Live From info360: Is ECM Morphing Into the Platypus of Enterprise Software?

If the session content being presented at the AIIM/info360 conference  over the past two days is any indication, it appears that strong environmental factors (AKA, the market) are driving enterprise content management vendors into a period of significant evolution and adaptation.

Now you may be thinking: “Okay Burnsy, I get the idea that ECM vendors and their products need to evolve. But, c’mon dude, where are you going with the Platypus analogy? What does an egg-laying, venomous, duck-billed, beaver-tailed, otter-footed mammal have to do with ECM software?”

The answer to that lies in the usage scenarios ECM solutions are increasingly expected to address. Most often, ECM solutions are deployed to address “edge” processes and interactions that fall outside the mainline functions of data-centric, lines-of business applications (e.g. ERPs, electronic medical records and claims processing systems).

More and more, these composite content applications, often called case-based applications, demand a hybrid assembly of capabilities most would associate with product segments that are adjacent – rather than core – to ECM.

Here are a few examples:

  • Historically used as systems of record, ECM solutions must also become systems of engagement in order to capture and/or analyze the interactions enabled by consumer-oriented, social technologies
  • Well-known for managing content and automating well-defined, procedure-oriented processes, transactional ECM systems are now being extended with data-centric and CRM-like application interfaces designed to support more loosely defined practices and collaborative interactions
  • The workflow engines of transactional ECM systems are going well beyond automating content-intensive clerical work and stepping into the domain of “human-centric BPM” (e.g. supporting work items related to events and tasks that may or may not include documents)
  • Intelligent data capture software is expected to be paired with analytics tools to mine content assets for operational intelligence and identifying patterns of activity

Today, these hybrid capabilities are most often found in separate products which must then be stitched together into a “composite solution” by a systems integrator.

It seems the new expectation will be for these once distinct product capabilities to become an inherent part of the “fabric” (if I may borrow a term from EMC’s Jeetu Patel) of ECM software suites.

Ultimately, this evolution may make it even more difficult to define what ECM is and isn’t. But, like that evolutionary anomaly, the duck-billed platypus, successful ECM systems will have evolved into whatever form will enable them to thrive in their particular competitive environments.

Ken Burns

Ken Burns

Ken Burns manages the Analyst and Influencer Relations program globally for Hyland, creator of OnBase. He is responsible for keep leading industry analyst firms informed about Hyland’s company and product... read more about: Ken Burns