Documents and the information they contain are the stuff of business activities. Not surprisingly, the ECM marketplace continues to evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of competitive business operations.
Enteprise content management products reflect their roots. Some begin as document management applications, intent on simply capturing final form documents -- both hard copy and electronic -- and providing a shared repository for storing, organizing, accessing and distributing the digital artifacts on demand. Other products focus on the complete content lifecycle -- creating and reviewing, while managing the multiple versions of a document, and then storing the published version within an authoritative repository. A third set of products considers the purpose of content to the transformation of digital business and focuses on the content services associated with creating and managing business documents.
Selecting the best ECM software for a company depends on business goals and objectives, organizational culture and standard operating procedures. Organizations have a range of choices. Here's a snapshot of eight important vendors to consider while making a buying decision.
Alfresco Digital Business Platform channels content flows
Alfresco provides ECM, business process management (BPM) and records management (RM) capabilities to enterprises. The company's Digital Business Platform consists of three products: Alfresco Content Services, Alfresco Process Services and Alfresco Governance Services. This platform deploys either on premises or in the cloud running on AWS, depending on preferences.
Alfresco combines open source tools with support services rather than turnkey applications. It provides technology partners with the building blocks for delivering modular and scalable applications, designed around the needs of individual organizations.
As an open source vendor, the company also delivers Alfresco Community Edition and Activiti, designed for developers who freely want to extend its ECM platform and BPM tool sets.
Key capabilities of Alfresco Digital Platform include:
- access controls for defining user and group permissions to manage document access;
- checkout/check-in library services;
- version controls to track changes and enable rollbacks;
- content sharing for team collaboration;
- document lifecycle management from creation to disposition;
- RM that conforms to predefined industry standards;
- document management stewardship for business-critical documents;
- mobile content management to synchronize document access;
- process management tools to streamline cross-company business processes;
- social media interfaces for YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr and SlideShare; and
- workflow to help developers, administrators and nontechnical business users design and manage business processes.
Alfresco maintains a network of systems integrators, independent software developers (ISVs), infrastructure providers and resellers that design and deliver the enterprise applications tailored to specific customer requirements.
Box Platform delivers cloud-native content services for the extended enterprise
Founded in 2005 and born as a cloud-native provider, Box has steadily transformed its initial file sync and share into an enterprise-grade content services platform. Box Platform provides a content hub for organizing, securing and sharing content across the extended enterprise. The platform becomes the repository of record where content is stored once, managed systematically and produced on demand to empower business results.
Box Platform supports multiple approaches to cloud content management, content sharing and collaboration. As a distributed platform, it is not limited to the checkout/check-in library services and hierarchical access controls of a centralized ECM repository.
Box provides seamless connectivity to Microsoft Office apps, email attachment support for Outlook and Gmail and native support for G Suite apps -- Google Docs, Sheets and Slides. Box features an integrated workflow product -- Box Relay -- that automates and standardizes document workflows within the repository.
Box Platform is a consistent architecture for managing almost any type of content on a large scale. Beyond text, numbers and images -- the familiar components of business documents -- content types include audio, video, 3D files and many other kinds of rich media artifacts. It features multiple methods for organizing and accessing content, including several that utilize machine learning technologies.
Since its inception, Box Platform has excelled in metadata management. Metadata can be set within the Box web application or programmatically via APIs. Application developers can apply these APIs to develop purpose-built applications that deliver innovative digital experiences.
Box Platform runs as a cloud-based service that the company hosts in various data centers, located in different geographies around the world. Box Zones enables enterprises to specify geographic locations for hosting to comply with data sovereignty requirements. Box supports multiple security, privacy, compliance and data protection standards, including GDPR, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program/Federal Information Security Management Act and industry-specific good practice guidelines.
Hyland OnBase adds ECM to core imaging and archiving capabilities
Hyland Software released its first version of OnBase in 1991, in the PC and client/server computing era, as an application for banks to store financial reports directly on optical disks. The company has modernized its core product over the years, while continuing its focus on document capture, imaging and archiving capabilities.
OnBase currently provides a single database, code base and central repository for business documents, so it is the best ECM software for a company looking for numerous places to store data. It encompasses five key components:
- Capture for scanning hard copy documents, capturing electronic documents and extracting relevant metadata for indexing;
- Store for securely storing files either in an on-premises repository or in Hyland Cloud -- the company currently maintains nine data centers around the world;
- Access for managing access controls by people or processes;
- Manage for applying workflow and BPM capabilities to electronic documents; and
- Measure for providing reports and real-time views of business data.
OnBase integrates with the latest versions of Microsoft Office and Outlook, SAP and AutoCAD.
OnBase delivers a central content repository, linking stored documents to transactions in other enterprise applications, such as ERP, accounting and HR systems. It supports back-office processing, case management and information governance and can also manage content coming from transactional systems. Thus, auditors, reviewing invoices for an audit, can easily find supporting contracts and purchase orders, while working within their familiar business systems.
Capable of supporting organizations of any size, OnBase includes enhancements to meet the needs of specific vertical industries: healthcare, financial services, insurance, government and higher education.
IBM Enterprise Content Management suite tailors content management capabilities to the enterprise
With experience in the ECM marketplace dating from the 1980s, IBM delivers a set of interrelated ECM products for managing unstructured business information, while also protecting customers' investments in legacy systems.
IBM Content Foundation is a fully functional content repository with enterprise-grade security, designed to store, organize and access all types of business information. It can be deployed on premises, in the cloud or in a hybrid environment. Workgroups can access team spaces to collaborate on projects. Content Foundation supports basic enterprise search capabilities.
IBM FileNet Content Manager extends the capabilities of the core repository and features tools for content lifecycle management, transactional content processing and content consolidation across the enterprise. It includes checkout/check-in library services and other document management capabilities. FileNet features compliance and governance tools for RM, as well as APIs for content-centric application development.
IBM Watson Explorer delivers cognitive search and content analytics functionality, extending ECM search to include intuitive and smart queries of document repositories within an enterprise.
IBM Content Manager OnDemand provides access to published content collections, such as financial statements, insurance policies and other formal business documents. OnDemand features its own high-performance repository to store and produce these content collections.
IBM Content Navigator is an extensible, browser-based web client for accessing content stored within ECM repositories from both PCs and mobile devices.
IBM Datacap provides high-speed scanning and optical character recognition (OCR) extraction to digitize hard copy documents and store them within a repository.
IBM Business Automation Workflow enables customers to analyze content and route business documents through predefined steps in a business process. The complete case is then stored within the repository, with full audit controls.
Microsoft SharePoint as an extensible ECM platform
Microsoft SharePoint is a versatile and extensible ECM platform, designed to manage documents, webpages and other content types. Microsoft launched SharePoint in 2001 to help organizations create web portals and team spaces by enhancing Windows file shares and the capabilities of Office products. By 2007, Microsoft had extended SharePoint to include key ECM capabilities: library services, access control lists (ACLs), metadata management, indexing, workflow and RM. Current platform versions, SharePoint 2016 and SharePoint 2019, include integrated enterprise search capabilities and several features for team collaboration.
Organizations configure SharePoint to solve a wide range of document management, content management and collaboration problems within an enterprise. Organizations deploy SharePoint to produce webpages for both employee-facing and customer-facing websites. SharePoint also delivers blogging and wiki functionality and supports several interfaces for sharing information with social media platforms -- publicly through Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as privately through services such as Yammer.
SharePoint runs both on premises and in the cloud. SharePoint Server is the on-premises package, delivering ECM, business intelligence and enterprise search capabilities. Designed for organizations of all sizes, SharePoint Online hosts in the Microsoft Azure cloud and is typically bundled with Office 365 subscriptions. SharePoint also supports hybrid deployments where organizations benefit from the flexibility of the cloud, while maintaining on-premises security for sensitive content.
Relying on Microsoft OneDrive for Business, SharePoint supports file sync-and-share capabilities with mobile devices. SharePoint 2019 includes a modern user experience, featuring responsive website design capabilities that look good and scale appropriately on smartphones and tablets, as well as on full-screen web browsers.
Finally, the SharePoint platform integrates with many enterprise applications and can manage unstructured business documents, such as scanned invoices, bills of lading and material safety data sheets, for ERP and CRM applications. SharePoint APIs make it easy to integrate with applications within the Microsoft ecosystem. SharePoint also supports Content Management Interoperability Services for direct integration with other ECM platforms.
OpenText Content Suite Platform targets enterprise information management, governance and compliance
OpenText Content Suite Platform, the company's stalwart ECM product, manages business documents and other types of unstructured content within an organization. It supports full content lifecycle capabilities, from creation and capture, to archiving and disposition. Deployed either on premises or in the cloud, the platform delivers a unified, centralized enterprise information management environment, connecting people and processes across an extended enterprise.
Designed for use by large organizations, OpenText Content Suite Platform encompasses eight major components:
- OpenText Content Server provides a central repository for managing business documents and other kinds of content. It features enterprise-grade document management capabilities, including library services, multilayer security, access controls, content navigation, enterprise search and workflow. It includes a browser-based, responsive UI that can be customized by roles and projects and adapt to device screen sizes. The repository also supports content sharing for team collaboration, as well as content reporting for tracking content usage.
- OpenText Imaging Enterprise Scan supports content capture and OCR indexing from scanners and electronic documents, including faxes, email messages and other report formats.
- OpenText Enterprise Connect enables users to continue to connect to Content Server directly from desktop applications, such as Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat.
- OpenText Connected Workspaces provides templates and scripts for creating ECM-enabled business applications. Workspaces incorporates business information managed by external applications, such as SAP, SharePoint and Salesforce. Workspaces aggregates unstructured content, structured data, people and tasks to support a common business function, such as a sales opportunity or a project.
- OpenText Records Management supports records classification and disposition schedules. It applies RM metadata, classifications and disposition tags to files stored within the repository. Record classifications map to retention schedules and remove records from the collection at the end of their lifecycle.
- OpenText Archive Center utilizes RM to support rules-based, policy-driven archiving and content governance.
- OpenText Tempo Box provides secure file sync-and-share capabilities with content stored on mobile devices, including remote wiping of mobile content stores.
- OpenText Directory Services provides centralized enterprise directory services for user management.
OpenText provides a range of development tools, so it is the best ECM to enable organizations to develop applications on top of Content Suite and integrate with other enterprise applications. Content Server supports RESTful APIs for integration with web-based services.
OpenText Documentum manages documents within the enterprise
OpenText Documentum is an ECM platform for managing business documents across the extended enterprise. Acquired from Dell EMC in January 2017, it is a highly scalable, fault-tolerant platform. It is the best ECM software for large enterprises with extensive document collections, such as engineering design documents or new drug applications, that rely on Documentum to support essential business operations.
The Documentum platform includes multiple key components:
- At its core, Documentum ECM is a shared central repository for securely storing and managing different types of business documents.
- Documentum xCP is a development platform that includes a rich set of BPM tools, designed to help companies automate high-volume, information-intensive processes, such as case management.
- Running within a web browser, Documentum D2 provides the UI capabilities for accessing enterprise content stored within the shared repository.
The Documentum platform integrates with additional components that address particular business requirements:
- Captiva is a set of ECM tools that automate document captureand transform information for content management systems, classifying data for subsequent business processing.
- Document Sciences provides tools for producing high-volume personalized documents, such as insurance policies.
- Syncplicity provides secure file synchronization and sharing capabilities to mobile devices.
Documentum provides multilanguage support and localization, perhaps making it the best ECM software for globally distributed content management environments. It includes content analytics capabilities to automatically extract metadata and classify content. It offers federated search capabilities to retrieve documents from multiple repositories. The Documentum ECM tools suite supports both proprietary and open source APIs to deliver customized enterprise application environments.
Oracle WebCenter Content delivers a scalable ECM application
Many companies find Oracle WebCenter Content as the best ECM software for managing unstructured content across the entire content lifecycle. Oracle WebCenter Content helps enterprises simplify their enterprise application infrastructure by managing business documents and other content types through a single, consistent application.
Through Oracle WebCenter Content, businesses overcome information silos where disparate applications manage the content. Companies can enhance their productivity and optimize content distribution, consolidating ECM into a single application.
Oracle WebCenter Content features an extensive set of ECM capabilities, including:
- full library services, including checkout/check-in and version management;
- ACLs to determine the security and permissions for editing and viewing content;
- while stored in native formats, document conversion on the fly to other formats, including HTML conversion for web publishing;
- scanning documents and then utilizing Oracle's OCR tools to produce machine-readable text;
- tailoring to produce context-specific metadata for content classification;
- For Microsoft Office users, checking documents into and out of the central repository directly from their desktop applications;
- mobile apps that make managed content accessible on smartphones and tablets;
- document retention and lifecycle management, including support for DoD 5015.2-STD v3, a federal RM standard; and
- embedded workflows to streamline cross-company business processes.
Using prepackaged adapters, Oracle WebCenter Content integrates with many popular enterprise applications, including PeopleSoft, Siebel, JD Edwards, Primavera, Microsoft SharePoint and Office 365.
Editor's note: Using extensive research into the ECM market, TechTarget editors focused on the vendors that lead in market share, plus those that offer traditional and advanced functionality. Our research included data from TechTarget surveys, as well as reports from other respected research firms, including Gartner and Forrester Research.