I am an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) bigot. I admit it without shame. If ECM had a color, I would bleed it. If ECM had a flag, I would salute it. I was there when the term “ECM” was invented  and remember how we struggled with the term because we knew it wasn’t about the technology it was always about the solutions. ECM was forced into becoming a “platform” because it proved to be one of the very best ways to deliver real business solutions especially when combined with Business Process Management – and because I know these solutions help customers make remarkable improvements in their businesses, improve customer service and save millions of dollars I will defend our birthright to the death…….. Or at least until someone proves me wrong!

You must be wondering: “What has got this guy in such a lather?” Well, since you asked, I’ll tell you.  It is because other technologies are encroaching on ECM’s sovereign territory as a solutions platform that can scale across a wide variety of business needs and provide scalable and reusable technology assets. The problem is we’re simply not defending our ground as fervently and passionately as we should and we’re allowing less compelling technologies to take the high ground in digital content and associated customer experience management processes. Did you ever see anyone say they increased customer service 100% with Dropbox, or achieve $20mn in cost savings with Yammer . This is why I am in a bit of a lather!

I just finished reading a series of interesting articles from McKinsey that deliver a very compelling case for companies to focus technology investment today on the Digital Customer Experience (the articles cover more ground than this, so I might suggest that you read them yourselves if you want the whole story). For my purpose, it’s the tremendous opportunity for business transformation enable by digitization that McKinsey is calling out that simply screams “ECM” at me.

My concern comes from the perspective that I believe I’m part of a dwindling number of ECM subject matter experts and that this knowledge and skill is going to be needed more in the future than ever before. The fact that the average business executive will not read those McKinsey articles and say to themselves “I think ECM will help me solve these problems” is as much a marketing problem for our industry as anything else. McKinsey doesn’t use the articles to tell you what technology to buy, and as such they don’t make a case for or against ECM – but we all know ECM vendors across the world are abdicating the digital content and customer experience solutions market to technology providers who know a lot less about customer business problem, sell products that are not as flexible or configurable and frankly don’t have the war wounds and scars needed to be able to implement best practice solutions that will help re-engineer business processes for a new digital age! In my opinion the ECM industry needs to step up and position itself as a critical technology platform in the transformation of a customer’s digital experience. And frankly I am thinking it doesn’t matter if we call these technologies ECM or even Information Management any more – I am more worried that we are focused at being crystal clear in helping customers digitize their critical business moments to help transform their processes for the future  – and in my opinion we are collectively doing a poor job!.

It seems to me that the voice of the ECM industry is ceding the high ground of delivering complete high value solutions.  We all know ECM is more than just an easy to deploy and use scalable repository in the Cloud – that’s the easy bit – and as we as an industry rush to address our long standing Achilles heel of deployment and usability challenges while also catching the Cloud wave we should not cede the ground of delivering real business solutions, especially in the growing market of transforming the digital customer experience as described by McKinsey.  And yes, I’m fully lathered up now and I hope a few of you other ECMers are as well!

Brent Bussell – Managing Partner at UNDRSTND Group   

92 replies
  1. robert blatt
    robert blatt says:

    Very well put ! The ECM industry provides all the tools that enable organizations to store and manage their records in a trustworthy fashion. While there is a dwindling number of smaller vendors, the biggest problem the industry is facing is more from the “snake-oil” approach of “sure our solution can do that” rather than utilizing these technologies as they were intended. Integrate to other platforms as needed but at least get your content, both on the network and in email under retention controls. It is shocking at the number of people who don’t understand that these technologies when coupled with adequate change and process management, can be further used to streamline business activities down the road. Fantastic article and i am glad there are other ECM experts out there along with us still focusing on ensuring client success which can only happen when you have the right tools and understand what problems you are addressing. I look forward to your next article.

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