The last post of this serie was looking at defining Enterprise Content and Enterprise Content Management. We will now look at the big trends that we see in the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) landscape. And still as a reminder, this serie of articles is taken from a full paper about Enterprise Content Management Platforms, you can get a copy of it here, otherwise just snack here and wait for the next post!

While last blog post on was focused on providing the plan

ECM: It's Not Just File Shares as Content Tools

A number of solutions outside of ECM tools have emerged that allow sharing documents and other content among multiple users such as DropBox,, shared file systems and Google Docs. While these solutions support sharing, collaboration and limited security features, it is a mistake to consider these tools holistic ECM solutions.

Modern ECM platforms are not just simple file shares and do not resemble early document management solutions that were in many cases little more than user interfaces over a file share. ECM platforms include a variety of capabilities such as:

  • Version tracking

  • Relationships between documents

  • Support for document meta-data and/or semantic details

  • Configurable document workflow and lifecycle management

  • Check-in/check-out

  • Content streaming

  • Auditing and Traceability

  • Business rules

that are often critical for organizations to manage content efficiently and are not supported by popular file sharing tools. Additionally, an ECM platform must fulfill the requirements common to all enterprise software, such as:

  • Complex integration with name directories (e.g. LDAP)

  • Capability to fit within a predefined enterprise technology portfolio and conform to architectural standards, whether in the cloud or on premise

  • High availability

which are also not supported by file sharing applications.

In general, file sharing applications are designed for independent, uncontrolled, unstructured content and include few tools to support structural management (e.g. taxonomies) or to add supporting meta-data. Further, although these tools support sharing, they do not support content reuse across the enterprise and lack support for applying critical business rules, lifecycle management or workflow to support content-centric business processes. Without the ability to classify the content or to represent its relationships to other content in a uniform manner, content becomes almost impossible to manage as the volume grows.

File sharing applications have another important limitation. As enterprise content becomes more diverse and includes multimedia assets such as video and audio, there is an increasing need to support rich content and activities such as streaming – a feature the majority of file sharing tools do not support. Older document management platforms also lack support for many of the newer content types.

Finally, organizations with legal and regulatory constraints should be very careful about exposing content using document-sharing solutions, since they do not provide high levels of security, traceability or control. Even if legal requirements are not in place, exposing content perceived as private can be a large blemish on the face of an organization.

The Evolution of ECM

Like all business processes and the technology that supports them, ECM is frequently changing to introduce new models, concepts and meet new challenges. Traditionally, ECM technologies have consisted of a number of independent solutions:

However, increasingly organizations desire more integration. They want content to be pervasive and available on-demand wherever it’s required – not just within a specific standalone application supporting a single use case. Organizations want content within the tools where and when they do their work and manage their business processes without the necessity to access multiple tools and follow numerous disconnected processes.

These business demands are driving a new, modern breed of ECM technology. ECM has evolved from a departmental, siloed, single purpose solution to an enterprise-level infrastructure. These modern ECM solutions go beyond commercial off the shelf (COTS) applications that perform a specific function, such as document management, and even beyond integrated suites that combine multiple functions. Modern ECM technology is not an application; it is an interoperable, flexible content platform that exposes components and services thatorganizations can easily integrate to support a diverse set of content-enabled business processes within applications built on the platform. The new ideal ECM platform is transparent to users – only the capabilities are important. The diagram below illustrates this evolution.

Content Diversity

Organizations are not only requiring content management solutions to be flexible enough to support more business processes; ECM solutions must also support an increasing number of content types. Organizations are increasingly leveraging new types of information to support their operation. As organizations manage more types of enterprise content, they frequently have concerns regarding the accuracy, trustworthiness and accessibility of the content.

A 2011 ECM survey by AIIM showed both the different types of content organizations manage and the confidence leadership has in the quality of the management. This clearly highlights the increasing diversity of content managed by applications, from core business content to content more related to social collaboration.