Cloud content management trends solidify in 2015

Cloud and hybrid ECM took off in 2015, as enterprises looked to become more agile and mobile. Analytics, content-based security and data integration were also key trends.

While we've heard about the impact of cloud computing for more than a decade, this year the cloud helped further entrench other technology trends, such as enterprise use of content management systems as more than just a content repository. Collaboration technologies, too, started to hit their stride.

Cloud computing has been an important backdrop for the adoption of enterprise content management (ECM) software, but only 27% of respondents to a recent AIIM survey had opted for cloud ECM. The majority of ECM deployments are still using on-premises technology, so ECM providers have had to better address customer needs for cloud-based ECM software, as well as on-premises repositories for sensitive data that companies are concerned about moving to the cloud.

The following is a roundup of trends that disrupted the market in 2015, or are poised to do so going forward.

Hybrid cloud for content management

In some ways, the rubber hit the road for hybrid cloud-based enterprise content management software in 2015. This may be attributable, in part, to Microsoft's further development of its Office 365 platform, as well as key partnerships between traditional ECM vendors and cloud-based file sync-and-share (FSS) providers, such as Box. Microsoft and other providers recognize the key importance of providing mixed cloud and on-premises configurations so that companies can move some data to the cloud, while retaining sensitive corporate data inside a company's four walls for security or regulatory reasons. So, too, hybrid ECM software has enabled feature-rich, user-friendly and flexible mobile ECM configurations, which have become increasingly important for remote workers.

Many companies made the leap to the cloud in 2015, which prompted discussion about how cloud-based ECM can help businesses improve processes. As a result, cloud versus on-premises ECM configurations became less of an either/or discussion, and more about how cloud services could enhance existing technologies.

FSS services also gained traction after years of filling voids in flexibility associated with traditional ECM software. Hoping not to get left behind, traditional ECM software providers added user-friendly file-sharing features to the ECM toolkit. This was also a prominent example of how the consumerization of IT was a major content management trend in 2015, as enterprises increasingly worked to balance enterprise security requirements with an intuitive user interface.  


Mobile technology continues to be a disruptor for collaboration technologies, content management systems and Web content management (WCM).

Demand for improved mobile experience was a top content management trend in 2015. Mobile support for ECM systems is increasingly a must-have, as enterprises look to facilitate collaboration between dispersed workforces. The growing integration of cloud file sync-and-share services with ECM toolkits was a major story for 2015, and the ability to deliver information securely via the cloud, regardless of device or geography, should continue disrupting ECM and collaboration practices into 2016.  

Mobile is also disrupting public-facing websites, as WCM software continues to transition from a publishing environment toward facilitating more full-fledged digital experiences for mobile users. These more extensive digital experiences use data, such as location, user history and user device. The result is a richer, more personalized mobile experience, but it also creates information management and WCM challenges on the back end as well. Enhanced digital experiences are taking shape in numerous forms, such as political-campaign canvassers using mobile devices to take notes while speaking with voters, or retail locations helping shoppers place orders with items in their shopping carts as they navigate the store.

Content analytics

The potential for content analytics to alleviate the growing data management burden facing many enterprises was a positive content management trend for 2015.

Content analytics analyzes company data, and provides insights about its nature and usage -- and this opens several doors for ECM improvements. Companies are dealing with unprecedented volumes of data, and content analytics has potential to automate classification processes, making information easier to store and manage. It also has potential to  largely automate e-discovery, improve enterprise search and automate other information-governance tasks. Finally, it can also help bring new return on investment (ROI) to information governance by facilitating analysis that can provide insights on how to refine or improve business practices.

From records management to information governance

Record keeping is a time-honored business practice, but companies are increasingly treating data as an asset, which could transform traditional records management into a more holistic approach to information governance. Instead of just storing records as required by statute or policy, companies want to ensure it can be found and managed as needed.

Text analytics are helping to make this transition possible by automating onerous tasks of records management, which often fell between the cracks after companies transitioned from paper to digital processes. Analytics help companies better access, track and manage documentation by aggregating data on the number of different kinds of content, the number of documents dealing with certain topics and so on.

With orderly records, a wider information-governance program can streamline information flow within the enterprise, as well as help ensure compliance and that company data is flowing through the proper channels. This drive to make company data easily available for business intelligence analysis has real potential to demonstrate newfound ROI for information governance.  

Improving enterprise search

The ability to easily find and retrieve content should be core to enterprise content management systems, but the performance of enterprise search continues to lag that of top Web search engines for a variety of reasons. Vendors have come to recognize the weaknesses of search and are working toward improvements.

Advances in content analytics could automate notoriously unreliable enterprise classification and metadata programs, which have historically hampered functionality.

Machine learning is also likely to play a role with offerings such as Microsoft Delve, which tracks user activity in other Office 365 technologies, analyzes interactions between people and content, and can then suggest potentially relevant content to users.

The quest for improved enterprise search is a story that will spill over into 2016 -- and possibly beyond -- but there were encouraging developments in 2015.

Data security

The migration of collaboration and ECM processes to cloud and mobile is requiring enterprises to rethink measures for keeping content safe. One example is content-based security features, which travel with a piece of content, regardless of where it resides. This transition away from repository-level controls does create new requirements for enterprises, such as increased attention to security classifications and document lifecycle management. In many cases, this also requires a conscious effort to align enterprise roles with security permissions.

Collaboration through integration

The cloud is helping to facilitate a more technologically open and integrated workplace, and indications are that content management trends will build on that potential into 2016 and beyond.

The growing integration between ECM and other systems likely signals a trend of ECM transitioning from a static content repository to a hub for facilitating access to information for collaboration and other business purposes.

Microsoft demonstrated an example of how removing data silos can augment collaboration with a demo of its GigJam project at the 2015 Worldwide Partner Conference. A clearer picture of the practical challenges of aligning various systems for collaboration on a single platform, such as GigJam, will likely become apparent when the product is released in 2016.

Predictive social media analytics

Programs for social media monitoring have become common for large enterprises, but predictive analytics could integrate that raw torrent of information with corporate decision making. The goal is converting social media commentary into actionable information, which is theoretically possible if certain information hurdles can be overcome. While still in the emerging phase, this technology is drawing interest from enterprises, and vendors are working to address the content management challenges involved.

Building online communities

Company websites and social media accounts have long been standard, but enterprises are also increasingly cultivating online communities as a middle ground for interacting with consumers. These blogs and forums allow more substantive discussion than social media, and can allow companies to learn about what customers want and influence brand discussions.

IoT and wearables

The Internet of Things, or IoT, and wearables are only emerging content management trends in 2015. Organizations are increasingly taking interest in these technologies and testing them. But this emerging market still remained fragmented and without common standards.

With wearables, the Apple Watch grabbed much attention in the consumer sector, but it's unclear how that could translate into the enterprise environment. Even so, businesses are interested in the technology and considering how wearables can fit into their Web content management strategies. 

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