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Will ECM vendors catch up to Back Office Content Solutions?

By Marko Sillanpaa posted 07-05-2016 07:38


Back in March I was already telling the ECM industry that they were not alone.  I was researching a trend where I thought vendors were emerging that offered out-of-the-box back office content solutions that were being sold directly to business users.  I expected to find a few examples in each content-rich core business areas.  What I found in quick searches were half a dozen vendors.  In deeper dives of specific solutions I found dozens of vendors.

It seems like every time I turn on my computer I find more vendors.  Looking at Contract Life Cycle Management (CLM), I found vendors likeCobbleStone SystemsConga, and Exari.  In Accounts Payable, I found vendors like Esker andOmPrompt.  In Compliance Documents, I found vendors like QualTrax, and Vivaldi.  I even found vendors, like ConvergePoint and Coupa, who cross enterprise silos.  Ask yourself, have you run into these vendors before?

These vendors are talking to business users in their language.  “Drafting contracts” rather than “authoring documents.”  “Matching invoices and purchase orders” rather than “relating files”.  They offer solutions that require days of configuration instead of weeks or months of customization.  They offer the same technologies as ECM, like OCR and electronic signatures, but sometimes with different names.  For example, they use “Templates and clauses” instead of “compound documents and components.”

Only a few ECM vendors have their own out-of-the-box solutions.  M-Files and OpenText offer a CLM solution while Hyland OnBase and Lexmark offer an Accounts Payable solution.  A few solutions are offered by ECM partners like Gimmal’s CLM solution on EMC Documentum.  These ECM vendors and partners may address one or two business challenges, but there are back office content solutions in every process.

Yet, while these back office content solutions do a great job of meeting the specific business challenge, they don’t address information governance.  Most of these solutions are creating information silos.  Documents aren’t shared across departmental silos.  Except in obvious places like compliance, records retention is often forgotten.  This leads to multiple collections of ultimately unmanaged content.  These solutions are also unproven at volumes of millions or billions of documents.  Storage and performance are some of the strongest lessons learned by ECM vendors.

So with back office content solution vendors talking to customers about how they solve specific business problem, why is the ECM space so enthralled by a bunch of repurposed features?  The decision makers are buying solutions for business problems today, not a set of tools to build a solution tomorrow.  If I’m wrong, I’ll buy you a drink … tomorrow.


Marko Sillanpaa  CIP, ECMp 

#BOCS #BackOfficeContentSolutions #MarkoSillanpaa



07-11-2016 17:47

Thanks for the comment.
I agree with you that these application decisions can't be made in silos. Are you seeing that the decisions are still being made inside IT? I'm seeing the decision maker role in the business more and more each year. That's where the view of the big picture of Information Governance is getting lost.
On the volumes, I was making the comment against these smaller CLM vendors. They are the one with the volume problem. I know that most of the traditional vendors go well into the tens of billions of objects in a single repository. This is something that these new CLM vendors are not even considering.

07-10-2016 18:10

I can speak to the larger ECM platforms, specifically Documentum, OnBase and the like.
Where you see them being "information silos", I consider this simply not seeing the bigger picture of how the platforms are implemented. The "solution" they offer is a component of the larger build: one must determine taxonomy, which must drive archival, which must consider retention, before running through a process. Security and client are often on top of this.
In other words, you can't implement an AP solution in any of the big 5 without foundation: What is being stored (i.e. invoices, checks, purchase orders, etc), how is it getting there (i.e. paper, fax, email, etc), how is it getting identifed (i.e. manual, automated, hybrid, etc), who has access to it (by group, by role, by metadata test, etc) and how is it getting processed (archival only, workflow, etc).
Retention and governance are absolutely available for consideration, but that takes knowledge workers who are willing to tackle those.
To that end, I disagree that decision makers are "buying solutions for business problems today". I would argue that decision makers are seeking scalable solutions to business problems today and tomorrow. You won't find that with a one-off solution for a one-off problem, but you will find that in a larger offering that happens to include that solution as one of many.
I also don't agree that they're unproven at high volumes. I've encountered plenty of FileNet, Documentum and OnBase implementations well exceeding millions of documents. In the current OnBase world for example, one can store billions of documents without a problem. The only limitation you have is the database and the available storage.
Now, there is the consideration of retention, which if the retention rules are doing their job, you shouldn't have billions of documents unless you're a major player, because older documents should be getting dispositioned properly. But that's a separate part of governance.