AIIM Road Show - ECM Fast Forward

By Shadrach White posted 05-12-2011 16:30


The roadshow started off in Bellevue, WA. with the Vendors giving a short introduction of the software and hardware products that are being showcased at the event.  John Mancini, President of AIIM, was very professional and comfortable as always in his role as the host.  He encouraged attendees to use this day to network and get questions answered.  An expert corner staffed with folks from Allyis, a SharePoint consulting company, was available for Q&A along with the other Vendor sponsors.  John states, “ECM products are mature, but the market is still maturing.”  There are many opportunities to begin an ECM project or extend, enhance and leverage your existing software solutions.  John mentioned that the annual Nexus event is a highly recommended conference for ECM education.

During the first breakout, John and I had a great conversation with warehouse giant Costco.  As a perfect example of the industry and legacy ECM platforms headed for change, Costco is at the beginning stages of planning for the next generation of Content platforms and solutions.  They have SharePoint, Oracle, LiquidOffice and other home-grown point solutions for distributed scanning and capture from many of the warehouses in North America.  They have formed a project team to determine how content-enabled business can be established and managed as a platform in the enterprise.  As an early adopter of Document Imaging in the early 90s, Costco blazed a trail that many other early ECM adopters followed.  Now 20 years later, they are embarking on a new chapter, it will be interesting to see what course they chart.

Speakers and breakouts including legacy ECM vendors and next generation cloud vendors shared their vision and perspective on the future of the ECM industry and what it will look like.

The current state of content management software is in flux. A transformation is taking shape in the form of innovation, specificity to function, and the technology used to process and share content. While stalwarts of the industry continue to add layers of complexity, upstarts have begun to make their mark advocating simplicity of design.

The fundamental needs for managing unstructured information that exists outside of traditional line-of-business or structured data systems has not changed. What is changing are the ways in which we want to use content, the devices that access content, and the demographics of the workforce. ECM software is now considered by many as an IT Platform. As a Platform, the software is required to meet a laundry list of features and capabilities, regardless of operational business or user benefit. Industry analysts and consultants have cavorted with software companies in order to create a quadrant of magic features that every ECM buyer must evaluate, or face certain failure. I will not even mention that whole Sarbanes Oxley mess.

I have been fortunate to work with a tremendously talented group of ECM professionals in my career. I have been involved at every level of solution design for each of the various defined disciplines in the industry, e.g., Capture, Records Management, Document Management, etc.  Using ECM technology to enhance business productivity has given me the experience to know the difference between necessary functions and unnecessary features. By working in technical engineering, project management, and user roles in hundreds of ECM use cases, I have come to the conclusion that most legacy software packages are way too complicated and unnecessarily expensive.

While many lauded the arrival of SharePoint as the coup de grâce for legacy vendors, many acknowledge that the platform is so broad and requires so much customization that it fails to deliver key business productivity functions as quickly and easily as the Microsoft Marketing Team would have you believe. Meanwhile, the other legacy vendors continue to layer newer e2.0 features on top of already bloated product suites.  Legacy ECM solutions get the job done, and they will meet any diligent RFP coordinator’s mandatory requirements, including most, if not all, of the evaluation committee’s checklist criteria.  However, if you are evaluating ECM software today, you should take a step back and ask yourself; “Do I really need all those buttons, commands and features? What expense am I willing to incur in the form of overhead, maintenance, and complex usability?”

Many longstanding ECM professionals are in a catch twenty two. While many might agree with me, how many of them are willing to comment. If you currently sell, integrate, consult or work in this industry, you likely work with legacy ECM vendors to put the proverbial food on the table. The history of technology teaches us that change is inevitable. As we look to the future, we should all know that the next generation ECM technology will not be what it has been or what it is today.  In many organizations, there will continue to be a need for full-blown Legacy ECM solutions and technologies, but there will likely be many operational uses of Content Management in those companies that will demand simplicity for very specific uses and functions.

Comments Welcomed.

Shadrach White

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