What Was Enterprise Content Management, Grandad?

Here’s the good news:

We’ve had 25 years of success and healthy growth in the document and content management industry and enjoyed a bustling sector for ourselves.

Here’s the bad news:

It’s all change now – change that’s so radical that the point of Enterprise Content Management’s is being called into question, and if you don’t have new answers, then, that’s a big issue.

Apologies if that’s darkened your day, but we have to deal with realities in business.

I have some comfort for you – even inspiration – but let’s face some facts first.

The last two years has seen an absolute explosion in new trends and new thinking. From SaaS to mobile to Cloud, enterprise technology has changed to an extent unparalleled in its five or so decades of life.

The problem is that while some industries, like database or telecoms, have either been able to catch up or be centre-stage shaping the debate, for the most part ECM has been on the sidelines.

Once it was absolutely the right thing to do to frame what you offered as part of automating back office processes, of capturing invoices, of linking content to the ERP system and that all made sense and was of value.

But now, those messages sound old-fashioned in the context of the conversation the CIO and CFO are having – which is now all about the customer experience, digital transformation, predictive analytics, mobile apps – the list goes on.

The focus of business has dramatically shifted – it’s a tectonic plate shift. And ECM is a film star in the back office, but a Cinderella in the front office.

ECM is dead – long live ECM

The message is stark. I think ECM’s time is running out. We’re getting bigger and our arms are getting tinier and more useless; we’re starting to look like a dinosaur, on the verge of extinction.

But, I believe it’s only a matter of perception.

How does that Digital CX (customer experience) that your customers CMO want actually get delivered in technology and solutions terms? Only by the seamless routing of information and digital content around workflows – and maybe it would be great if we had software to do that job for us, what do you think?

How will Digital Government work? Only by immediate access to electronic citizen databases, as trying to do it with paper in the middle simply won’t work. Again – what if we had a platform for doing that kind of thing for us?

This is what’s going to happen: ECM as a narrative and product category will die but the technology and solutions will live on in new clothing.

But you need to be flexible and innovative in your new approach  – you will have to reinvent your value proposition to align with this great new industry conversation, and offer content management in terms and use cases that the new IT buyers, the Chief Digital Officers and the data-hungry Line of Business managers want to hear.

It won’t be easy, but what I am asking you to do is stand back and re-imagine what it is you do.

Forget all the ECM branding you’ve been using. It was great, but it’s had its day.

Ask yourself instead, What is it I really do?

What is the business problem my technology solves?

How does it map onto the brave new world of today – and what major gap does it help fill in making things like compelling customer experience a reality?

 I guarantee you that once you free yourself from outmoded thinking, you will be able to engage with the market in ways that will open doors for you, create new opportunities for growth and ensure the long term success of your business.

That’s good news – exciting news, and the whole of thedmcollaborators community will benefit from this re-thinking and re-positioning.

But have no illusions.

ECM is dead.

Long live your digital content and customer experience solutions (based on lots of proven ECM technology – just don’t say it that way!)

Best of luck.


Martyn Christian is Managing Partner at UNDRSTND Group, formed by the Information Management industry’s most experienced business leaders & strategists to help software & services companies in the digital content and customer experience management market realise their ultimate potential

One thought on “What Was Enterprise Content Management, Grandad?

  1. Couldn’t agree more. It is all becoming about the real business issue being solved, customer and constituent experience and empowerment of knowledge workers. ECM is just one of the technologies that are included as part of that achievement.

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