other.  For this to happen, we need standards to be implemented and supported.  CMIS is a great start.  To add onto it, Identity Management needs to be in place to manage the Authentication and Authorization everywhere.
  3. Merge ECM Systems Everywhere: You are no longer dealing with Federated systems, you are dealing with one system. CMIS isn’t used as a method to have repositories talk to each other, because there is only one repository.

It is a long journey.  We are just getting to the point where step 2 will be possible in the next few years.  Even then, not everyone will be finished with step 1.  As for the final step, there will probably always be organizations that insist on firewalled information.

How it Works

Let me throw out an example. I’m at work and a colleague, let’s call her Sarah, asks me to write a quick little proposal for doing some work at Global Dynamicsimage. No problem. I grab a previous proposal and start adapting it to the needs at hand.  When I am done, I tag the document and define the level of sharing.  I give Sarah full access.  I then tell Sarah that I am done and that she has full access.

Sarah then grabs the document. I didn’t send a link or tell her where it was.  She just looks for tags with our names and Global Dynamics and grabs the newest thing.  She makes changes and then tells Global Dynamics that it is ready after she expands the sharing.  She could send a link as a courtesy, but it isn’t required.  Her contact gets the message that it is ready to review, but they happen to be home.  They stroll to their entertainment center and pull the document up on the screen to give it a quick read.  They approve it and leave for a run.

Okay, this is advanced and end-state, but we are getting there slowly.  There are several components that we need.

  • Omnipresent Storage: This is the cloud in an evolved state. Nobody thinks about storage, except the storage guys.  It comes with your Internet access.  It isn’t owned by your provider, they just collect the fees to pay the overhead.  It is accessible everywhere.  There may be some government operations that lock their stuff down behind firewalls and use their own system, but that is their choice.
  • Omnipresent Identity Management: Everyone has an id that can be verified through a number of different biometrics.  Your id has tags. Your id is tagged with your Name.  If you are employed, your id may have your company name as a tag, and maybe your client.  There are no limit to organizational tags, but you cannot add them to yourself, you can only remove them.  The organizations can add/remove their tag from you.  You can block a specific tag so you aren’t repeatedly tagged falsely.  You can add personal tags and a description to your id to help define yourself and to allow people to find you.
  • Omnipresent Tagging: Content is written and tagged.  Document names are converted into a list of tags.  Anyone can tag any piece of content that they can access to read. A tagging “scheme” could be applied that further tags the content for use.  There is also a separate list of tags related to security.  You don’t delete content either.  You just remove id tags from the ability to edit content.  Once everyone, including the “owner” no longer is tagged with that right, the content is removed.

This won’t happen overnight, but maybe before I retire…

A Few Thoughts on the Word Omnipresent

I wanted to pick a word that conveyed my meaning without being already in use. I liked Universal, but so did Oracle a few years back. Pervasive felt right, but it sounds too invasive, and I see the future as transparent for ECM.  Ubiquitous is a good term, but I leaned away for the same reason as Universal.

Omnipresent Content Management conveys the future beyond Enterprise Content Management without infringing on anyone’s copyright.

What do you think?

22 thoughts on “The Future of Content Management

  1. Really insightfull article and user example. As a CMS developer I’d be very interested to see some more “use case” examples such as the one above.


  2. DoxPRO says:

    Wow …… great article and nice thoughts

    This sound like a great future is waiting all of us or maybe Pie in the sky 🙂 . The fact remains that your starting point ….. can we define ECM?

    we have been dreaming about the ECM utopia for so long while the gap between the technologists dreams (ECMrs) and our clients basic requirements keeps growing. The industry track records in helping these clients is dismal at best, the most successful projects still are the basic bread and butter implementations same as what was done using Wang or Filenet many years back.

    Why the ECM industry has this adoption gap between research and implementation?



    • Simple answer, expectations. You can’t deploy ECM in a month or a year. It isn’t a project, it is a program. Clients don’t all fully understand this and the number of people that have successfully implemented an ECM program is small.

      This future is not near-term. ECM as a rule vs. the exception is years away.



  3. Thank you for this article, Pie.

    The future is not that far (the content management aspect of it) though. Isn’t it what Google is doing at several fronts ? Like Google docs for example?
    You example clearly demonstrates – it is “universal” Identity & Access Management that represents a BIG challenge


    • Google is working on a start, but feature-wise, they are lacking. Reliability is also an option. On the other hand, Google docs are free, so you get what you pay for on that front. I also find the security model on Google Docs to be a pain, but that is just my experience.

      We are a long way off, not because of the technology. I figure that will be solved in the next 5 years at the outside. It is the mindset of everyone to accept the technology and to trust in it. Trust is a key factor in realizing this future. The Identity Management aspect of it is critical, not from a functional perspective, but in establishing the foundation of trust.


  4. ukdavo says:

    I like the term Omnipresent Content Management. Hopefully, this vision of OCM will mean we can access content from anywhere using a variety of access points (all thin clients of course). e.g. Check into a hotel, switch on the TV and you can see your personal content there – e.g. formal docs, emails, phone audio/visual messages, music/videos you own/lease, etc.

    Your point about having the technological capability and problems with trusting online storage is spot on. I would also suggest that software vendors and service providers will find it very difficult to agree on content formats and APIs to make this work – they will all want to own this! Sorry for sounding pessimistic but we still haven’t solved the problem of a standard office document format, standard messaging protocol, standard social networking API, web standards that actually work (CSS/HTML), a single Java web framework that everyone agrees doesn’t suck, world hunger, etc yet we have the means to do so.


  5. Nicely defined ECM future 🙂

    It is not that far though …

    Do we have some good case studies on the implementation of integration of ECM systems with Identity and Access Management?

    Some organizations are already looking at this aspect. We might need one service layer here also to make this integration vendor neutral for people and applications using multiple IDM and Access Management systems.

    Would love to hear your thoughts on this

    Kind Regards,
    Ashish Srivastava


    • Ashish, the ECM vendors, on average, aren’t looking at this issue. Many organizations aren’t prioritizing it yet. It has been done, but I have only heard of custom efforts and proprietary solutions. We need an open approach, like maybe SAML and XACML.

      While I don’t think the tech is that far off, I do think that the culture shift that will be required to make everyone ready to implement it is far off. This issue gets a lot of talk, but very little action. It will change one day, but it is not going to happen tomorrow.


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