Time to Scrap Your Existing System?

By Dan Elam posted 10-26-2011 09:31



In my last blog, ECM Vendors Go to War  ( , it was brought up that upgrades to existing ECRM (CMS) systems will accelerate in the near future.  This bodes well for vendors and service providers, but is this really in the best interests of end users?


Errin O’Connor, the CEO for SharePoint service provider EPC, points to a recent Gartner study that “enterprises with enterprise CMS technologies that are more than five years old to re-evaluate their content architecture with a view toward consolidating functionality and vendors.”  That is a strong statement.  Do we replace every enterprise-class software product that is more than five years old even if it is working well?  Given the expense, risk, and pain of implementing a system, one can argue that Gartner is being flippant and counter to the common logic of “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”  But how do you decide?


First, let’s take a look at what Gartner is really saying.  Functionality for the basic ECRM services hasn’t changed a lot in the last few years:  we can scan and store documents, search and retrieve, and manage them with a combination of workflow and records management.  Adding a new system makes only marginal improvements for most of those functions.  However, many companies have a variety of departmental solutions.  It isn’t uncommon for a company to have four or five different ECRM vendors installed in various departments.  While many organizations are looking to standardize on a single platform, costs and internal politics (“pick mine, not that ECRM in the other group!”) continue to be barriers to moving to a single platform.  Nevertheless, the cost savings are very real for those organizations who do “rationalize” their ECRM platforms.  But that trend is nothing new:  every CIO today will tell you that they want fewer platforms to support because the benefits are well documented across the board.  Gartner correctly points out that the cloud is becoming increasingly important as organizations realize that they don’t just want to reduce the headaches with multiple vendors; they don’t even want to have to host and manage the software inside their own firewalls.  The importance of cloud to the ECRM market cannot be overstated.


The big thing that Gartner argues is that new platforms involve new functionality such as social media, big content, analytics, and content-aware optimization.  Gartner is right about those trends taking place and being important.  Gartner is wrong that companies should scrap their existing ECRM solutions to add these new functions.  Most of the major vendors have their own “social media” platforms.  There is no consistency in what these functions should be, but most vendors seem to think it involves collaborative groups within the enterprise more than actually communicating with the outside world.  In short, these are low end competitors to SharePoint (and for IBM shops, Quickr).  Does anyone really think they are going to beat Microsoft for workgroup collaboration?  Of course not.  Think how many organizations are still spending money each year to maintain or migrate Lotus Notes applications as they move them to SharePoint.  If you are implementing a social collaboration project you are far more likely to use SharePoint and just integrate it to your ECRM system.  Gartner is correct that organizations are implementing these technologies, but it far more likely to be best-of-breed instead of throwing out the perfectly good ECRM platforms in order to purchase some loosely-defined “suite” of proprietary technology.  Other tools like analytics can be very compelling, but they can also be added to existing platforms.  (Gartner misses the market on “big content” like audio and video:  today’s systems can store some of this content and those organizations that use a lot of big content rely on Digital Asset Management (DAM) systems.  Some of the ECRM vendors have DAM solutions, but the groups who control these have very little to do with the backoffice groups using ECRM and it is extremely rare that a departmental DAM solution gets sunset to be part of the enterprise ECRM standard.)

Upgrades will continue to take place, but the factors are more economic and related to reducing costs than adding great new functionality.  The ECRM software and services market is likely to remain very strong for the next several years, but cloud implementations could play a bigger role beyond that.  But will the mainstream ECRM vendors end up with the big market share for the “related” technologies where Microsoft and other big players compete?  Probably not.

How about you?  Would you throw out your existing system so you can add one of the “related” technologies or would you extend and integrate?  Let me know.


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#ElectronicRecordsManagement #Gartner #ScanningandCapture #ECRM #SharePoint #ECM