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File-sharing applications still trumping ECM software?

ECM software is supposed to make teamwork easier, not more cumbersome. But in our tweet jam, users hailed file-sharing applications.

Workers have resoundingly demonstrated that they want easy-to-use applications that give them anytime access, no matter where they are. The common refrain among this group of workers who are on the road, working from home or just working on their mobile devices is this: Technology shouldn't stand in the way of getting the job done.

Workers don't want to have to do contortions to look at a spreadsheet that's on a server behind the firewall, then email changes to the right people and hope that they can see the differences between the last version and the new edits. They also don't want to run the risk of creating changes that get overwritten by someone else's file. Collaboration tools are supposed to make teamwork easier, not more cumbersome to edit, share and save documents.

According to a TrackVia online survey of more than 1,000 employees, more than half admitted to using rogue apps like file-sharing applications to get their jobs done. And while it's vendor-generated data, consider that 90% of workers now need remote access to files and only 22% of them are aware of a company-sanctioned file-sharing system, according to the recent 2014 Soonr "Mobility in the Workplace" study.

And while enterprise content management (ECM) software vendors often argue that file-sharing applications lack the sophisticated functionality -- audit trail, workflows, and security and permissions -- of their alternatives, many have argued that file-sharing services have come a long way. Others say that it's also important to remember that "good enough software is good enough"—overwhelming workers with too much functionality is part of the complexity problem that ECM software hasn't solved. On the other side, many companies have turned to cloud-based enterprise content management for these more fine-grained capabilities.

Ease of use, accessibility, collaborative features and more were the subject of much discussion during our tweet jam (#cloudecm) on file-sharing apps vs. ECM software on Nov. 13. Experts Steve Weissman, Laurence Hart and Ron Miller joined us for some rousing debate on whether cloud-based apps like Box and Dropbox continue to challenge the relevance of ECM software in enterprises.

Miller (@ron_miller) noted that ECM software was built before enterprise mobility changed the nature and mandates of data security. ECM software may not be as persuasive in an era where the security perimeter has been blown wide open.

Hart (@piewords) said that while ECM may offer some additional functionality, its poor ease of use has stopped adoption in its tracks:

Bruce Wang envisioned a cross between the two, where ECM and file sharing might morph to take on the best characteristics of the other:

Miller said that, ultimately, the architecture of the software is irrelevant. Workers just want ease of use in the end result.

And Weissman (@steveweissman) noted that companies need to think about how they are going to use the software to make the most appropriate choice.

Lauren Horwitz (@lhorwitz) noted that user adoption is where the rubber meets the road for ECM software.

For more, check out our jam from Nov. 13, at #cloudecm between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m. Eastern. And you can always check out more on SearchContentManagement.

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Does your company have a sanctioned app for collaboration, and what is it?
While not technically a stand alone app for collaboration, because my company works on a Mac OS system, we use the internal Hand-Off and Sync.
The reason utilities like Box and Dropbox and other tools are in such demand is pretty simple. It's super easy to set up, and then it's a folder. Bang! That's it. All of the rest of the details are mostly irrelevant to most people. Make it that simple, and that ubiquitous, and people will use it, and be happy to. Make for several hoops to step through, cumbersome setup, lots of authentication steps, etc. and people will either just not bother, or they will find a way to do what they need to do some other hopefully less onerous way (which is why email still lives as the kind of document transmission, sad to say).