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Are file-sharing apps still giving ECM software a run for its money?

File-sharing apps are considered more user-friendly than ECM software. Will these apps continue to give ECM software a run for its money?

A healthy debate is going on in the information management space about whether file-sharing apps will continue to give enterprise content management systems a run for their money.

Industry watchers say that the usability of file-sharing services makes these apps more than just a glorified storage repository for files that can be accessed from anywhere. File-sharing apps like Box and Dropbox can win the adoption war over enterprise content management (ECM) systems, they say, because they are user friendly and involve just a few clicks to get the job done; moreover, they make it far easier for remote workers to share files without having to go through the cumbersome company firewall. Recent research might corroborate that notion: According to a TrackVia online survey of more than 1,000 employees, more than half admitted to using rogue apps to get their jobs done.

One pixel Usability tops the list of ECM vendor software
to-do’s

Proponents of ECM, on the other hand, say that file sharing is crude and feature-poor, as well as insecure for important data. ECM software is touted for its sophisticated project workflow tracking and audit trail capabilities. And its more sophisticated editing and collaboration possibilities make ECM a clear front runner for projects that have multiple, dispersed users and a need for good editing and tracking capabilities. Further, they argue, the future of ECM is in the cloud, where workers can get secure documents on-premises, behind the firewall, but also share collaboratively with third parties in the cloud.

Maybe the future is less of an either/or. AIIM New England chapter president and Holly Group consultant Steve Weissman talked with SearchContentManagement about ECM versus file-sharing applications and how companies should decide which route to take.

"The question to start with is, 'What business problem are you trying to solve?'" Weissman said, "because the answer as far as which way to go when it comes to file sharing and content sharing depends on what you're trying to accomplish. There is an equal chance of pursuing a strategy that will turn out to be overkill as one that -- what would you call it -- be underkill. Are you just sharing files … or are you file sharing because you actually want to collaborate on the creation of the content?"

He also noted that the lines are blurring between these two kinds of software. Weissman has much more to say on ECM software and file-sharing apps and whether hybrid ECM software could be the future.

For more, check out this podcast.

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This was last published in November 2014

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What we call file-sharing and ECM are different implementations of basically the same process - personal sharing of public resources. Files can contain contents and contents contain files. One defining advantage Content Management has over File-Sharing is the managed elimination of redundancy of contents that often characterizes File-Sharing. File-Sharing really sucks especially if you do a lot of closely related contents each carrying a special but insignificant purpose. Profession use strongly discourages File-Sharing because the overhead inherent with it far outweighs the benefits. On the other hand, ECM has the very irritating heritage of link management. How many times have users been stumped by outdated or misplaced links? The key advantage offered by Search engines can best be exploited in ECM, as Search goes speech-recognition the use of files will surely lose their organizing flavour giving way to borderless exploration and researches.
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