Enterprise content management (ECM) systems are increasingly becoming full blown enterprise, integrated solutions. They are developing suites of products to fulfill the current needs and demands of user organizations.
There are two significant developments in this market. First, large vendors, such as Microsoft and Xythos, have introduced a scaled down version of ECM suites, focusing on ease of use, fast return on investment (ROI), and limited functionality. Such solutions are emerging in the current market providing improved productivity to organizations.
Second, there is a market segment that need everything to be integrated with capabilities that cater to different business processes and applications, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM). This is being accomplished by introducing market standards such as Java Specification Requests (JSP) 168, a portlet specification for application program interfaces (API), and 170, a content repository API. Vendors that focus on full suites include EMC/Documentum, FileNet, IBM, and Interwoven.
Segmenting the Current Content Management Market
There is a wide variety of vendors in the market that have content management (CM) solutions. At first, it may be overwhelming to compare and categorize vendors with each other. A lot of vendors have a CM solution that does not fall in the category of ECM, because they are missing certain components of an ECM vendor. Several vendors, like Tridion, Vignette, Percussion, and Fatwire, focus more on web content management (WCM).
Web content management incorporates content creation, review, and approval processes, to publish content on web sites. They can be public web sites (Internet) or corporate, private web sites (intranet or extranet). WCM uses extensible markup language (XML), templates, and style sheets for content creation. It is often browser-based, making it user-friendly allowing non-technical employees to contribute web site content. These solutions also have integrated document management (IDM) functionality to organize and manage the documents within the organizations, library services (including check-in/check-out functionality, version control, collaboration, and user or document level security), and search options within the repository. Workflow is also an integrated part of document and web content management that defines the process of document approval and publication.
Enterprise content management, on the other hand, has several more components within a suite. Besides IDM, WCM, and workflow, ECM suites have the following extra modules:
Records management (RM) for the life cycle of documents. Documents are maintained from creation to publication, to archiving and even destruction. Records can be defined as a wide range of documents, like e-mail, faxes, scanned documents, legacy applications, and whole web pages.
Digital asset management (DAM) for rich media files. This includes text, audio, video, graphics, and photos. DAM is used for large amounts of video, audio, and photo environments, often in marketing or brand management.
Digital imaging (DI) for document capture and repository. Documents are often captured through scanning by vendors like Kofax or Abode. Faxes can automatically be converted into digital documents, and paper documents can be digitalized.
Document collaboration for employees to share documents. It gives employees or teams the option to share documents and open discussions about the content. Document collaboration provides users the ability to work together on the same content, without blocking the library services such as check-in/check-out.
There are some other smaller components that are included in ECM suites, but they are of less importance to the market. These may include e-forms, which enables customers fill out forms on the Web through XML data models. Another feature is e-mail archiving, which copies e-mails, including their attachments, in a repository with meta-tags, which are important for search functionality within the ECM suites. Meta-tags categorize e-mails, so information is stored in a fashionable order, and can easily be retrieved at a later date.
Focus Areas in ECM
Over the last few years, ECM vendors have expanded their functionality and capabilities by partnering with niche players in the market, developing the features themselves, or acquiring and integrating the capabilities of niche vendors.
When we look into the future and see what things the market is asking for and what vendors are focusing on, several subjects that come to mind. We will touch on a few topics that we see as being market scopes. A market scope is a view of the market and where vendors are currently focused. We'll use this Donald Norman's categorization, to identify the phase each topic is in, in the market life cycle.
(Norman, Donald A. The Invisible Computer. The MIT Press: 1998)
- Web services are increasingly being used. They consist of components and resources that are used by ECM suites to communicate and integrate with other content rich applications. Often Web services, which are becoming the standard in the market, are used in third-party portals and portlets and can enable businesses to integrate more easily with third-parties. Web services are in a late majority stage within the ECM life cycle.
iECM, which stands for interoperable enterprise content management was started by The Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), the international authority on ECM. AIIM started a collaborative work space to create an international standard composed of service oriented architecture (SOA) and Web services, with the cooperation of organizations such as EMC, Adobe, and the US Federal Aviation Authority (US FAA). AIIM's objective is to produce a single set of functional requirements for process-oriented, Web services that enable disparate enterprise content management functions and systems, portals, and enterprise applications to interoperate. It enables content (unstructured and semi-structured data) to be exchanged, integrated, and managed securely between systems. This standardization is still in the innovators cycle.
- Information extraction is the process of retrieving elements of data from unstructured data, often text. Vendors will focus on this feature in the future to enable the end user to map and consolidate data, give easier access to information, and even provide competitive intelligence. Verity, one of the market leaders in search software, has already integrated this capability in its technology. This feature is still in the early adapters' cycle.
- Advanced search and information retrieval is becoming a greater necessity for organizations because large amounts of content is divided among different applications and repositories, making it harder to find the right information on time. Vendors, such as Verity and Autonomy, are addressing this by offering the capability to search multiple repositories using keywords, and semantic and syntactic queries. A sophisticated taxonomy, which is a hierarchical classification of information components, plays a big part in making this functionality work. Advanced search and information retrieval is also still in the early adapters' cycle.
- Content integration is the capability to combine (part of) the content of several repositories spread out through the organization, to provide content in one repository used by ECM suites. It offers better interoperability between organizations, departments, and processes. This concept is mostly used by vendors that have integration architectures such as IBM and Day. This is in a late stage of early majority, probably moving soon to late majority.
- JSR 168 and 170 are specifications defined by the Java Community. Java Specification Requests (JSR) 168 and 170 specifically focus on the ECM market. JSR 168 enables interoperability among portlets and portals. This specification defines a set of APIs for portlets and addresses standardization for preferences, user information, portlet requests and responses, deployment packaging, and security. JSR 170 specifies a standard API to access content repositories in Java independent of implementation.
These standards being adapted by the majority of the ECM vendors, which will increase the functionality to integrate between applications. Even though JSR 168 has been adapted by more users than JSR 170, both can be classified as being in the early majority phase.
- Rich site summary, or really simple syndication (RSS) is a method of providing news or other content through RSS feeders that bypass the Web browser. RSS is an application that uses XML technology and is often used in web blogs and for less important, but nice-to-know content. It is highly adaptability and is easy to use in environments where content changes rapidly. The media market, in particular, will be interested in using this technology to spread news to its readership.
- Personalization, through portal software provides tailored content based on the role of the user, the user's previous visits, or other statistics. Through this technology, organizations are capable of targeting content more precisely on the needs and interests of their employees or their visitors. Vendors such as BEA, Plumtree, BroadVision, and Hummingbird have already included this with their solutions. Personalization is already the majority stage, but most ECM vendors are still in early majority stages of including it in their solutions.
- Integrated document archive and retrieval systems (IDARS) is a combination of document management systems and records management systems. It provides a system for storage, managing, retrieving, and distributing content in any form, from documents to digital images. This technology has been around for a decade, and in the beginning, databases were put on laser discs. Currently, the Web is often used as a common source to access databases. This provides organizations with the ability to retrieve information, and store high volumes of content in a more efficiently and in a fashionable order., which is often critical to meet regulatory requirements for legislations like the US Sarbanes-Oxley Act. IDARS is currently in a late majority phase, but still very demanding in the market.
- Knowledge management is not really a module of ECM, but it uses the information that is provided by ECM suites. Knowledge management is a separate solution, used at the business level to provide an overview of an organization's information. It is more than just content; it is actually information that is useful to the company. This technology has been around for several years, and is becoming an important part of integration with ECM suites. It will become an additional module for ECM suites, made available by the vendor or by integrating with a third-party solution.
Even though ECM suites are becoming increasingly more mature, there are still several areas where current vendors, such as FileNet, EMC/Documentum, IBM, and Interwoven don't have in-depth functionality. In the near future, we will see these and other vendors grow their capabilities to offer fuller suites.
Large ECM vendors will acquire more niche vendors to complement their current solutions, expand their capabilities, and provide a better, more integrated solution to their customers. Customers will choose full ECM suites over best of breeds solutions, despite standard methods, technologies, and services, because integration between various components within best of breed solutions is fragile and requires more customization than already-integrated solutions.