Debating the Future of Content Management at AIIM 2012

imageBack before either Cheryl McKinnon or I were considering bringing our skills to AIIM, we submitted a proposal to this year’s AIIM Conference to moderate a panel on the Future of Content Management. For this discussion, we decided to bring representatives from the traditional, open source, and cloud-based Content Management worlds onto the same stage.

As a result, we have the following on the stage:

Pretty exciting group there. I have laid out some rules that we’ll be enforcing in the debate.

  1. No Selling: This is vendor solution approach versus vendor solution approach. Each speaker represents their entire Content Management vendor area, not just their own companies.
  2. Speak Ill of No Vendor: To be honest, if they want to say something negative about themselves, they can. If they want to say something bad about one of the other vendor groupings, that works as long as it is generic.
  3. No Speeches: Hoping for a discussion, not a few rehearsed viewpoints.
  4. No Selling: Or did I mention that already?

To warm things up, I asked them some questions to set the stage for next week. In addition, if you have any questions you’d like to submit to be put to the panel, add them to the comments below. I will be writing a follow-up afterwards to capture the debate.

Content Management in the Next 3-5 Years

I asked them three questions, two of which I am sharing the answers in this post. The two questions are:

  1. Where do you see Content Management evolving in the next 3-5 years?
  2. How are broader Information trends, like Big Data, driving the future of Content Management?

I received written responses from all three, though some were considerably more verbose in their response than others. I’ll share them starting with the shortest and moving to the longest. I made no edits to the entries.


Over the next 3-5 years, the amount of content in any organization will continue to grow at a rapid pace and so will the importance of managing the content properly. In this time frame, we will see multiple trends continue converging, most notably the coming together of the systems of record with the systems of engagement. We will also see increased adoption of mobile devices which organizations will need to support with all the challenges related to a heterogeneous mobile environment. The devices will be increasingly employee-owned which will put a new level of burden on organizations seeking security and control over their content assets. Within the 3-5 years time frame, mobile devices will become the primary devices for corporate users (often the only devices) and content applications will be designed for mobile experience first/only. That will significantly change the way users interact with content applications – from capture and creation, to task execution and process interaction, to content consumption.

The massive volume of content will need to increasingly rely on auto-classification which will become more scalable, reliable, and more consistent than human-based classification today. Organizations will increasingly find ways to use automation to augment the human needs for unbridled creativity. For example, analytics will be used to grow productivity by automatically prioritizing tasks, to speed up information sharing and communication, or to optimize business processes in real-time.


In my opinion, the main axis of evolution will be User Experience. User expectations have totally changed over the last 10 years. New usability standards have developed, inherited from the public/consumer Web, but also new uses and devices like real smartphones, tablets (the iPhone was not around 5 years ago, but can we even imagine a world without it now?). This will develop and grow. Enterprise software will no longer have a choice whether or not it adopts the new standards coming from the consumer sphere. To be honest, Content Management is still far behind, busy as it is dealing with the complexities of business processes, technical requirements and/or constraints. How can we have Information Workers laboring over user-interfaces from the last century, when we know the progress we have made in that area? The big change coming in 3 to 5 years is on the user side!

One ramification is that Content Management will have to stop behaving like it is a island, sufficient unto itself.

The reality is that content management doesn’t exist without authoring software, editing software, word processors, mobile environments, email clients, media readers, and integration to other bricks. No content management can seriously claim to provide everything. And while content management has limits, user expectations are limitless, and won’t stop at the confines of a Content Management System. Most of the time, end-users don’t even know what content management is! This means content management will have to be able to more smoothly integrate with all the other pieces of the puzzle, including new online services and tools like Box, Dropbox or more obviously Google Docs, all of which can not be avoided. Content Management will have to be as transparent as possible to end-users, a goal which still largely eludes us.

One way this might happen is with providers emphasizing an agile development platform approach, rather than a monolithic enterprise software design. A “Development platform” means having flexible APIs, which are simple to implement. They allow users to quickly mashup content, be iterative, change applications, and integrate them with others… It also means the tools are simple and efficient enough to do it without requiring core developers working round the clock to pull it off. Content Management Technology is still very static today!  Content Management technology in 5 years will have to be dynamic to be successful.

I don’t really see Big Data as a major change or driver for Content Management. It is certainly something you can’t ignore on the technical side, and which opens interesting and new opportunities. However it isn’t pure innovation of how we manage content. It has more to do with the plumbing than the kitchen.

I see more coming from the work being done around semantic technologies and natural language processing for instance. It’s still early days at this point, but it can obviously give birth to very significant progress in the way we can implement content management processes, endowing the technology with more intelligence, and potentially automating it even more.


Content is the lifeblood of so many kinds of interactions in today’s workplace. Some forms of interaction need the legacy infrastructure of more traditional ECM solutions because they have a heavy workflow and compliance component, or they need records management and archiving. However, there are new emerging ways of working, which are much more social, ad hoc, collaborative in nature and often involve people outside the firewall. Content is very much at the root of these interactions and demands a different kind of experience. And there’s a new crop of enterprise software solutions like Box, that are leveraging the scalability and real-time capabilities of the cloud to tackle this new way of working, giving enterprises a holistic view of content and conversations within their business and leveraging content as a way to fuel conversations, decision making and enhance team productivity.

This trend of working in different ways and interacting with content differently is going to continue to evolve, and the traditional ways of approaching content management is no longer going to work as a standalone method. Companies that are agile, scalable and most able to adapt to the new ways to work with new technologies, like cloud and mobile, are really the ones that are going to win.

We’ve learned from the social web how much more powerful we are when we’re more connected. Yet most enterprise technologies have done little to encourage this same benefit in corporations. In the next several years, content management will become much more social and personalized and will enable more people-centric organizations and workflows, letting individuals share their most timely and relevant information, connect with their communities, and always have access to the best intelligence and information about their projects, competitors, and customers. Ultimately, this will allow people to make decisions faster, have access to the right content, understand correlations more effortlessly, and work more effectively with everyone.

In general, Big data will play a large role in organizing the world’s information. Right now, organizations are not prepared to manage the massive amounts of data it has, let alone generate anything meaningful or useful from it. The legacy software within most of today’s enterprises is stale, static and non-contextual. Applications don’t adapt to behavior, or tell us anything new about content and projects. However, the cloud, social capabilities, and integrated applications are on the cusp of creating a far more personalized technology experience, where an increase in data, and mining behaviors, actually generates an increase in value and knowledge for organizations.

For example, what if you hovered over a piece of content that you had assigned as a task to someone three times that week, and by hovering, you receive a proactive message asking if you want to assign a task to the that same person. Or you update a project status and all the relevant participants are passively notified of the change or delay. As our social stream algorithms improve, user behavior will drive for better ranking of the information you and others should be looking at. And with federation and syndication of this data and events, our applications will all work smarter together.

Another trend impacting content management is the rise of mobile device use for business. We see more than half the traffic to the Box website come from mobile devices and the typical Box user accesses Box from three different devices in six different locations. This is clear evidence that mobile is the preferred way of working, therefore access to content on mobile devices is imperative. Enterprises much select a content management technology that not only gives workers the ability to access information from anywhere on any device, but it must equip them with the appropriate mobile security to protect the business data being accessed.

Overall some interesting thoughts and I’m looking forward to listening to these three talk about where we are going over the next 3-5 years. As I said before, if you have any questions you would like asked, please share them below.

3 thoughts on “Debating the Future of Content Management at AIIM 2012

    • Submitted and accepted before it happened. Laurence Hart of Washington Consulting and Cheryl McKinnon of Candy Strategies were awarded the slot.

      Any questions for the esteemed panel?


  1. Lots of thoughtful predictions for sure. Wish I could attend the panel. The merging of the ECM, traditional document management and social collaboration spaces is the real story here. How companies view their web presence is going to be dominated by these discussions (and mobile).


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