Power to the People-Centric Solutions
As when the ECM industry was in its infancy, the regulatory environment remains a strong driver for corporate adoption of ECM. But the emphasis of those regulations is undergoing a "post Sarbanes-Oxley" shift in the wake of revelations that the 2008 federal bank bailout included few controls to track where, how, and by whom bailout funds were accessed. Taxpayers and government regulators may never know where those bailout funds were spent, and their anger is shaping the way that auditing will be done in the future. "There is a push for transparency over storage in compliance these days," says Le Clair. "The big question for vendors is what they will have to do to meet the next wave of compliance regulation."
James True, VP of business development at Cabinet NG, which provides a platform for document management and workflow automation, has also seen customer interest shift. "Transparency is a vital discussion point these days," True says. "Customers are looking for an access management component, and for audit capabilities that will allow them to flexibly run reports on who is looking at what."
Another trend driving the demand for people-centric ECM is the global economic crisis and the resulting need for corporations to make current resources do more. When IT budgets are put under the microscope for potential cost savings, no IT manager wants to be on the hook for purchasing an ECM solution that doesn't have quick ROI benefits. That means more pressure on vendors to provide solutions that encourage quick user adoption. "Users don't want to have to leave the program they're in to work with a specific document," Le Clair says. Neither do they want to have to tag content or add metadata in ways that add to an already oversized workload, so vendors must provide solutions that encourage organic user engagement.
For smaller companies without ECM systems in place, doing more with less can extend to the physical environment as well. Eliminating filing cabinets by making documents available online can mean shrinking a company's physical footprint and drive down overhead costs.
Finally, people-centric document management is being driven by the same collaborative and social media usage that is influencing all parts of the enterprise IT environment. In fact, document management may be one of the most collaborative corporate functions, with different groups of people accessing specific documents, working with and sharing them online, and strictly controlling who can see and interact with each document individually.
The fast adoption rate of Microsoft's SharePoint server for building team-specific collaboration sites with its built-in ECM capabilities is evidence of demand for a truly collaborative product. Initially bundled for free as part of Windows Server 2003 R2, by 2Q 2008 the product had passed 100 million licenses sold, resulting in more than $1 billion in sales. "With SharePoint team sites, management of the document is secondary," Le Clair points out. "It simply becomes part of the work process."
Few ECM competitors—or even SharePoint fans—would say that the product is perfect. But if user uptake is a measure of the thirst for a truly context-centered content management system, then SharePoint is pointing the way toward workflow-conscious ECM.
Playing Well With Others
Kirshon & Co. is a 14-person CPA firm based in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., that has provided accounting, auditing, and taxation services to businesses, organizations, and individuals for more than 30 years. Kirshon began working toward a paperless environment in January 2007, earmarking $200,000 for the effort. Managing director Tammy Acard says that the firm put specialized accounting and business software programs in daily use at the firm in 2007, but shortcomings made them look for a more people-centered solution. "The document management feature was a problem for us; it was too slow. So we began looking for a workflow-centric solution in the fall of 2008," Acard says.
The company settled on Cabinet NG's Shared Access Filing Environment (CNG-SAFE), which provides an electronic filing system structured to handle all the documents used in the office. Acard was swayed by the drag-and-drop functionality that enables her team to process email directly from Microsoft Outlook, as well as the customizable aspects of the digital filing environment. "We implemented CNG-SAFE in January 2008 and found that we cut time spent in finding, copying, and filing documents by 50% during the year. In 2009 we expect to be spending 60%-65% less time in those tasks than we did in our prepaperless environment."
Acard credits the high user acceptance rate to the fact that the CNG platform is integrated with workflow, as well as with other platforms already in use at the firm. "I've been playing with the QuickBooks application a lot to see how that could work," she says.
The topic of integration with existing corporate IT systems is important. Eric Hoffert is CEO of ShareMethods, which provides on-demand document creation and management solutions targeted at sales and marketing teams. "The ease of integration with third-party platforms such as Oracle CRM or Salesforce.com is a key to our success," says Hoffert. "We also provide rich integration with email, because any people-centric document service should be powerful when it comes to options for the distribution of email about content." ShareMethods' users have access to any email client to receive notifications about new or changed content for this reason.
Key Players Get the Message
Those ECM vendors that Forrester's Le Clair refers to as "infrastructure players," such as EMC, IBM, and Oracle, seem to recognize that their repository management focus must expand to embrace the end-user mentality and ease of integration. They are addressing the challenge through acquisitions and their own product enhancements. "Virtually all ECM providers now have BPM components in their solution," observes Le Clair, citing Oracle's 2006 acquisition of Stellent as one such strategic acquisition. "It's a reflection of the maturity of the ECM market."
In October 2008, IBM announced a new "agile ECM portfolio" of product enhancements that cuts down on deployment time by using a service-oriented architecture approach. In March 2009, EMC debuted its Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS), a specification which uses web services and Web 2.0 interfaces to enable applications to interoperate with multiple ECM repositories from different vendors.
Many of the existing enterprise-oriented vendors are also partnering with newer players that have solutions that blur the line between social content and content management. Jive Software, which provides social business software and collaboration tools, has partnered with EMC, first under an internal deployment at EMC and now to enable community content management with customers, partners, and suppliers.
Other vendors such as Perceptive Software and Open Text have approached the ECM market from a business process-oriented stance; they too face challenges in ensuring that their products are scalable and easy to integrate, without losing that BPM focus. Perceptive's release of ImageNow 6.2 in October 2008 touted improvements in both ease of integration with third-party products as well as enhanced scalability and performance. In April 2009, Open Text acquired Vizible Corp., a privately held maker of digital media interface solutions, more evidence that corporate collaboration is now a must-have for ECM and BPM providers.
Of course there is no shortage of small players nipping at the heels of the established vendors, with built-in community collaboration and ease of integration at the forefront of their solutions. These players are blurring the lines between enterprise content management and what ShareMethod's Hoffert refers to as "social content networks" for the enterprise. One such company is GroupSwim, which offers on-demand social software that automatically categorizes corporate content for discovery and search, and was named "Cool Social Software Vendor" for 2009 by Gartner. GroupSwim co-founder Tom McCleary says the company's aim is to transform corporate documents that exist in archives, absent of context. "You need to establish context to make an artifact like a spreadsheet or an email or a report into a living document," he says. "People-centric document sharing is only a part of it; it's collaboration that provides contextually relevant information."