Top enterprise content management software of 2021

When it comes to ECM, there are myriad vendors to choose from. Delve into 10 tools on the market to understand their capabilities and functions before making a decision.

ECM software -- especially for a larger business -- can be an expensive, heavily involved purchase, so it's important to understand options before arriving at a decision.

To further add complexity, the enterprise content management marketplace continues to evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of competitive business operations.

Selecting the best enterprise content management software vendor for a company depends on business goals and objectives, organizational culture, and standard operating procedures.

Here's a snapshot of 10 important ECM platforms to consider while making a buying decision.

1. Alfresco Software

Alfresco provides a digital business platform to manage content across the enterprise. Maintained as an open source project, it supports ECM, deployed either on premises or in the cloud running on AWS. While Alfresco as a company was acquired by Hyland in October 2020, it remains a separate platform.

Rather than delivering turnkey applications, Alfresco combines open source tools with support services. It provides technology partners with the building blocks for producing content-centric applications, designed around the needs of individual organizations and targeting a broad range of industry verticals.

Alfresco produces open source modules that support essential ECM functions, including library services, document lifecycle management, file sharing, file sync and share with mobile devices and records management. Access controls define user and group permissions to manage document access.

ECM software comparison

Application developers can inspect and modify core functions. Alfresco also produces simplified tools -- templates and scripts -- for citizen developers to help administrators and nontechnical users create and maintain predefined workflows.

Alfresco functions integrate with other web services through RESTful APIs. Alfresco has developed social media interfaces for linking to popular social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. When it comes to corporate governance, Alfresco provides the underlying modules for records management based on predefined industry standards, but it requires some assembly.

2. Box Platform

Box delivers cloud-native content services to organizations in many industries. Box Platform provides a cloud-native content hub for organizing, securing and sharing content across the extended enterprise.

Box provides seamless connectivity to Microsoft Office 365, email attachment support for Outlook and Gmail, and native support for personal productivity apps within Google Workspace -- Docs, Sheets and Slides. Box also embeds editors and viewers for many other content types, including rich media files, medical images, AutoCAD files and other 3D renderings.

Architected for large-scale operations, Box Platform supports multiple approaches to cloud content management, content sharing and collaboration. In addition to library services and hierarchical access controls of a centralized ECM repository, the platform features an embedded enterprise search engine, as well as extensive metadata management tools for semi- and fully automatic content tagging.

The Box Platform supports APIs that can easily connect to external AI and machine learning (ML) engines to interpret and categorize content in different business contexts. Box can track relationships between content and users, analyze patterns, make inferences and personalize delivery.

Box features an integrated workflow product -- Box Relay -- that automates and standardizes document workflows within the repository. It supports business process automation by incorporating related third-party web services that are integrated through RESTful APIs.

Box offers cloud-powered capabilities for content security and governance. The platform supports multiple security, privacy, compliance and data protection standards. Box is relying increasingly on AI to monitor content flows within the repository and detect threats. And it maintains Box Platform in multiple data centers around the world, enabling its customers to comply with data sovereignty mandates by specifying the geographical locations for storing content.

3. Hyland OnBase

Hyland OnBase manages documents and other types of content associated with formal business operations. It provides a central repository tailored to specific vertical industries: healthcare, financial services, insurance, government, retail, manufacturing and higher education.

OnBase focuses on document capture, imaging and archiving capabilities. It features in-depth integration with a broad range of enterprise applications, including the latest versions of Microsoft Office and Outlook, SAP, and AutoCAD.

Specifically, OnBase links documents maintained within the repository to the 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.

OnBase continues to expand this transaction-level linking into corporate governance. In partnership with Iron Mountain, its Governance Rules as a Service capabilities maintain the document retention rules based on actual mandates. OnBase's dashboard enables corporate governance managers to easily translate document retention mandates into working rules and configurable policies.

4. IBM Cloud Pak for Automation

IBM Cloud Pak for Automation bundles multiple ECM products into tailored offerings for large organizations. With experience in the ECM marketplace dating from the 1980s, IBM delivers sets of interrelated ECM products to manage unstructured business information, while also protecting customers' investments in legacy systems.

Cloud Pak includes several purpose-built repositories:

  • IBM Content Foundationis a fully functional content repository with enterprise-grade security, designed to capture, store, organize and access all types of business information. Users can access team spaces to collaborate on projects. Content Foundation supports basic enterprise search capabilities. Organizations can deploy the platform on premises, in the cloud or in a hybrid environment.
  • IBM FileNet Content Manager features tools for content lifecycle management, transactional content processing and content consolidation across the enterprise. It includes library services and other document management capabilities. FileNet features compliance and governance tools for records management, as well as APIs for content-centric application development.
  • IBM Business Automation Workflow takes advantage of the company's expertise with business process management (BPM) and case management. It enables customers to analyze content and route business documents through predefined steps in a business process. The software then stores the complete case within one of the repositories, with full audit controls.

5. IManage

IManage provides ECM to law firms and other professional services organizations. It combines document and email management capabilities to deliver the repository of record for all content flowing through individual firms.

Lawyers, accountants, consultants and their support staff can collaborate and securely share all of their work products and client correspondence. IManage maintains the filing plans, folder hierarchies and controlled vocabularies for tagging messages, documents and other types of content within the repository.

IManage delivers granular access controls and can establish auditable firewalls within a firm to channel content flows. It can assemble messages and documents into formal collections for records management and archival preservation. IManage embeds an AI engine within its repository to recommend or automatically tag content and to provide insights about relationships among files.

IManage automates document-driven business processes within a firm. It provides the workflow for new business intakes. It integrates with various line-of-business applications such as expense tracking, matter management and professional time reporting. IManage provides multiple tools to manage content security policies, ensure compliance to governance mandates and detect threats to content stored within the repository.

6. Microsoft SharePoint

Microsoft SharePoint is a versatile and extensible ECM platform for managing documents, webpages and other content types across an extended enterprise. Organizations configure SharePoint to solve a wide range of document management, content management and collaboration problems. Delivered as part of the Microsoft 365 ecosystem, SharePoint also continues to support on-premises and hybrid hosting infrastructures.

SharePoint integrates seamlessly with related tools from Microsoft for ad hoc information sharing, including Microsoft Office apps for personal productivity, Teams for workgroup collaboration and OneDrive for file sync and share. Utilizing an underlying repository, SharePoint manages content produced by these tools, adding library services, metadata management, records management and enterprise search capabilities.

Microsoft is continually enhancing the content understanding, content processing and content compliance capabilities within its ecosystem. Microsoft delivers leading-edge AI and ML technologies within SharePoint for automatic tagging, semantic inferencing and image recognition and adds insights to content.

SharePoint provides the foundations for business process management. It manages unstructured business documents, such as scanned invoices, bills of lading and material safety data sheets, for BPM, ERP and CRM applications.

Microsoft supports content security and governance that is increasingly oriented around zero-trust technologies and operational principles. As part of the Microsoft 365 ecosystem, SharePoint facilitates compliance by automatically adding sensitivity labels to content and other advanced ECM capabilities.

7. Nuxeo Content Services

Nuxeo optimizes its ECM platform for both text-oriented and digital assets. The Nuxeo Content Services platform manages the flow of product-related content, such as images, schematics, data sheets and 3D renderings of physical objects, through digital supply chains. Companies -- particularly, those in consumer-packaged goods, retail and media/entertainment industries -- can use the platform to digitize key parts of their product design processes.

The Nuxeo platform stores many different types of content in a scalable enterprise repository, running on premises or in the cloud. It integrates with Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Suite for both personal productivity and content lifecycle management. Beyond ad hoc information sharing, the platform enhances teamwork through low-code capabilities for rapid application development. Citizen developers and other nontechnical users can tailor process flows around work-related tasks, easily developing collaborative environments that overcome manual handoffs and information stovepipes.

Nuxeo adds content intelligence to business activities within an enterprise. The core platform supports flexible metadata management capabilities, enabling easy access to and speedy search through large content collections, categorized by multiple taxonomies. Nuxeo Insight, which embeds AI capabilities within the platform, provides services to train ML algorithms to recognize specific elements and attributes of their own products.

Nuxeo relies on Insight to automatically categorize content, recognize images and automate content-centric processes within the repository. It features prebuilt connectors to Salesforce and provides RESTful APIs for application developers to integrate the repository to common business applications.

8. OpenText Documentum

OpenText Documentum is an ECM platform for managing business documents within large enterprises. The platform is designed to maintain high-value, mission-critical collections, such as engineering design documents or new drug applications. It provides a shared repository to securely store and manage different types of documents. It includes separate e-rooms for collaborative document sharing.

Documentum includes content analytics capabilities to automatically extract metadata and classify content. It offers federated search capabilities to retrieve documents from multiple repositories, as well as records management capabilities for long-term retention.

Documentum includes specialized tools for document capture and classification, as well as for generating high-volume personalized documents, such as insurance policies. It supports secure file sync and share for synchronizing files on mobile devices. It provides both proprietary and open source APIs to integrate the content stored within the repository with external enterprise applications.

Documentum supports a fully featured BPM platform that uses content within the repository. Documentum xCP is designed to automate high-volume, information-intensive processes such as case management activities within the financial services industry.

9. OpenText Extended ECM Platform

OpenText Extended ECM Platform, the company's flagship ECM offering, manages business documents and other types of unstructured content through a shared repository. It features enterprise-grade document management capabilities, including library services, multilayer security, access controls, content navigation and workflow.

Extended ECM provides multiple tools to enhance workgroup productivity. Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat and other personal productivity applications can connect directly to the repository. Other tools support content capture and optical character recognition indexing from scanned and electronic documents, as well as secure file sync and share with content stored on mobile devices. The repository supports content sharing for ad hoc collaboration.

The platform features extensive metadata management capabilities to support enterprise search and records management. Users can tag content manually, semiautomatically or automatically based on predefined terms. OpenText Magellan, the company's content intelligence engine, can also infer details about content.

OpenText supports ad hoc process management though a set of connected workspaces that integrate with external enterprise applications, including SAP and Salesforce. Templates and scripts aggregate content, data, people and tasks to support a common business functions, such as sales opportunity tracking. Moreover, OpenText provides a range of development tools that integrate with the core repository through RESTful APIs.

Finally, Extended ECM ensures content governance through a systematic approach to records management. It applies record classifications and disposition tags to collections of files stored within the repository, which are mapped to retention schedules and removed at the end of their lifecycles.

10. Oracle

Oracle delivers tools and platforms to produce content-centric applications for large organizations. It relies on multiple ECM platforms to orchestrate content flows that support both line-of-business operations and marketing activities.

Oracle maintains several purpose-built repositories for managing structured, semistructured and unstructured data. These platforms -- including WebCenter Content, as well as Content and Experience -- feature core ECM capabilities such as access controls, library services and content lifecycle management.

Microsoft Office apps can connect directly, enabling seamless content flows that enhance personal productivity. Oracle manages images, videos and other types of rich media as digital assets. The platform includes tools and applications to edit content on the fly, as well as to deliver content to multiple endpoints, including chatbots.

These ECM platforms rely on sophisticated metadata management capabilities to provide insights for content delivery. Depending on content types, Oracle supports automatic tagging, auto-classification, and image recognition capabilities using multiple AI and ML technologies.

Oracle provides extensive process automation tools to support editorial content workflows, case management and business process management applications. The company provides prepackaged adapters to integrate with related enterprise applications including PeopleSoft, Siebel and JD Edwards.

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