By John Newton, co-founder, Chairman and CTO, Alfresco
We are all keenly aware just how much technology is changing the way business operates. Mobile technology and cloud computing in particular have revolutionised our work habits and processes. In turn, our expectations of what we can do with technology have also changed. We now expect to work anywhere, at any time on pretty much any device we choose. So, whether I’m in the office working from a desktop computer or using my smartphone in Abu Dhabi airport, I now expect that I can continue working on exactly the same documents, despite the differences in location and device.
Enterprise Content Management (ECM) systems have long been the backbone for helping businesses on their way to doing this, providing a place to store, move and manage information within the organisation. However, many of the original – or legacy – ECM systems have not kept pace with changes in the way we work, failing to keep up with the technology that underpins those changes. ECM is now in a state of disruption with four major trends forcing a reshape of the entire field and mandating a new approach to managing content.
#1 New Ways of Working
The work-anywhere, anytime, on any device mode of getting business done puts a lot of pressure on IT teams to support a new class of connected employees, whose expectations for ease of use have been shaped by consumer web services. Information workers want to find documents as easily as they can browse for books online. The approach to work by Millennials in particular is shaped by these expectations. Over the next five years, organisations will increasingly need a solution that will support this more dynamic working style as, according to BPW Foundation, Millennials are projected to make up 75% of the global workforce by 2020. Currently most legacy ECM systems, which are already in failure mode due to poor user adoption, can’t keep up and lack support for inter-company sharing and remote access.
#2 Emergence of the Extended Enterprise
Organisations are extending their value chains and engaging more deeply with external companies, such as suppliers and distributors. It’s becoming increasingly common to see product design, marketing, sales and service performed by remote contract workers and vendors that function as if they were part of the client firm. However, this type of collaboration only works if there is controlled, two-way information flow across organisational boundaries. Legacy ECM, historically delimited by the firewall, does not serve modern enterprises which are not bound by the limits of IT infrastructure. This approach constrains productivity and growth as mobile workers struggle with VPN issues and external partners lack the access they need to collaborate effectively. The extended enterprise requires a new approach to ECM that supports easy, controlled sharing of content and process inside and outside the organisation.
#3 Massive Explosion in Digital Content
We live in a data centric world, where the sheer volume of information and content flooding IT systems is leaving many organisations battling to manage it. This tidal wave of content being created isn’t going to go away anytime soon, IDC is projecting a stunning 50 times growth in digital content from 2010 to 2020, with 90% of it in unstructured information such as e-mails, documents and video. The rise of social media and collaboration tools has also created a new class of enterprise content that is shared with a supplier, the video of a failed piece of equipment and its geo-location data, and the photograph of a competitor’s shelf display with resulting comment thread. It’s crucial that the new generation of ECM must put content in context so that people and processes work more efficiently and effectively.
#4 New IT Infrastructure
Sometimes trying to change enterprise IT is like changing direction of a supertanker: it changes slowly, but it is definitely on the move. The IT in today’s businesses is being transformed by the adoption of public and private cloud along with “hybrid” cloud/on-premises deployments of core business systems. In tandem, the IT department has to manage support across a variety of new mobile platforms to meet growing demand from workers. The problem for old ECM systems is that they are trapped in software architectures from an earlier, more homogenous era. Their platforms are generally not built for cloud scale and offer only limited mobile support. By contrast, a modern ECM system needs to support the full range of deployment options and device types.
The Need for a New Approach to ECM
Looking at these four simultaneous trends as a whole reveals a completely changed world for enterprise content management. New workers with new expectations are doing their jobs in new ways – while the volume of content explodes and the traditional IT architecture falls away. Next-generation ECM systems must support the now commonplace “work anywhere” norms as well as seamless, secure collaboration with external business partners. ECM needs to put companies in charge of their content strategy and provide flexible, hybrid deployment options to support their needs. Companies that adopt a new approach to ECM will be able to unlock new business value from their content and empower people to do and share great work.
About the author:
John Newton, Co-founder, CTO and Chairman of Alfresco, has had one of the longest and most influential careers in content management. In 1990, John co-founded, designed and led the development of Documentum®, the leader in content management acquired by EMC®.
For the next ten years, he invented many of the concepts widely used in the industry today. In addition, he built Documentum’s marketing and professional services organizations in Europe. John has also been an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Benchmark Capital and was one of the founding engineers at Ingres® where he helped develop the world’s first commercial relational database.