A new term circulated around the Twittersphere a few days ago – Easy Content Management.  Playing on the “ECM” acronym for Enterprise Content Management the premise, from Alfresco’s Summit event, was that we should be offering end-users “Easy” rather than “Enterprise” when it comes to content management.

The term may have swum out of my consciousness except for that, on the same day, I happened to attend a webinar from EMC launching Syncplicity’s new features . In addition, this reminded me of an article about new workflow and metadata features for Box, published on the FierceContentManagement web site a few months ago.

So, what is “Easy Content Management”? I believe the starting point for such a description is the simple, end-user focused, share-and-sync type products such as Box, Syncplicity, Dropbox and Google Drive to name a few. These all set out to be easy-to-use and offer features to manage your content, but traditionally what’s on offer has been very limited and document management functionality was almost non-existent.

However, more advanced features are now being added to these “easy” products. These include document management functionality typically found in more enterprise-grade products such as custom metadata, workflow, Information Rights Management, in-place preview and editing of document and advanced security policies.

Ironically, the juxtaposition to this is that as these products try to make themselves more enterprise, the traditional Enterprise products are trying to make themselves more easy.  This is evident in products like EMC’s xCeleratated Composition Platform (xCP) and Alfresco’s Workdesk that focus more on building solutions and less on providing traditional document management or ECM functionality. Indeed these products mirror a general trend by ECM vendors to focus more on providing vertical solutions and less on general purpose (for want of a better phrase)  content management.

So is “easy” for everyone? No is perhaps the obvious answer. There are going to be users out there who need full-fat, red-blooded, throw-the-kitchen-sink-at-it document and records management. The engineering document controller with his transmittals and distribution matrix; the pharma user compiling her FDA submissions. These kinds of use cases are not going away, but then they typically form only a small percentage of an enterprise’s possible use of ECM. And that’s where “easy” has the power to transform the typical user experience and drive up ECM adoption rates within an organisation.

There is no doubt the vendors coming from the easy end of the scale have been disruptive to the traditional ECM market place. Users now expect a simpler, less intrusive and more intuitive ECM experience. Traditional ECM vendors are now responding to this by removing complexity from their end-user products whilst retaining their full-functionality offerings for those that need it.  The Easy CM vendors are building more functionality into their products to fill the most obvious document management requirements gaps. Ultimately, as these two streams converge, it’s the end-user who is the winner, with the option to choose a range of ECM flavours to best meet their needs