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IDC analyst sizes up the content management applications market

IDC analyst Melissa Webster discusses the content management applications market and how a new industry standard can help users avoid content management interoperability problems.

The content management applications market is having trouble growing up. On one side, it’s made up of large, mature software vendors with highly robust offerings that account for nearly half of the market’s total revenue. But the other half consists of hundreds of scrappy, smaller and less mature vendors that offer highly specialized services. Adding to the confusion is the reality that the seemingly endless varieties of content management applications often lead to major interoperability problems between systems. got on the phone recently with Melissa Webster – the program vice president for content and digital media technologies at International Data Corp., a Framingham, Mass.-based technology research firm – to navigate through all of this confusion and figure out where content management technology is heading.

Webster talked about how the content management software market has changed over the years; the integration challenges facing many content management software users today; and the emergence of applications that combine content management with business process management (BPM). Here are some excerpts from that conversation:

What’s the first thing that jumps out at you about the content management applications market?

The first thing that is interesting about the market is that it’s dominated at the top by the large [vendors], and then there are literally a few hundred smaller vendors. It’s a very fragmented market, and that speaks to the diverse needs that customers have. The [content management software market generated] was about $4.1 billion in 2009 and the leaders account for nearly half of the revenue.

Has the content management applications market changed in recent years?

Starting [about] eight years ago, we started to see the large vendors make acquisitions and start to assemble essentially a portfolio that they called [enterprise content management (ECM)]. That would include, nominally, some content management capabilities, maybe some collaboration capabilities, maybe some [enterprise search] and maybe some enterprise portal [technology].

Did those first ECM systems include records management capabilities?

Records management used to be almost a separate specialist market. Going back five to eight years ago, the records management companies were all little independent companies. Now they’ve all been bought out and records management is a feature that is provided by the content management companies. There are very few companies that sell just records management at this point.

What are some of the big challenges that content management software users are facing today?

The first trend is the trend towards integration. Customers really need these solutions to plug and play out of the box and they typically have more than one of each of these. In the best of cases, you’re going to have multiple content management systems in a very large organization, even if it’s just because you’re using one thing for web content management, something else for digital content asset management, and something else again for your document management.

Will the recently ratified Content Management Integration Services (CMIS) standard help users increase interoperability levels between content management systems?

That is certainly taking a giant step in the direction of making it easy for solutions for different vendors to kind of plug and play and make it easy for an application -- maybe an application on the collaboration side -- to talk to a content management repository. We’re seeing a lot more support now for CMIS. It’s built into most of the leading solutions out there.

Should developers use CMIS for custom content management software projects?

Sure. You could use CMIS if you wanted for custom development. But I think it’s more important for content integration across a number of repositories. [For example, suppose] you want to do a search and go after information that could be in [up to] five different repositories. Without a way to have a generalized search capability across multiple repositories, you’re stuck doing five separate searches. That is not a very effective way to work. [CMIS is] important for content integration and ease of integration [between] different vendors categories of products.

Industry experts have talked about a need to more closely combine business process management (BPM) capabilities with content management applications. Do you think these two software markets will converge?

I don’t think they are converging completely because they are separate technologies. But I think what we’re seeing is that there is this class of applications that requires BPM and content management [or] BPM and document management [together]. And I think that increasingly, we’ll see collaboration, too. This notion of business-process meets content which is going to define this new category of applications [that we call] case management applications. Case management is where you actually have formal business rules [and] you’re trying to make a decision, basically. But you have to make a decision that is governed by the BPM system.

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