Enterprise Content Governance 2014: A SharePoint Point of View

By Michael Alsup posted 05-09-2014 11:17


My goal in this blog entry is to share some of what I have observed in the last six months about SharePoint and the achievement of enterprise content governance in a multi-repository world.

Microsoft Office drives Office 365 which drives SharePoint
In the enterprise market, Microsoft Office (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, Exchange, etc.) remains the de facto standard for productivity tools. Office 365 was driving big changes in this market based on many organizations moving their email service into Office 365. More recently, the introduction of Office for iOS is connecting many users to Office 365 from the iPad and (soon to be) Android worlds. The ability of BYOD users to find and use documents is seen by many organizations as a natural extension of Microsoft Office documents, files and emails. This is more important for many of these organizations than enterprise content governance.

We have found the ease of use of OneDrive for Business to be compelling. Because OneDrive for Business is the default Office 365 file sync and share tool, its use is accelerating the adoption of SharePoint in Office 365. OneDrive for Business in Office 365 uses SharePoint, but this fact is somewhat hidden by Microsoft marketing, because their goal is to compete against the simplicity of the cloud file sync and share vendors. It is accelerating the adoption of SharePoint in Office 365 to the detriment of competing cloud file sync and share vendors.

There’s an App for that
One dimension of BYOD that is very important to understand is the App model. An App is a purpose-built interface that tailors a user’s navigation and interaction with web services to a specific device’s operating system. An App enables its user to avoid trying to navigate to and through web solutions through a browser interface, which can be painful on smartphones, and it can also enable transparent content governance capabilities. It is important to enable these Apps on iOS, Android and Windows 8 based on the form factor (screen size) of the device. At the recent SharePoint Conference, and in Microsoft announcements since then, it has been very clear that Microsoft is moving to strongly support iOS and Android with developer tools, directory services and mobile device management.

Retention Management and In Place Records Management is becoming more important
One of the startling (for me) revelations of the SharePoint Conference this year was that Microsoft had almost nothing new to say about Records Management, but wanted to talk about Retention Management (and their new Document Deletion Policies) in several sessions. This is a simplifying approach that bases retention decisions on date created or date last modified. We believe that this approach will be useful for many organizations, but it fits some use cases and platforms, such as email or OneDrive documents, better than others. Is it the full answer to records management? Sites that contain records must be retained for the life of the record contained in the site.

Microsoft also pointed much more to In Place retention and records management than they did to moving, copying or stubbing documents into their Records Center. They seem to be repositioning the Records Center as an archival repository.

The industry is moving towards an enterprise content governance dial tone
What is a content governance dial tone? This would be a unified object environment to manage content (Documents, Voice Messages, Emails, Viewers, etc.). The most compelling demonstration of this capability that I have seen was in the SharePoint Conference keynote with Yammer, Office, and Office 365 being used across iOS and Android devices, with a little Windows thrown in. In this unified environment, Departments, Legal, Records and IT need to collaborate in advance to define governance policy based on the overall types of document to be governed, not the actual instances of the documents to be managed. Then, this policy needs to be automatically applied to documents through containers, document templates or some level of auto-classification. There will be significant planning and setup and then it needs to be transparently applied to a document from a user perspective.

SharePoint wins the largest market share for enterprise content governance.
SharePoint is clearly energizing ECM and Records Management (RM) in many organizations. I believe that SharePoint would have become a more dominant force in ECM and RM if it wasn’t so much custom effort to implement content governance solutions for SharePoint out-of-the-box. That is why the SharePoint add-on ecosystem is so important to Microsoft. SharePoint is an enormously powerful and complex platform that does a large percentage of many tasks very well. It is widely adopted, but applying enterprise-class content governance policies and rules to SharePoint requires significant upfront planning and investment.

The SharePoint add-on ecosystem is an amalgamation of solutions and extensions that have been created by many organizations to enhance SharePoint’s already capable information management functionality and better enable the enterprise deployment of SharePoint for a variety of purposes. To the extent that these solutions address governance challenges through configuration rather than customization and reduce the amount of work needed to implement content governance solutions, they will be widely adopted.

It is clear that there will never be just be one winner. Today’s organizations are coming from a variety of starting points, with different ECM and content governance requirements, different scale, and different levels of technical proficiency. Most of these organizations are already using SharePoint. SharePoint didn’t need Windows 8 to be successful to dominate its markets, it just needed the momentum of Office 365, Office and the App model to be successful to win the largest market share in the markets for ECM and enterprise content governance. The embrace of iOS and Android by Microsoft improves the market position of SharePoint, especially in Office 365.

SharePoint ecosystem consolidates to Aggregators, Standalone Tools, and Services Providers
We have seen recently that large organizations are not interested in having twenty providers of SharePoint add-ons whose products (and licenses and infrastructure) collide with each other now and as they evolve into the future. In the ECM Suite era, we called this the need for “One throat to choke”. I believe we are ready for another wave of consolidation for the same reasons that drove the original ECM Suite consolidation. The best-of-breed ecosystem has driven great innovation in SharePoint add-on capabilities. Some of the best-of-breed vendors have assembled scalable product families and teams to drive the enterprise deployment of enterprise content governance on SharePoint. The consolidation is in its infancy, and it is easy to debate who is in which state. My point is that it has begun. This is very similar to the set of market conditions that enabled the ECM business to consolidate from 100 companies in 1995 down to six in 2014 (EMC, IBM, HP, Open Text, Microsoft and Oracle). I thought that the 2014 SharePoint Conference felt very much like the AIIM Conference in 1995.

One obvious thing to remember is that the Aggregators do not need to be current members of the SharePoint-only ecosystem. (I am defining members of the SharePoint add-on ecosystem as vendors who work on information stored in SharePoint as opposed to exporting this content to a foreign repository.) Open Text acquired Metastorm and Global 360, both providers of SharePoint workflow. Dell acquired Quest, a provider of SharePoint migration, administration and governance tools. This week, Lexmark announced its intention to acquire Readsoft, a provider of capture and ERP integration solutions for SharePoint and Office 365.

Another obvious thing to remember is that the SharePoint ecosystem is different from a consolidation perspective than the 1995 ECM ecosystem because it is based on the SharePoint platform. Microsoft’s actions will have significant effects and consequences. There wasn’t a vendor who played a similar role to Microsoft in ECM in the 1990s

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