The 2006 ECM West Conference: A Trial from AIIM

  • Written By: Hans Mercx
  • Published: December 15 2006

The Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) hosted its first enterprise content management (ECM) West conference this year in San Jose, California (US) to educate organizations on the latest technologies in content and information management and to provide a forum where vendors and peers can interact. This conference is a trial for AIIM, as in previous years the association organized two major trade shows—one on the east coast of the US and one in Europe, but never on the west coast of the US. AIIM established an agenda aimed to encourage both niche and major vendors alike to exhibit during this conference, but mostly AIIM tried to attract a variety of users interested in both how to capture content as well as mastering the content and the current technology standards that are used in the industry. This article will examine the key topics and the success of the AIIM West conference.

AIIM background

The association was founded in 1943 as the National Microfilm Association, and later in the 1960s became the Association for Information and Image Management. AIIM defines ECM as "the tools and technologies used to capture, to manage, to store, to preserve, and to deliver content and documents related to organizational processes. ECM enables four key business drivers: continuity, collaboration, compliance, and costs." These business drivers support organizations in strategy planning the life cycle of their content. Today AIIM is considered a global, independent representative of the ECM industry for users, vendors, resellers, and consulting companies, as it remains impartial and objective and educates participants in content and information management. AIIM supports its members through market education, professional development, and industry advocacy.

AIIM delivers market education through events and information services that provide users with information on how to specify, to select, and to deploy ECM solutions. Examples of these services are

  • AIIM E-DOC Magazine, a monthly, printed publication containing articles, case studies, and lessons-learned, and with over 30,000 subscribers in North America;
  • wall posters on a variety of topics such as records management, compliance, and more;
  • AIIM webinars providing educational sessions on key issues and trends;
  • online Solution Centers that provide online visitors with articles, presentations, research studies, etc.

AIIM primarily focuses on ECM, and over the last sixty years has helped users and organizations understand the issues and challenges of managing content, particularly documents and records related to business processes. Through its education programs, AIIM increases organizations' knowledge about the challenges they must deal with, and by providing this service, improves the success rate of ECM implementations.

Through its professional development platform, AIIM provides an educational roadmap for the industry that includes several programs such as an ECM & enterprise records management (ERM) certificate program, the AIIM Expo and Conference, and ECM solutions seminars. These events assist in developing standards within the industry, creating a clearer overview for clients to recognize knowledgeable consultants and implementers, and providing a more detailed market education.

AIIM creates peer networking opportunities through AIIM Chapters and AIIM Partners. These forums provide opportunities for attendees (users, vendors, and consultants) to share experiences with one another, to learn from each others' mistakes, and to increase the awareness and success rate of projects within the market. AIIM Chapters is a network of thirty-nine chapters in North America providing educational and networking opportunities at the local level for AIIM members, while AIIM Partners is a global network of organizations similar to AIIM in their commitment to help grow the knowledge and success of the industry.

By creating standards in the industry and writing research reports on user trends and perceptions throughout the year, AIIM serves as an industry advocate for the ECM industry. The association is an American National Standards Institute (ANSI)-accredited, standards development organization. AIIM also holds the secretariat for the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) committee, which focuses on information management compliance issues, TC171.

ECM West conference

ECM has become a compound product suite on which AIIM tries to shed light during its conferences. The ECM West Conference & Expo (which took place from November 6 8 in San Jose, California [US] this past year), just as its east coast equivalent, the AIIM Conference and Expo, introduced attendees to state of the art technology in data capture, storage, and management. AIIM did an excellent job in creating a schedule of presentations that educated the audience on a variety of topics, from compliance and standards to information integration, convenience, and accessibility within the increasingly broad and complex universe of ECM. Unfortunately, attendance fell below the expected numbers.

The ECM West conference emphasized key elements within ECM, such as digital imaging, digital asset management, and storage and preservation of content. As the market for vendors' full ECM suite offerings is consolidating, vendors need to be able to distinguish themselves through these niche areas. Best-of-breed solutions are emerging in the market. These viable niche players such as Kofax, docHarbor or Crownpeak can join efforts to provide all the ECM functionality clients will need to compete with such giants as EMC/Documentum, IBM/FileNet, and Interwoven. John Mancini, president of AIIM and one of the keynote speakers of the conference, confirmed these phenomena when he discussed the future of ECM and the feeling of vertigo as the ECM industry morphs and changes once again. Moreover, most ECM suite vendors consist of a combination of acquisitions and mergers of smaller players, and often the integration among the various products and solutions has not been completed, or the products do not work as smoothly as these vendors intended. Consequently, user organizations are considering best-of-breed solution providers, and are either undertaking the integration themselves or hiring third parties.

With respect to content and functionality, the evolution of the Internet is still at its early stages. People might think that the Internet has come far in the last decade, but the capabilities and opportunities still seem endless. Organizations and users will have much more opportunity to benefit from the Internet in the future, both socially and economically. John Patrick, president of Attitude LLC and former vice president of IBM's Internet Technology, echoed this in his keynote address how current Internet technology seems primitive compared to the rapid evolution that the Internet is about to make. In anticipation of these changes, organizations should invest in ECM technologies to meet the technological and societal changes that are underway as the Internet becomes increasingly "on-demand", meeting users' expectations and enhancing the customer experience, all of which could result in higher revenues and profits for the savvy.

Online search mechanisms are no longer the last place people go to find information, but rather the first. Matthew Glotzback of Google Enterprise explained that the concept of "search", in both organizations and in users' personal lives, has increased in importance. Because of this shift, organizations should reorganize how they store content, breaking down the silos of enterprise content to enable broader search capabilities. A good example is Oracle, with its revolutionary concept of providing the ability to store all content, including metadata, in one database instead of storing content in separate repositories (as most ECM vendors still do). This enables more efficient and intuitive search capabilities. These new technologies will improve search results and make search even more prominent in the near future.

The ECM West Exhibit Hall reinforced the topics investigated during the different tracks. As the presentations during the tracks delved into such topics as backfile conversion, storage and retrieval, optical character recognition (OCR), and search and compliance issues, the attendees received hands-on experience on how the technology enabled these subjects through demonstrations and by talking to vendors. Overall, the Exhibit Hall provided an excellent opportunity for users to compare, to contrast, and to evaluate ECM solutions.

Conference Tracks

ECM West featured a variety of conference sessions, bringing different content areas to the attention of its audience. The tracks offered attendees an overview of different industry trends, case studies, and best practices. The program offered sessions across seven information-rich tracks:

  1. The Basics,
  2. Compliance,
  3. Search & Information Access,
  4. Business Process Management,
  5. Master Data Management & Integration,
  6. E-mail Management, and
  7. Standards.

Two tracks that stood apart from the others were the Compliance track and the Search & Information Access track. Each had good presentations and addressed the issues that currently arise in the market.

The popularity of the compliance track demonstrates that organizations are still concerned about such regulatory legislation as the US Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), Health Insurance Profitability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), or Design Criteria Standard for Electronic Records Management Software Applications (DoD 5015.2-STD). Failure to comply still poses the threat of lawsuits for organizations and termination for employees. During the compliance tracks, the importance of records management for organizations became clear. Records management focuses on indexing, classifications, and discovery, especially with respect to search capabilities. The preservation and access control of content will help organizations in their efforts to comply with the regulations.

The Search & Information Access track showed the priority that organizations and individuals place on finding the right information. Whether looking internally for documents or externally on the Internet for a topic, most users begin with individual searches. The fact that search becomes users' initial action indicates the importance search has for organizations and vendors. Moreover, organizations face the problem of information overload without having the right knowledge available. Search optimization and data classification on both structured and unstructured data represents a critical vehicle to improve the information life cycle management. The presentations did not address the issue of slowdowns in productivity by not being able to find the right information quickly and the resulting loss of revenue. Such a discussion would have not only benefited attendees, but also the senior executives of their organizations.


The ECM West conference was a trial for AIIM. Although the number of attendees and exhibitors fell below expectations, overall the conference was well received. It presented attendees with an overview of the ECM market and its emerging trends (such as the consolidations of Oracle and Stellent, IBM and FileNet, and OpenText and Hummingbird). It is also showed the emergence of several niche players such as Sitecore for web content management, and Upside for contract management. The presence of Hyland Software and Adobe shows companies such as these are working hard on capturing more momentum in the market. ECM is considered among the top three topics of the most important strategic information technology (IT) trends for 2007 within organizations. Hopefully AIIM, ECM users, and exhibitors will invest more effort in subsequent ECM West shows so that it becomes an equivalent third conference location in the future.

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