This was written following the AIIM 2014 Conference
Next Generation ECM in Sight
ORLANDO – Enterprise content management (ECM) has always been an ambitious goal—putting all an organization’s unstructured content under control. Because of obstacles such as onboarding, cost of licenses, and overall complexity, ECM has historically been deployed more like DCM—or departmental content management. And in the past, we’ve written about how developments like Microsoft’s advancements in SharePoint, Web-based interfaces, and IDR were going to democratize ECM and bring it to the masses.
All those trends have definitely helped, as more people than ever seem to know what ECM is and what benefits it can provide. But, how widely is ECM really being deployed? Well, indications are more widely than ever (recent forecasts have the ECM market valued at more than $5B in 2013 and growing), but there is clearly a long ways to go, as the close to 800 attendees at the recent AIIM Conference demonstrated.
The third annual revamped AIIM event (with the focus on education rather than the expo) was held this year at the state-of-the-art Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress near Disney World. It drew a diverse crowd of end users, along with the usual cadre of vendors and analysts. We ran into attendees looking for basic document scanning, as well as those with more complex needs in areas like collaboration and records management. And, of course, we caught up with several long-time colleagues.
One of the hottest topics was cloud computing and the affect it will have on the ECM industry. After being shown the article in our last DIR in which new TIS EVP and GM of the Americas Avi Mileguir discussed how his previous market transitioned from 100% on-premise to a majority of cloud sales in a matter of two years, Upland Software’s CTO (and GM of document management ISV Filebound) Sean Nathaniel predicted a similar fate for the ECM industry in the near future. “ECM is lagging behind some other markets,” Nathaniel told DIR. “But it’s just a matter of time before it flips to the majority of new implementations being cloud-based. I think that will happen in 24-36 months at most.”
Nathaniel, whose parent company (Upland) is focused on development of a cloud-based platform for enterprise work management, and whose legacy is with Filebound (one of the pioneers in cloud-based ECM) has vested reasons to be bullish on cloud adoption. Lubor Ptacek, VP, strategic marketing at Open Text, is less optimistic. “Most of the cloud revenue Open Text is generating comes from two acquisitions, EasyLink [messaging] and GXS [B2B integration services] whose businesses were primarily on the cloud when we bought them,” Ptacek told DIR. “Historically, ECM has been a very conservative market that was first established working with highly regulated industries. Those types of companies remain the primary users of ECM technologies.
“Open Text has developed technology that can leverage our repository and deliver similar functionality to Box and Dropbox for collaboration. We think that is the type of functionality users want to access on the cloud. We anticipate that the migration to the cloud for full ECM will be slow whenever it occurs.”
It’s probably worth noting that Filebound markets primarily to SMBs, where cloud adoption has been touted as providing the most benefits. Conversely, Open Text markets primarily to the Global 2000, where IT departments have established fiefdoms and are reluctant to give up control. That’s not to say the cloud doesn’t offer the same benefits to larger enterprises as it does smaller ones, or that smaller organizations don’t tend to be more conservative when it comes to technology adoption.
Clearly, there are some dichotomies in the cloud ECM model that need to work themselves out. But one thing we do know is that two elements of ECM—file sharing and storage—are already being adopted in the cloud en masse. According to Alan Pelz-Sharpe, research director for social business at 451 Research, Box and Dropbox are the hottest topics his consulting firm currently deals with. “We focus on ECM, but right now collaboration and file sync and share have companies struggling,” said Pelz-Sharpe during his keynote address. “I ran into a financial services company recently where employees have 20,000 file sharing accounts. The company wants to know what they should do?
“We often hear that our customers have a Box or Dropbox problem. Their problem seems to be that they have employees who want to work more efficiently. The market has moved on from BYOD and into the realm of bring you own applications. Organizations fear that they are losing control of their files.”
Pelz-Sharpe admitted that there is no easy fix. “I believe we are at a crossroads,” he said. “So much has changed in the last 18 months. We used to be able to take calls and give really sound advice. It used to be I’d probably seen it before and I could then utilize common sense. Now, it feels we are being overwhelmed and I can only make suggestions.”
Pelz-Sharpe added that it’s important to recognize that even as users embrace cloud applications, in many cases, it doesn’t mean their on-premise software is going away. “If you look at a lot of the hot cloud start-ups that also have on-premise businesses—most of their revenue is still coming from their on-premise options [In our industry we found this is the case with Ephesoft (see DIR 3/7/14).],” said Pelz-Sharpe. “In fact, in many organizations, you’ll find that zombie applications remain a large chunk of what IT organizations are managing.
“If you remember, SharePoint was supposed to fix the fact that organizations were running a multitude of document management systems and file shares. And then, Box came along to fix SharePoint. The reality is that nothing ever went away. It’s all still running.”
Pelz-Sharpe concluded that file sharing applications are not the problem in today’s ECM landscape. “Workers have moved on [from traditional business applications] because the world has moved on,” he said. “The landscape has really turned into bring your own everything, and people are used to doing work their own way. Organizations need to have some control over all this, but they also need to give some flexibility.”
Make the Cloud RM-Ready
Monica Crocker, Corporate Records Manager for dairy-products focused agricultural cooperative Land O’ Lakes, presented on embracing cloud computing. As a former content and records management consultant, she is probably more progressive than many RM professionals. Her approach seems to embody Pelz-Sharpe’s vision of combining flexibility and control.
“I hate it when people say that most of the stuff kept in the cloud probably doesn’t qualify as something that should be a record anyhow,” she said. “The reason that stuff is in the cloud is that it is probably something somebody needs access to, which means it could fit under the definition of a record. The definition of records is a constantly moving target.”
Crocker has concluded that employees are going to use cloud applications whether an organization wants them to or not. So, as a records manager she embraces the cloud, but not without some parameters. She offered eight things to consider for organizations looking to move some of their data and applications into the cloud:
- Understand what regulations apply to your industry and if you will be able to demonstrate compliance with them.
- Make sure it is explicitly stated who owns information on the cloud.
- Consider security not just for information and meta data on the cloud, but also for that information and meta data when it is in transit.
- If the relationship with the cloud provider is terminated, understand how you will get information back.
- Agree with the cloud vendor on how they will handle subpoenas.
- When data is destroyed, make sure there is proof that it has been done.
- Have an agreement on how to handle legal holds.
- Realize that you are adding a layer of complexity to your RM—and are not just doubling the complexity, but increasing it factorially.
Crocker also shared several logistical procedures for ensuring that working with a cloud vendor is a success:
- Negotiate specific contract terms.
- Block unauthorized cloud storage.
- If something goes wrong, know who is responsible ahead of time.
- Know what services are being subcontracted by your cloud vendor
- Review insurance coverage. (For example, your company might be covered against loss of data, but what if the cloud vendor loses that data?)
- Have the right people (typically in IT and legal) review the plan.
“A lot of people complain that with cloud storage it’s hard to know where their data is going, how many copies are out there, etc.,” said Crocker. “But, do you really know that now? At least cloud providers manage data for a living, which is not the core business that most end users are in.”
Crocker said working with cloud vendors has increased Land O’Lakes’ flexibility when choosing applications. “We use a lot of cloud providers,” she said. “Every time we need to replace or add an application, cloud vendors are in the mix. If they provide the best product, we are comfortable going with them.”
The look of the future
Our conclusion is that ECM is going to the cloud (how fast is up for debate) and that part of it (file storage and sharing) is already there—being utilized by millions of people. And, oh yes, all those legacy on-premise ECM applications, they are probably staying around. So, what’s the best way of dealing with this evolving new landscape of ECM? Capture it all and sort through it later.
Yes that’s right, capture everything. One thing we’ve noted over the past several years is an ever increasing number of avenues for capture. Document scanners, for example, continue to get better, faster, and cheaper. Epson recently introduced a 45 ppm color duplex scanner with a list price of $1,100 [see DIR 3/27/14]. In 2002, we ran a headline “34 ppm Duplex Color For $5,500.”
That’s not to mention the increasing use of MFPs for capture [see DIR 8/23/13], an increasing and improving number of wireless and mobile document capture options, and the continued adoption of fax servers. And those are just advancements for capturing paper documents. In recent years we’ve noticed a boom in e-forms technology that can be deployed across devices, as well as technology like Kofax’s Kapow that enables users to capture data from a multitude of internal applications and external sites without having to do any integration programming. And how about Box, Dropbox, and other file sharing/synching applications? Aren’t they automating document capture?
But, hold on a second, you might be saying, document capture is more than just storing a file to a centralized site. At the very least you need some sort of indexing/meta data. In many cases more advanced capture is preferable to drive business processes. And that’s the beauty of our second step—sort through it later.
Why are Box and Dropbox so successful? Ease of use has a lot to do with it. You simply save a file to the correct folder on your desktop and it automatically syncs with your account. There is no data entry—the effort for a user to capture a file into Box or Dropbox is minimal. What if onboarding a file into an ECM system were that easy?
Remember that article we did on Ephesoft last month—the one where we discussed the advantage of utilizing Web services calls because they enable capture to be applied at any point in a workflow process? Well, what if you want to capture meta data after a document has already been uploaded into a repository? Don’t Web services calls make that possible?
Sure, there are still some details to be worked out with this model, such as QA—but the increasing development of Web-based technology certainly diversifies that ways QA can be deployed. Heck, doesn’t TIS enable users to take advantage of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk technology for QA?
That’s just a taste of what’s possible, and it’s our opinion that real world deployments of this type of ECM 2.0 are not that far off. Several ISVs we talked with at the AIIM Conference share a similar vision, or at least pieces of it. This includes data capture specialists like Parascript and ABBYY, as well as ECM ISVs like FileBound and IBM, and scanning specialists like EMC Captiva and Document Capture Technologies.
We want to thank executives at all these companies, as well as those at several others who took the time to talk with DIR at AIIM 2014. We hope you had as a productive of a conference as we did. Finally, we look forward to reconnecting with everyone next year, March 18-20 in San Diego, which is when the next AIIM Conference has been scheduled for, to see how far we have advanced on the above stated vision and discuss any new ideas that might be added to the mix.