You read the title correctly. No matter how hard the industry works between now and the time you die, or are simply drooling in a wheelchair, you will never have one place for all of your content. I’m not simply talking the difference between work and personal pieces of information. Whether you are at work or home; on your computer, tablet, or phone; or any combination of those, you will always have content you need to access in multiple systems.
A little depressing isn’t it?
That doesn’t make it less true. If it makes you feel any better, it will not be entirely your fault. The problem is that you and your company do not own all of the content that you use. There is content out there that originates, and lives, in other places.
And there is nothing you can do about it.
The Reality of the 21st Century
During my career, I’ve seen a lot of visions for the future of Content. I’ve even created a one of my own. The reality is that while the technology for any of these visions may become a reality, people will continue to be a problem.
When I was the CIO of AIIM, I was finally in a role where my primary clients were in the same organization as I was. I could even dictate the systems that we used because I owned the budget. Even so, I used as many systems there as I did when I was in consulting.
We had primary repository, of course. We also had a cloud-based system who’s primary purpose was collaborating with external people. That wasn’t the worst of it though.
The worst was that for half of the external vendors we used, we needed to access their systems. Even if I collapsed every internal use-case into one system, we were still going to have to use external systems to succeed.
And that doesn’t even count email.
This situation is never going away. Organizations will always have to work with external entities, from suppliers to external legal counsel. Every company cannot insist on holding the “source of truth” for every business dealing.
So much for the dream of only using one system.
Recently I’ve come across two providers that have tools that are trying to fill the gap. I do not think that it is a coincidence that there is more than one tool starting to tackle this problem. There is an obvious need being driven by the pervasiveness of SharePoint and the cloud-based vendors like Box and Dropbox.
The first is Oris4. They are attacking the need to find and organize content and contacts across multiple systems Oris4 provides a federated user interface, allowing a unified, federated search across systems. The systems can be email, Salesforce, Box, SharePoint, and many others. Forget where you stored something? Use Oris4 to find it, consume it, and update it. It is cloud based so it can talk to any system that you can.
The other is Shinydocs. They are attacking the problem from the Content capture side. They expose repositories as file shares, including metadata access. Shinydocs also works with multiple systems. The key features here is solving that desktop integration that Box and Dropbox have been tackling but the legacy vendors have abandoned time and again. If a user’s “Shinydrives” point to different systems, that is hidden from the user.
Two approaches tackling a similar problem. They are trying to make interacting with not just one, but multiple, Content Management Systems easier.
What is the Future?
The future is really unknown. Will these products add features to expand their usefulness or simply become a feature? If they were acquired by a vendor, I would expect their freedom to talk to multiple systems would gradually diminish, opening up the market need again. Still, having this in the main interface of a system is powerful and something I’ve heard requested frequently.
Given the current state of the Content Management world, there is probably a solid window for them. Both the legacy ECM vendors and the newer cloud vendors are busy trying to just get to 20% market share. They will be happy to partner and use it to close deals faster if they can focus on competing with each other.
Of course I could be wrong. They could all go on a buying spree, claim the feature, and then neglect it. It has happened before.
One thing I know. Oris4 and Shinydocs are the tip of the iceberg. This is a problem that people are starting to pay attention to more now.
A single repository for work is not going to happen.