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Enterprise file synchronization and sharing vs. ECM: Who'll win?

Enterprise file sync and share shook up the traditional ECM software scene, prompting some to wonder whether EFSS tools will replace ECM software.

Enterprise file-sync-and-share (EFSS) tools are yet another way that the consumerization of IT is changing business operations.

Since EFSS emerged, business users across a variety of industries flocked to EFSS products such as Box, Dropbox and Syncplicity. In contrast to traditional enterprise content management (ECM) tools -- such as Documentum, SharePoint and Alfresco -- users were drawn to the simplicity of EFSS options, the intuitive user experience they offer, their anywhere/anytime accessibility, and the ease of sharing and collaborating.

EFSS as a standalone market will vanish and be subsumed into the broader ECM market.

This disruption has prompted some to wonder whether EFSS tools can replace enterprise content management products. It is unlikely that EFSS tools will overthrow full-on ECM implementations. A more likely outcome is that EFSS as a standalone market will vanish and be subsumed into the broader ECM market.


Enterprise file synchronization and share enables users to save content in the cloud, on premises or both, and securely access and share the content on any device, at any time, with (almost) anyone. The ease of collaboration is a key feature of these systems. ECM platforms, on the other hand, were created for more wide-ranging purposes, enabling the capture and control of content throughout its lifecycle. ECM systems offer much more robust features, including tighter compliance, security and workflow controls. Since a critical goal of enterprise content management is to eliminate an organization's exposure to regulatory compliance risks, such systems are far more heavyweight but have a subsequent drop in usability and intuitiveness.

A merging of the markets

ECM providers are beginning to note the success of enterprise file synchronization and share, driven by the demand for anywhere, anytime, any device access to content. Some of these ECM providers, such as OpenText and Oracle, are adding EFSS-type capabilities to their core content platforms. Some EFSS tools are more widely accepted in the enterprise. Box, for example, has added enough functionality for it to be classified as an ECM platform by some analysts, and through its partnership with IBM appeals to the on-premises traditionalists as well as to those who want to leverage cloud and mobility to transform their businesses. Dropbox has added security and compliance capabilities that make it attractive as an enterprise-ready EFFS tool. In addition, some EFSS vendors, such as Accellion and Egnyte, provide enterprise search capabilities, typically an adjacent market to ECM and analytics.

These EFSS tools not only provide access to content stored in their dedicated cloud repositories, they also allow access to content stored in on-premises repositories and network drives. Some EFSS products provide content analytics, with measures of how engaged audiences are with content and other performance measures. For example, Egnyte not only provides an holistic view of an enterprise's content, it also provides insight into how the content is being used, who is using and creating it, how effective the content is, and whether or not the content should be moved across various storage tiers.

Over the next few years, there will be a transformation in how ECM is delivered and the role it plays. ECM is strategic and about much more than tools. Because of that, organizations have the potential to craft an ECM application architecture based on best-of-breed tools, selected to fulfill an organization's requirements, rather than selecting an all-in-one suite based on a vendor's roadmap, and this approach will likely become more common as EFSS is absorbed by ECM.

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