What ECM Needs to be Today

A couple of weeks ago, I threw my vision of where I described the future of Content Management.  I took it beyond ECM to Omnipresent Content Management (OCM for now).  Lee Dallas then build upon that future by changing the very content that we generate and manage.  The question still remaining is, what is ECM going to be today and over the next couple of years?

Last year, I threw out a new definition for ECM.  I still think it applies, but the story around it has evolved.  Here is that working definition of ECM.

Enterprise Content Management is the empowerment of all content within an organization. This is accomplished through the centralized management of content, allowing for people and systems to access and manage content from within any business context using platform agnostic standards.

Let’s look at this definition in today’s light.

ECM vs. OCMimage

The first sentence is key. ECM is the empowerment of all content within an organization.  ECM is about content in the Enterprise, not in an industry or in the world.  ECM is focused on providing content services to everyone in your organization, be it one office or a globally dispersed workforce.

The vision of OCM shatters those organizational boundaries and moves us into a world where content may still be stored in my office, but I’m accessing from anywhere in the world and sharing it with anyone in the world.  It doesn’t matter where it resides, I have the URI and I am going to work with the content.  Eventually I won’t even need an URI and I will be able to work with it just by knowing what I want to work with at that moment.image

The difference is between Content Management now and in the future.  ECM is the NOW.  OCM is the FUTURE.  ECM is still evolving as adequate standards (CMIS anyone?) come into play.  OCM needs ECM to come to fruition before it can build upon the technical foundation being built today.

Stephane Croisier talks about what ECM should be now in his vision for the future of Content Management.  He proposed a new term, Common Content Information Infrastructure (CCII), but I don’t think we need a new term for what ECM platforms should be delivering today.  Stephane’s CCII is ECM.

Once ECM evolves beyond the boundary of an organization and becomes a common resource for everyone, then it becomes OCM.

Centralized Management of the Content, not Centralized Infrastructure

The phrase centralized management of content has thrown some people.  ECM is about managing content for the Enterprise centrally, from one console/application.  The content doesn’t have to be stored centrally, kept in the same repository, or even controlled by the same software.  It just has to be accessed and managed from a singular interface.

The users should be blissfully unaware of what is going on in the background.  To them, working with content is a seamless process.  The content could be on a local server, a virtual environment, or sitting in some cloud.  Doesn’t matter.  That question is for the infrastructure team.

Identity Management is the Missing Key

The one thing we are still lacking for all of this centralized Identity Management.  Without that, you pretty much need a centralized infrastructure to achieve ECM so that all authentication and authorization can be managed by the LDAP service of choice.  ECM vendors need to start getting up to speed on this issue as they look to move beyond their traditional application boundaries.

What is the point of all this interoperability if I can’t validate that the Bob Smith in one system is the same as the Bob Smith in another system?

Last Note on “ECM 2.0”

I have used that term a bit in this blog. Well forget it. It is dead and gone. It is nothing but an irrelevant hype term. “2.0” refers to social/interactive constructs.  Wikis and blogs fall under the category, but they are new forms of content, not content management.  Content Applications may be Enterprise 2.0, but ECM is ECM.

ECM is the backbone of things to come.  It is just going to get bigger and smarter.

5 thoughts on “What ECM Needs to be Today

  1. Sascha Ohler @saschaohler says:

    I agree with your vision of OCM, especially when it comes to the challenges of effective Identifty Management, but I believe that another important differentiation needs to be pointed out. Todays ECM solutions are mainly context unaware, meaning they serve up information, data, documents based on user or system initiated triggers. The big promise of OCM I see is the context awareness of these systems. The ability to serve up completely different sets of metadata based on the data/document context.


    • The problem is that the context is provided by the application, not the platform. The applications have been the weak point. As the apps evolve, independent of the platform, the context around the content will grow. That context will start being stored in the platform infrastructure.

      Basically, I feel context should be a part of both ECM and OCM. ECM was “created” when different content apps (WCM, RM, DM, Imaging…) where all thrown under one umbrella. Well, there is more to it than having them share the same repository. With the shared repository, the context needs to now be saved. It wasn’t before and hasn’t really been added yet.

      That all being said, I overlooked context in my post and I appreciate you bringing it to the forefront.



  2. I think my definition of the CCII is more close to the Gartner’s one for “Information-Centric Infrastructures” (cf: p. 7: Hype cycle for application development). This is about a transformational paradigm with a 5 to 10 years timeline.

    I think their definition is also quite nice in order to define what should be the ECM system of tomorrow (and not today).

    For the rest we both agree: Information-Centric Infrastructures need to be more transparantly decoupled from CEVA applications ontop and it will probably take years to standardize and scope such a standardized ECM++ Information backbone.



    • I still think that the term ECM holds. It is a concept, not a technology. As such, how it is implemented within the limits of today’s technology should not limit how it is implemented in the future. Collaboration systems have evolved greatly, both in the interface and architecture, over the last ten years, but they are still called Collaboration systems.

      I just don’t think we need more terms. Time will tell though.



  3. What businesses need is a lot more than just content management. They need a fully integrated user-focused platform that combines ECM, CRM, BPM, BRM, case management and integration facilities.

    On top of that the business must be able to create those processes with content in an ADAPTIVE mannner, meaning without long flowchart design work. Business users must be able to customize their GUI without the need for programming. To make all that work the right way they need business rules integrated with their content and case work.

    As it happens Papyrus supplies all of that TODAY! Why wait for Documentum to get there?

    Regards, Max


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