I’ve been talking about a lack of leadership and vision in the ECM industry. This is evident when you attend keynotes at various conferences. Most keynotes at industry conferences are focused on what has been happening and what is happening now. John Mancini’s keynote at the AIIM conference was as close as it gets these days.
Of course, AIIM can’t deliver the future, they can only point to it, so what do we do? We wait. What are we waiting for? Well, I’m not waiting right now. For your consideration, I present to you a keynote on the future of ECM…..
Once There was a Vision of ECM
[Imagine some basic banter and a joke that only 20% of the audience will get, and only half of them will think it was actually funny.]
Ten years ago, the term Enterprise Content Management was created. There was no magic pill or working product. It was just a vision of one repository for all of the content in the organization. One place for web pages, documents, images, and records to reside and be managed together.
It was a solid vision. The industry seized upon the vision and charged forth. Over the next few years, through acquisition, development, and combinations of both, several companies built “complete” ECM platforms and proceeded to sell them to anyone and everyone.
As the vision was “realized”, vendors competed among themselves to see who could have the biggest and most complete platform. New needs would arise and they would all rush to “check-the-box”. There was, and is, a continuous race to be “more” complete than any other vendor.
The platforms grew and became more complex.
Not all ECM implementation succeeded, but lessons were learned and best practices were gathered. Everyone in the industry continued to move forward from pure momentum, thinking that the goal had been achieved and that all that was required was to get better at implementations.
Meanwhile, the world changed.
Enter the Changing Reality
When ECM was first conceived, people created content, it was published, and then nothing else happened until it was time to update the content. Then came the 2.0 world. The world at large went from consuming content to interacting with content.
This was a new mindset for the Content Management world. Instead of one author, or a few authors working together, content now evolves over the course of years through the input of any number of people. Discussions about content has become information worth managing. The line between structured and unstructured information is fuzzy and no longer back and white.
As the nature of content changed, it has grown at an exponential rate. This isn’t a new phenomenon, but the sheer volume of increasing digital information is starting to push the boundaries of what is possible with existing ECM architectures.
The need to share this information has also increased dramatically. CMIS was created to solve the information silo problem. The problem is now changing scope. The question isn’t how do I have my 3 content systems interoperate, but how do I share my content with my business partners and vice versa? CMIS is great, but how do we manage security? Access and control of content is a problem when you don’t manage the identities of the people directly.
The ECM community hasn’t been unaware of these changes, but in the quest to do everything, we lost the one quality that is most necessary in the 2.0 world.
The Ideal Use Case
Let’s take a step back, or to be more precise, a step forward.
Imagine, if you will, preparing for a meeting as a follow-up to a conversation that you just had with a prospect. You are working with your colleagues to create an agenda. You are doing this from the subway from your favorite tablet computer connected via your wireless, favorite or not, provider.
Once completed, the agenda is automatically shared with all meeting attendees. Attendees can comment on the agenda, but only you, your colleagues, and others that you designate have access to make updates. All of this is automatically determined by the relationship between the agenda, meeting invitation, and the meeting attendees.
The very act of creating the presentation with your colleagues will involve collaboration around the world on phones, laptops, tablets, and devices yet to come. Access to the content will be from any device, anywhere. The theme here is universal access. This doesn’t just apply to the applications and devices consuming the content. The content needs to be located in a place that can be accessed from any location. That place is in the cloud.
Content will no longer be centered around, and managed for, the Enterprise. Content Management will be everywhere and part of everything.
Omnipresent Content Management, that is the future.
Security will be key. Everything needs to be secured and in such a way as to not hinder users. Historically, there has been a direct correlation between security and complexity. Can you even imagine using a VPN on your cell phone?
Simplicity for the users will be important. That will take the industry, working together, to achieve. That means me, you, and everyone reading this keynote.
Where Can Everyone Reach It?
There is a fear in moving to the cloud. You may look at the companies providing cloud-based Content Management, and you think commodity. That is a superficial analysis. Even so, if you are managing Zettabytes of content, there stands to reason that there is a lot of money to be made providing a “commodity”.
Look deeper. By having all that content in a location where people can readily access it, the benefits grow. All the gains that are always pitched for Content Management still apply, but now those benefits apply to all content, not just the content siloed in my organization.
With the cloud comes processing power. The phrase Intelligent Content Management is starting to evolve as a component of Information Management. Imagine the power that can be applied in the cloud to analyze trends within the content itself. Add to it the benefits of looking at the scope content that can be accessed.
No longer are you just looking at the trends within your organization. Trends can be analyzed across trusted partners.
The ECM platforms as we know it will be living in the cloud. There will still be some industries that utilize private cloud structures, but the platforms will be globally accessible. Platforms will interoperate via CMIS, and applications will be developed independent of the platforms.
This independent development of applications will give us back something that is missing from the industry.
That is the key to having a shot at surviving in the future. Without it, we may as well step aside. I don’t know about you, but I for one am not going to step aside.
Stop the New Silos Before They Begin
We are at a turning point in the Content Management industry. The last turning point came with the advent of ECM ten years ago. We decided to end the content and organizational silos that were springing-up everywhere. While there are still separate systems, we now have the tools to have coordinated management of content within our organizations.
Now we have silos between organizations. Sometimes that organization is your family. The lines between work and people’s personal lives has been blurring for a long time. The line is almost imperceptible. To succeed in this world, we need to have the pieces meet so they can be accessed by everyone, anywhere.
So my question to you is a simple one. Are you going to just keep moving in the same direction, trusting that you will get to where you want to be, or will you step back, survey the landscape, and realize that the future is in a different direction?