With more companies adopting enterprise content management (ECM) software to streamline their workflow, analysts from Gartner and Forrester have evaluated the latest offerings and identified the standouts.

According to the Association for Information and Image Management, ECM software enables companies to "capture, manage, store, preserve and deliver content and documents related to the organizational process."

Companies manage content through ECM tools to communicate and collaborate more easily, share information and make it easier to locate because information is saved in a central location. Because one ECM tool may not meet all of an organization's needs, it is important to identify what those needs are and evaluate the components of each tool to find the best match.

Gartner's top six ECM software tools

Gartner's September 2013 "Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Content Management" report outlined the main components of an ECM suite, including document management, image-processing applications, workflow/business process management, records management, Web content management, social content and extended components such as digital asset management and email management.

Gartner analyzed and divided 23 vendors that met revenue, product offering and market requirements into four quadrants. Each vendor was evaluated based on its potential and ability to sell and support its products. Gartner named IBM, Microsoft, Hyland Software Inc., OpenText Corp., EMC Corp. and Perceptive Software LLC as the standouts.

Each tool has strengths, according to the report. IBM, Hyland and Microsoft have offerings that integrate well with their other applications. Microsoft has created an ecosystem around SharePoint, making it easy to integrate with other tools, while Hyland uses the Application Enabler technology that allows its ECM to work with other enterprise resource management systems. Both IBM and Perceptive Software were commended for ease of use and customer focus. OpenText excelled with its new products and services, including its social collaboration and enterprise file sync and share tools.

But even the standouts had weaknesses, according to Gartner. IBM, OpenText and Perceptive Software had redundancies among products that created customer confusion. To improve user adoption, Microsoft needs to enhance usability and comfort level. Hyland's challenge is to expand its geographic focus and increase cloud offerings, while EMC needs to look at additional cloud delivery options to reduce costs.

Forrester's top 13 tools

"The Forrester Wave: Enterprise Content Management, Q3 2013" also reviewed vendors in ECM, evaluating them in three major content types: foundational (i.e., records management, archiving, workflow), business (i.e., document management, team collaboration) and transactional (i.e., e-forms, customer communication management).

The final 13 vendors in this assessment offered strong functionality in four areas and offered the majority of components in an ECM suite, such as document management, document imaging and records management. These finalists provided information technology management and demonstrated a proven record of sales and satisfaction among customers.

Forrester said the majority of these vendors were either leaders or strong contenders. EMC, IBM and OpenText led in all areas to provide a one-stop solution for customers seeking software from one vendor. The remaining tools had strengths in specialized areas.

For more on ECM software

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The top ECM stories of 2013

Using SharePoint e-discovery for ECM

With the acquisition of Autonomy, Hewlett-Packard Co. enhanced its ECM abilities. But the report said that HP's lack of imaging and enterprise management capabilities affected performance in the transactional area.

Oracle Corp. and Microsoft had strong showings in business content technologies; however, Oracle lagged in the transactional area, while Microsoft lagged in the imaging and output management technologies.

Hyland, Newgen Software Technologies Ltd., Perceptive and Xerox Corp. excelled in team collaboration, records management and mobile computing -- all important emerging trends for ECM -- but their lack of a global presence left them out of the leadership position.

Unisys Corp. and M-Files Inc. provide niche services. Unisys focuses on solutions for transactional content, while M-Files provides ECM for external regulatory agencies. Alfresco Software Inc., the 13th company, focuses on foundational and business content, but not the transactional content. Without the ability to provide a wider base of products, these companies are relegated to the Strong Performers or Contenders arena.

Making your own evaluation

What's the best ECM software for your organization? Should you discount a tool that didn't make it to the top of the Quadrant or Leader board? Not necessarily, said Apoorv Durga, a senior analyst at Real Story Group.

"We don't believe that any tool is 'best overall.' What's good for one customer may not be as good for another," Durga said. "Evaluate how you would use the tool. A tool that's good in document management may not be as good in record management and vice versa."

Examine your scenarios and compare them with the strengths of the products, Durga said. Once you've done that, compare them based on functionality and technology.

"The implementation and user experience needs of every customer are different, and so, even for a specific feature (say, document management), different organizations could find completely different tools as best for their needs," Durga advised.

The experts have spoken; now it's your turn. Please comment on these rankings with the comment feature below or write to Lauren Horwitz at lhorwitz@techtarget.com with feedback on ECM offerings.


This was first published in December 2013

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