I actually started writing a blog post way back in November but for various reasons, mainly work and Christmas, it got delayed and delayed. I was going to talk about my thoughts on the latest Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Content Management and specifically about the new definition which Gartner surfaced in that MQ:

ECM is a set of services and microservices, embodied either as and integrated product suite or as separate applications that share common APIs and repositories, to exploit diverse content types, and serve multiple constituencies and numerous use cases across an organisation.

Since then though has been a fair bit of activity on Social Media and Blogs about ECM, with one particular post from an ex colleague who is very knowledgable in the ECM space and is now a Research Director at Gartner prompting a fair bit of interest:

The Death of ECM and the Birth of Content Services

I actually like the way the blog explains the approach for Services, and especially the 4 goals of ECM, as I believe the above definition of ECM is too technical and wouldn’t help a business person to understand what they would get out of an ECM ‘implementation’.

Another thing which was interesting was the parallels between this ‘new’ definition and some discussions contained within a number of blogs, including my own, a few years ago. Here are a sample of those blogs:

https://ecmobservations.wordpress.com/2010/02/18/one-repository-to-rule-them-all/

https://bigmenoncontent.com/2010/05/11/the-problem-with-e-in-ecm-part-iii-why-c-is-the-new-e/

And an even older one from Pie:

https://wordofpie.com/2007/08/09/redefining-enterprise-content-management/

I did a little bit more digging on the Gartner Site and one of their research articles explains a little more “Reinventing ECM: Introducing Content Services Platforms and Applications”. Whilst retaining the technical explanation this article also explains further on what the platforms, applications and components are. The description of these three ‘tiers’ of the Content Services  add more value than the shorter definition which is quoted earlier in this blog post. However I would suggest that there isn’t anything startlingly new in this approach. For a number of years I have been involved in deliveries where these concepts have existed:

–          Platforms – many organisations have one or more ‘platforms’ for content management needs, typically more than one

–          Applications – I’ve seen a number of situations where organisations have implemented content centric applications which have been supported by underlying ECM technology, sometimes this underlying technology has been used in other situations and sometimes it has not

–          Components – this is perhaps the best example but in various implementations I have seen examples where a specific service is required, e.g. to render a document to PDF, and this is something which has been added to the solution as a third party component which could, if required, be invoked elsewhere

So why does this deserve a blog post? Well there is no doubt that things are changing in the ECM world, with the rise of new products in recent years (e.g. Box), recent acquisitions (most notably OpenText and EMC ECD), the emergence of standard specifications for Content Services (CMIS) as well as the emergence of the Cloud. The blog posts from a few years ago were talking about a future state which we are now in, and yes there is change but some of the principles which organisations need to adopt when looking at their Content Strategy remain consistent. Technology has evolved over the years and will continue to evolve, one only has to look back 15-20 years when ECM moved from thick client technologies to be more web based to see how this happened in the past. Organisations and implementers need to be cognisant of the change in technology to make sure that they are delivering the best value given the technology approaches they have available to them.

This is not the Death of ECM as has been predicted elsewhere, there is no doubt a shift in the way ECM will be delivered and consumed by organisations. However. There is still a need for organisations to understand the content which contributes to their business success. There is still a need for organisations to manage that content in a way which is compliant to the rules and regulations relevant to their business and location. There is still a need for organisations to help their employees, partners and customers to find and use information in an optimal way. There is still a need for organisations to understand the content they hold and to see if they can extract value from that content to add value to their business. The question, which was discussed on Twitter last week, is whether we need a new label for the changes which we will see in the way organisations manage their content. That can be a topic for another day, as well as some consideration of how organisations evolve what they currently to have to something which embraces the shift in ECM.