ECM is dead – long live ECM!

Our industry is at an interesting point in its evolution. Much like the question around the chicken and the egg, I am unsure whether the pronouncement that ‘enterprise content management (ECM) is dead and content services is born’ is the egg to our industry consolidation’s chicken – or if it’s the other way around.

For analysts to say that say ECM is dead is a pretty bold pronouncement. It suggests that content services vendors need to make wholesale changes in their product and go-to-market strategies in order to remain relevant. What’s more, some recent, cloud-only, entrants to our space are only too happy to reinforce the idea that every longtime content services platform is woefully outdated and incapable of supporting customers’ digital transformation initiatives.

But I don’t work for every content services platform vendor. I work for one. And, while my company has been in the IDM/IDARS/RM/DCM/ECM/content services games for 25 years, we’ve managed to do a pretty good job adapting to technology, business and regulatory changes. We’ve also repeatedly defied past predictions some pundits claimed would put us out of business. Those of you who have seen this industry evolve over the years may remember a few of these:

  • OnBase must run on Unix to be considered an enterprise-class product
  • OnBase records management must be DOD 5015.2 compliant to be competitive
  • OnBase must provide full-featured functionality in the following areas to be considered a “true” ECM suite:
    • Web content management
    • Digital asset management
    • Digital rights management
    • Team collaboration
    • Enterprise search
    • Email archiving
  • OnBase must be re-architected to run on top of SharePoint in order to survive
  • OnBase must be designed like every other BPM suite in order to succeed at case management

However, none of these predictions have prevented tens of thousands of customers around the world from continuing to successfully use OnBase as a foundation for digital process improvement and transformation strategies.

As a devout student of Good to Great, all this has made me wonder how hard it was for the ‘great’ companies in that book to maintain focus on their hedgehog with pundits all around them tempting them away from their chosen path.

As I stepped into my local Best Buy the other day to get my gadget fix, I was struck by these thoughts. First, it was Circuit City it needed to vanquish. Now, competitors like Amazon are staunchly testing the Best Buy hedgehog. Yet, Best Buy’s principles remain the same. The company evolved and adapted, but it has never changed course.

The name is dead, not the concept

Applying the same sort of focus, for 25 years, our customers have been our guides. Our hedgehog, if you will. Rather than act as a think tank believing that we know the path, we have instead asked our customers what they are looking for.

Novel? We don’t think so. Interestingly, this approach has led us to more than 15,000 customers in 70 countries. And, more importantly, we have a 97 percent maintenance renewal rate with our customers; a testament that evolution, not revolution, is what customers are looking for.

Simply put, customers have asked us for very specific overarching information management solutions, which we deliver:

  1. Integrate unstructured content with the core line of business systems they are heavily invested in
  2. Offer a strong suite of transactional processing tools for the automation of business processes – including automated capture of information
  3. Offer tools that are configurable, quick to deploy and can be internally managed
  4. Offer tools that allow the integration of discrete data and unstructured content where new applications can be configured and deployed throughout the enterprise

That’s it??? Well, yeah.

In Healthcare, Financial Services, Insurance, Government, Higher Education and Commercial markets, that is exactly what customers have asked for. And over the last 25 years, we have responded by providing products that can serve the needs of a single back office department, 60,000 employee healthcare enterprises, multinational corporations, customers with billions of records, and customers simply looking to make their AP processes a little faster.

Call it whatever you want, managing a customer’s information is as important a task as there is in today’s environment. The business understanding, agility, compliance and competitiveness that comes with a strong information management strategy has been our hedgehog for 25 years.

Think flexible, not monolithic

Analysts are finally rejecting the ‘heavyweight’ ECM systems that corporate IT departments previously purchased in a top-down fashion. These were custom-development platforms designed for massive scalability to serve the world’s largest enterprises. They also demanded highly skilled IT resources.

That sort of pressure on IT resources, by the way, is something we have always advocated against.

Corporate IT typically bought these platforms to act as a single enterprise standard repository. How these systems would support the daily work of end users was a secondary consideration. We, on the other hand, believe it should be the first consideration. From day one, we’ve developed solutions that you can implement departmentally. Then, after you optimize those processes and make sure end users are empowered to make better decisions, faster, you can move on to other departments.

Just let us know what you need. That’s how we roll.

The heavyweight systems analysts are now advocating against appealed to the enterprise architect, but not to the realities of how different types of employees use content in their day-to-day work. Developers did not build these monolithic systems to integrate with other systems. They were complex and expensive to maintain, expand and upgrade.

We’ve always incorporated integrations to important business systems and productivity apps as a key to our annual releases. Call us crazy, but we think making it easier for employees to access the information they need, when they need it, is the way to go. And that includes whether they’re in the office or out in the field, using a tablet or a smartphone.

You know, knowledge is power. That sort of thing.

And, not that we don’t want IT departments to have fun coding, but we have always developed our solutions to integrate with any application without custom coding. Otherwise, after the initial investment, these systems can become little more than information silos – hard to find and full of static documents when you did stumble upon them.

Our approach has always been solution-focused. We’re driven to help you meet business objectives.

So if you want to deploy incrementally to address a defined business issue, that’s fine by us. If you want to implement across the enterprise, we can do that too. If you want to call it content services, by all means, please do so. Our job is to empower you by letting you use metadata to manage content for context and action – much more than just storage.

Meanwhile, we’ll continue to be here, helping organizations like yours centralize important business content in one secure location and then deliver it to you when you need it, where you need it, integrated with your core line of business systems, or on our own. And we’ll continue to listen to you and develop our roadmap with your needs as our guide. Our low-code platform for content-enabled LOB applications empowers you to evolve with ever-changing technology without reinventing the wheel.

Enterprise content management, digital transformation, content services – call it what you like. Our customers call it ‘awesome.’

Find out more in our new ebook, The Next Wave: Moving from ECM to Intelligent Information Management.

Ed McQuiston

Ed McQuiston is Hyland’s executive vice president & chief commercial officer, a position he’s held since 2017. Having served as vice president of global sales since 2012, his current role... read more about: Ed McQuiston

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