Predictions for 2014: Enterprise content management trends

Check out the 2014 enterprise content management trends that are poised to be game changers.

Technology developments such as mobility and cloud computing have upended traditional enterprise content management (ECM) trends and practices. Some industry observers predict that hybrid cloud-based ECM is the future, as companies want to be able to place some content in the cloud without compromising the security of the "company jewels." So they also want to leave some content protected behind the company firewall, protected by access rights and permissions.

Lauren HorwitzLauren Horwitz

The recent IDC report "The Future of Enterprise Content Management: Five ECM Trends in 2014" highlighted five developments in enterprise content management worth watching in 2014. Check out the 2014 IT trends that are poised to have an impact on the ECM software market.

1. Hybrid cloud-based ECM. According to research and analyst firms such as Gartner Inc. and Forrester Research Inc., hybrid cloud-based ECM is poised to be the way of the future -- even though adoption is still nascent.

"Hybrid models are pretty new in the marketplace," said Alan Weintraub, a principal enterprise architecture analyst at Forrester. While only half the vendors profiled in "The Forrester Wave: Enterprise Content Management, Q3 2013" report offer cloud-based software, Weintraub predicts that this number will grow steadily. In the future, "every vendor will offer a hybrid model," he said, based on enterprise needs. "Global enterprises are reluctant to move everything," Weintraub said. "[Fortune 1000 companies] want a hybrid cloud model. They want the assurance of having the corporate jewels in a vault they can manage, but also the flexibility and mobility of the cloud model," he said.

Business users are redefining the requirements for enterprise content management software.

Moreover, hybrid ECM will look more like the Dropbox apps of today to mimic the user-friendliness of these applications -- characteristics that the ECM software market has traditionally lacked.

But users are driving that train now, noted Ron Miller of the ECM website FierceContentManagement. According to Miller, business users are redefining the requirements for ECM software. They want "work applications to be as simple as those apps, and those altered expectations have influenced the content management industry."

2. Content apps that automate workflow. ECM users want software to help them automate tasks and optimize business processes. The true benefits of ECM software have been highlighted where the technology can create templates to automate tasks, define workflows and alert those responsible for the next step. Also important: moving tasks out of email and into a centralized repository without compromising communication. Capturing these mission-critical capabilities has become the holy grail of ECM software.

3. Integration with business applications. Managing content in a software island is all well and good, but it serves true business functions when it can be integrated with other business applications such as customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning software. MedTrials Inc., a contract research organization that conducts clinical trials on new medications, uses ECM software from M-Files, which integrates well with Microsoft applications. "We're actually in the process now of implementing Outlook Exchange as part of Office 365 to integrate with M-Files" said Brian Morgan, chief operating officer at MedTrials. "We're also pulling data between accounting with Microsoft Dynamics and SharePoint for some of our research site portals. The ability [to use M-Files] to share and publish data across different platforms is quite strong," Morgan said.

4. Mobility. Remote employees, third parties and workers on the road have placed serious pressure on the ECM software market to enable mobile capabilities. David Simpson, director of application development and integration at InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) in Atlanta, described the classic mobility scenario -- and how hybrid ECM may become a compelling answer to those issues.

For more on enterprise content management trends:

ECM and security: Three considerations

The top ECM software this year

SharePoint Online vs. Box

The perils and promise of cloud-based ECM

IHG needs to be able to share files with contractors and other third parties. It doesn't want to set up tens of logins and Merlin user IDs for nonemployees -- and doesn't want to give these workers access to corporate information behind the firewall. The traditional way "is cumbersome, requires a lot of paperwork, a lot of approval and you have to renew it every six months -- not a good solution," Simpson said. Instead, IHG uses Alfresco One, the hybrid cloud-based version of Alfresco Software Ltd.'s ECM. "We want to give documents … get approval, share back and forth, then break that link [when we are done sharing]," he said.

5. Information governance. The conversation has undoubtedly moved from managing documents and records to information governance. Myriad issues have forced this shift, from compliance requirements to new security threats to cloud computing and mobility to the increasingly boundaryless nature of enterprises today. As companies' efforts become more intradepartmental and cross-functional, technologies need to address a variety of requirements and fit the needs of a spectrum of departments, allowing them to interoperate as well.

"It's been evolving over time, but it's out in the forefront," said Leigh Isaacs, director of records management and information governance at the law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP at the ARMA Live 2013 conference. "We've really got an opportunity now to take what we know as information experts and not to focus just on the risk and compliance issues, but be able to leverage the information to help the business be more profitable."

These are IDC's top ECM trends for 2014. What are your picks? Comment below or write to me at lhorwitz@techtarget.com.

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