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ECM: an industry in transition

Electronic content management is evolving to meet new challenges posed by developments in mobile, analytics, cloud and collaborative working.

AIIM President John Mancini
AIIM President John Mancini

An explosion of content and information will usher in a ‘postECM’ era by 2020, AIIM claims in its latest annual report on the state of the electronic content management (ECM) industry.

AIIM’s survey of 434 ECM users, on which the AIIM ECM Decisions Industry Watch report is based,  shows that ECM is mission-critical in the vast majority of businesses, but also that it is evolving and expanding to the point where new approaches are required.

AIIM President John Mancini said: “There is no doubt that organisations still require their content to be managed properly, but the term ‘ECM’ is past its prime as  a description of the revolution that is being driven by mobile, analytics, cloud and collaborative technologies. The ECM industry is in need of a new label and organisations are desperate for best practices to deal with the technology disruption that is occurring.”

The traditional function of ECM and document management systems to order, retain, secure and provide easy (authorised) access to business documents is still important to the vast majority of organisations surveyed by AIIM:

Two thirds describe ECM/DM as mission-critical;

One third say their organisation would suffer serious disruption after an outage of just one hour; and

75% view ECM/DM/RM as a fundamental part of their organisation’s information security regime.

However, the survey also highlights a growing disconnect between the needs of the organisation and the needs of workers, driven to a great extent by the adoption of consumer technologies within the workplace, which raises some important questions about ECM usability and adoption.

60% say that gaining user adoption has been a big problem for their ECM projects;

62% of organisations with a significant ECM capability say knowledge workers still rely on file shares for day-to-day information access.

Mobile access

Part of the problem lies with the fragmented nature of ECM deployments and their incompatibility with today’s more flexible working practices, notably the ever increasing importance of mobile technologies for creating processing and accessing documents.

52% of survey respondents have three or more ECM/DM/RM systems, with 22% using five or more; and

39% of organisations have some degree of mobile access to content in ECM repositories. However, only 5% have widespread access for staff and project partners, and less than 20% have app-based comment, edit and process interaction capability.

Mancini says these findings point to an industry in transition, driven, like the broader technology space, by developments in mobile, analytics, cloud and collaborative technologies.

“There are still many organisations that can benefit from more traditional ECM solutions  that automate document-intensive processes,” he said. “But there is also an explosion of content outside the realm of these kinds of structured processes, along with a the AIIM Forum revolution occurring in how, where, and when knowledge workers do their jobs. Even among the current users of ECM technologies, 52% believe that within five years, ECM systems will be an undifferentiated part of the IT infrastructure.”

ECM trends

A second new AIIM publication, The Content Management 2020: Thinking Beyond ECM Trendscape Report, based on input from 56 senior executives in companies like Microsoft, IBM, Adobe and Box, highlights trends shaping the future of content and information management.

Its analysis shows that the following trends will be in play by 2020 and should be at the top of enterprise technology planning agendas now:

New approaches to privacy and security;

Ubiquitous broadband connectivity;

Bottom-up rather than top-down innovation;

Lots more virtual and distributed work;

A shortage of ‘connective’ and analytic skills among IT staff;

A shift in how technology is purchased from multi-year capital expenditures to current year operating expenditures; and Increased regulation of the cloud by national governments.

Mancini believes these trends will have a significant impact on ECM, ushering in a new era for the technology.

He said: “Organisations have always wrestled with how to manage the intersection of people, processes and information, and over the past 15 years we have called this set of technologies Enterprise Content Management, or ECM. But that time is almost over and we are entering a new era of ‘ECM’ that will more accurately reflect the changing landscape.”

The ECM Decisions report is free to download at The Content

Management 2020: Thinking Beyond ECM report is free to download at

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