E(CM) 2.0

By Joe Shepley posted 05-06-2011 08:40


Last post, I kicked off a series that’ll take a hard-nosed, realistic look at how Enterprise 2.0 will impact organizations, not from the ivory tower perspective of a fresh start, whole cloth implementation, but from an attach-the-wheels-while-you’re-landing viewpoint—which is where most folks are with E2.0.

My goal with all this is to counteract the tendency we have to treat E2.0 as if it were some kind of separate thing, a standalone discipline we could just embrace and all our old fashioned E1.0 pursuits would kind of go away, replaced cleanly by a whole new way of doing business.

We all know, however, that E2.0 is much messier. It’s never a whole cloth, Greenfield pursuit. It’s always done while keeping the lights on, mixed and jumbled with our ongoing E1.0 pursuits.

In this spirit, in these posts I’m looking at E2.0 from the other way around, from the point of view of existing domains/functions and how E2.0 might catalyze change in them rather than from a best practices, formally perfect E2.0 perspective that assumes that these disciplines have to keep up with the E2.0 wave.

Last post I took a look at a hot topic: advanced (or adaptive) case management (ACM). Today I’m going to turn to an old standby: enterprise content management (ECM).


As I’ve written elsewhere, I think mobility is going to be a big opportunity area for ECM vendors and practitioners. This shouldn’t be surprising, because, from a global perspective, mobility is already one of the top two or three forces shaping technology in the twenty-first century.

On the one hand, the sheer number of mobile devices in use is growing at a staggering rate.

  • In industrialized areas such as Europe, the United States and Japan, hand-held devices (smart phones and tablets) are nearly ubiquitous in the business market, and as these devices get more sophisticated, and as businesses move beyond RIM as the de facto standard for business hand-helds, they’ll outstrip PCs in importance to how work gets done.
  • In other parts of the world such as Africa, Central/South America, and South Asia, however, hand-helds are already often the only computing device in play for business users. The expense of PCs, the unreliability of the power grid, the low availability of wired Internet connections—all of these factors have come together to make hand-helds of central importance to the development of both the business and consumer computing markets in developing nations.

On the other hand, there are two cultural forces driving the importance of mobility.

  • The prevalence of mobile/virtual workforce models, which can't function without mobile technology. As the number of workers operating outside the confines of the office grows, so too will the central role of mobile to businesses.
  • The increasingly global nature of business in general, whether because organizations are expanding beyond the borders of a single nation or because partner and supplier networks have long since ceased to respect national borders, or both. This further increases the importance of mobility to businesses across the board.

Given these global shifts in how we access information, I think it’s pretty certain that in the next few years, the ability to deliver bulletproof, locked down, enterprise content 24 x 7 to any location on any device is going to be an expected ECM capability, not a nice-to-have aspiration.

And while the exact shape of mobile content management (MCM) is still emerging, I think it’ll likely be founded on four core use cases:

  • View - read-only access to repositories
  • Create - document management (full read-write access)
  • Collaborate - enterprise collaboration
  • Participate - workflow
  • Communicate - enterprise communities

The power of the crowd

Along with mobility, and in part because of it, I think we’re going to see an acceleration of federated content creation across the whole spectrum, from more controlled options like enterprise wikis to more wide open approaches like full-on Crowdsourcing.

Today, when you have a document to write, for example, your options for collaboration are pretty limited and pretty linear. On the one hand, you’ve got the shared drive/hard drive/email paradigm; on the other, the SharePoint/team room paradigm (links instead of attachments, light document workflow, versioning, check in-check out). But in the end, the difference is in degree, not kind, between these two modes of working.

The failure of Google Wave notwithstanding, I think that fairly soon we’ll see the increasing adoption of more social/collaborative models for document-based collaboration—I’m actually seeing demand for it out in the marketplace already. As folks finally get their hands on SharePoint 2010, they’re wondering where all the collaboration is: in the year since 2010 was released, consumer-focused social media tools have evolved rapidly in this area and raised our expectations for collaboration at work.

In response, I think we’re going to see lots of alternatives emerge in this space to fill the collaborative document management gap between now and the release of SharePoint 2013.


In response both to the huge volumes of electronically stored information at nearly every organization as well as the increasing level of information pushed to most employees, the ability to filter information out and then select the best of what’s left will be critical to maintaining employee productivity (and sanity).

As with so many E2.0 trends, this one is already maturing on the consumer side. Content is no longer king on the internet—it’s a commodity. There’s simply too many smart, articulate, relevant folks out there running blogs, tweeting, posting to slide share, and commenting in forums and communities. You could spend all day just sifting through this quality content and never get to it all.

The flip side is that there’s even more crap out there, so you could spend all day just trying to find a few good things amid the flotsam and jetsam and in the process never get to the two or three nuggets you really needed in the first place.

In response to this, a whole class of Web 2.0 players have sprung up: curators. These are the folks who do the combing for us, who follow 10K folks on Twitter and have 1000 RSS feeds in their reader, who sort through all that noise somehow to find the signal—and then broadcast that out to the rest of us so that we can get directly to the good stuff.

It won’t be long before this kind of curation becomes critical for the enterprise. As ESI continues to grow exponentially, as organizations get more deeply involved in social media, and as enterprise collaboration takes hold in a big way, there’s simply going to be too much stuff for folks to reasonably sort through. Heck, we’re there now with email, so you can only imagine what’s in store a few years out.

Over the next few years, I think we’ll see a huge jump in the use of the full range of curation techniques at organizations, from on the fly ones like ranking and rating to more deliberate ones like sharing and rebroadcasting.

The final word

So that my $0.02 on how E2.0 might impact ECM over the next few years: what do you think? Am I seriously mistaken on any of this? Did I miss something? Include something crazy? Or maybe you just have your own thoughts on the matter.

Whatever the case, jump in and let’s get the conversation started!

#mobility #ECM #Collaboration #E20 #EnterpriseContentManagement