Looking to the Future of Content Management

Last week, I had the privilege of presenting at the info360 Conference. My topic was The Future of Content Management, with the cheesy tagline of Cloudy with a Chance of Innovation. [I’m going to ramble a bit, the the slides are below].

This presentation was originally conceived when I was tired of not seeing a solid keynote/vision for the Content Management industry. The Web folk have a vision, even if they can’t agree upon a name for that vision. Wanting one, I wrote An ECM Keynote for 2010 last summer. I took that post and presented, Revisiting “Enterprise” Content Management in a 2.0 World at Gilbane this past fall. My presentation at AIIM was an updated version of that presentation.

What changed? A realization that began when I updated the presentation and crystallized at the conference. The thought was inspired by, of all people, Andrew Chapman and his posts on ECM as a Commodity. The question he asks is this…

If all the obstacles to ECM adoption – e.g., user/culture acceptance, networks bandwidth, cost, security, etc.- were to go away, what would you do with ECM?

To put it simply, I’d be able to focus on the actual business problems and make things easy for people. I have some more thoughts, but here is the presentation first. You will probably want to view it directly on SlideShare so you can read the speaker notes.

You can download a PDF of the presentation with or without the speaker notes.

Now that you’ve seen my view of the future, Omnipresent Content Management, there are a couple of points to stress. The first is that we aren’t ready from a technical perspective. I figure it will take two years before the cloud-based options are truly viable for hardcore Content Management needs. It will then take a while for the larger ecosystem to develop where they will all talk to each other.

That said, I think only those companies that lead in OCM will lead the Content Management market (excluding Web which is its own beast). As with any market, the first ones to stake a claim successfully will likely be the leaders for a long time.

Math Problem

I’m going to share a math problem with you.

IDC says that there will be 35 Zettabytes of stuff in 2020. Let’s say 80% of that is “content”. Let’s put 30% of it into the cloud (a very conservative estimate). As a market leader, let’s say I own 25% of the market. That give us:

35 * 0.80 * 0.30 * 0.25 = 2.1 Zettabytes

That is a lot for one vendor. How about the money? Let’s say half of it I give away to users with minimal requirements and volume. We’ll even round that down to 1 Zettabyte. 1 Zettabyte is equal to 1,073,741,824 Terabytes. (Giga->Tera->Peta->Exa->Zetta->Yotta).

How much do we charge? Well, Box charges about $10 for 25GB today. Storage gets cheaper. If we apply Moore’s Law, after 10 years, we’ll double the amount of storage available every 2 years. That is 32 * 25 = 800GB. Let’s just round that up to 1 TB for $10 in 2020. (We are ignoring inflation).

So $10 for all of that is over $10 billion dollars. Did I mention that was MONTHLY pricing?

Slice and dice the numbers all you want; I made a lot of “safe” assumptions. This tells me that there is money to be made in commoditized Content Management.

The question isn’t “Do we want to be in that business?” The question is, “Why wouldn’t you?”

What Do We Do Now?

I have one more parting though. Reread the question from Andrew. If you take away all of that, I’m no longer doing Content Management. I become a Healthcare consultant or an expert in Correspondence Management.

OCM isn’t just about making things easy for the user. It is about removing my job from the world. There will be no more Content Management experts. It will be a service. We’ll write business applications and just plug-in.

That is my new career goal, to make the first 15 years of my career path obsolete.

10 thoughts on “Looking to the Future of Content Management

  1. Pie,

    Thought provoking as always. The question that I still struggle with is probably more along the lines of “what would you do with ECM *features* as a commodity” rather than ECM-based storage. If box.net added real virtual documents would they be able to position them as something that my Granny would get out of her recliner to consume?

    Andrew “of all people” Chapman


    • I am looking at the same thing. I might not use Virtual Documents, but versions, relationships, renditions…those things I can see being used. If you make them available, someone will figure it out. It always happens. The large companies will finance innovation for the casual users.

      Question, is a album/playlist just a really large virtual document?


  2. Ref: “There will be no more Content Management experts. It will be a service. We’ll write business applications and just plug-in.”

    Does that not depend on semantics and your definition of content management (oh no, not the definitions again…….)

    Perhaps you will be a Library Services professional, because some one will have to put some serious effort into structures, metadata, information architecture and findability for all the clients of OCM who are just building their business applications that connect to it ?


    • I’ll be an expert in the information domain but I won’t have to worry about managing it. I’ll just need to know enough to identify/categorize information. I would lean to library science, not service.

      Of course, knowing the processes around that information is also important. I just won’t be worrying about the management.


  3. Ref: Question, is a album/playlist just a really large virtual document?

    Not necessarily, BUT – mp3 files, plus album art graphics files, plus text files of the lyrics – all brought together in a single virtual document / document set – that seems about right !


  4. Pie,

    We posted on the same day but my post on thoughts on (E)CM, I feel I have to put the (E) in brackets for some reason ;-), has a very similar conclusion. Yes people will still need to understand the underlying principles and features of Content Management but more and more these will become commodity features and will become second nature to people in IT so that the focus is on delivering the vertical solutions and not the underlying features.

    Enjoy the opening day!



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