Following on the previous post on Enterprise Content Trends, two main trends: Content is getting smarter & bigger!

Smart Content

In addition to content growing more diverse, in some cases it is becoming smarter. What does this mean? Traditionally, content managed by ECM solutions consisted largely of files and scanned images perhaps interpreted with simplistic optical character recognition (OCR) and very limited metadata. Today however, modern ECM platforms must be more sophisticated. They must support interpretation of the actual contents of the document and assign meaning to the data it contains . This “smart content” allows organizations to go beyond just storing a binary file with limited metadata for viewing and instead associate relationships, complex metadata and business rules to automate business processes. For example, an organization scans an invoice. ECM technology can extract the invoice number and use it to relate the invoice to information in other enterprise applications (e.g. a customer service system) so that users gain a more holistic view of the information and business rules can be applied.

ECM solutions are also augmenting content with growing amounts of metadata, such as version number and security descriptors, that may be useful in making management even more efficient. Metadata is no longer just informational to the reader; it is now one of the variables driving the business process.

Big Data Is Big Content

Not only is content becoming more diverse and smarter, it is growing at an almost inconceivable pace. Companies are capturing increasing volumes of data about customers, suppliers and operations generated because of other activities. The McKinsey Global Institute projects data will grow at a rate of 40% per year (Manyika, et al., 2011) driven by an explosion of content, social media, mobile, video and other rich media combined with cheaper storage and trends such as cloud computing that encourage organizations to save everything. IDC has projected even higher content growth rates. IDC predicts that the amount of digital information produced worldwide in 2011 will be 10 times that produced in 2006. This makes for a compound annual growth rate of close to 60% (Chute, Manfrediz, Minton, Reinsel, Schlichting, & Toncheva, 2008).


Content growth might have previously only concerned a few niche areas, but it now impacts every sector and organization and is quickly becoming a way for leading companies to outperform their peers as they gain new insights from stored information. For example, according to the McKinsey Global Institute, 30% of Amazon. com sales are driven by product recommendations based on users’ previous purchases (Manyika, et al., 2011). If this information is managed as enterprise content, it can be leveraged in other content driven processes beyond sales recommendations.

The ability to analyze and gain insight on larger volumes of information due to more sophisticated ECM technology has a number of benefits:

  • Transparency: Making content more easily accessible to stakeholders exactly when and where they need it. This reduces the time and effort required to locate information, and it can improve performance.

  • Data Driven Decision Making: Companies are collecting increasing amount of information from sensor data that can be used for making decisions in a more quantitative and predictable way. For example, capturing the length of time in a case management workflow can inform an organization which portion of the process is most lengthy or most expensive. The data can also be used in controlled experiments to determine the impact of making changes.

  • Customer Segmentation: As technology improves, organizations are better able to develop unique customer profiles to engage them more specifically. For example, they can consolidate information from CRM systems with unstructured emails and social media interactions to create a more complete understanding of customer needs across all channels.

  • Automated Decision Making: Access to content can provide all of the information necessary to automate decisions previously made by humans, reducing operational costs. Even if companies don’t automate decisions completely, content can be used to facilitate decision making. In claims processing, for example, instead of going to multiple systems, enterprise content management could allow staff to see all relevant documents from a single interface, improving the efficiency of the process.

  • Identifying New Business Models, Products and Services: Aggregated content and its analysis presents innumerable new business opportunities from real time price comparison services to preventative care solutions in the health care sector.

Although the additional data is valuable, organizations are still struggling with their attempts to manage, store and derive value from the content. In many cases, as content sizes grow, so does the complexity and cost associated with managing the content.

Legacy techniques of managing information are no longer sufficient with growing volumes of content. Users simply can’t browse categories, or in some cases search, the massive amounts of content stored in the enterprise – it’s too overwhelming. Growing content sizes make adoption of new content processes and technologies essential. From cloud-based storage to semantic technologies that improve the amount machines are able to assist users – content growth is transforming the entire ECM space.

This blog post is an abstract form the ebook “Content Management Platforms: the next generation of Enterprise Content Management“, if you are interested in the full paper, you can get a copy of it here, otherwise just snack here and wait for the next post.