Defining the Future of Content Management: Evolution of an Industry
John Mancini

By: John Mancini on June 16th, 2013

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Defining the Future of Content Management: Evolution of an Industry

Enterprise Content Management (ECM)  |  Intelligent Information Management (IIM)

We recently convened an AIIM Board Task Force to think about the evolution of content management, and more specifically, how we define and talk about this industry and AIIM’s role in it.

AIIM Brand Strategy Task Force

This kind of effort is not new to AIIM, nor should it be in an industry that has been defined by such rapid change over the past few years. A few years ago, we worked with Geoffrey Moore (of Crossing the Chasm fame) to build what became the defining document connecting the world of “ECM” with the world of social and mobile content. Systems of Engagement and the Future of Enterprise IT: A Sea Change in Enterprise IT is still one of our most popular downloads.

We followed that with an exploration of the intersection of social technologies with process. It was the belief of the Task Force driving this work that deployment of “social for the sake of social” was reaching the point of diminishing returns, and that the future of social was inextricably tied to business process. We teamed with the godfather of Enterprise 2.0, Andy McAfee, to create three white papers examining this intersection and documenting the potential for business value around the theme "When Social Meets Business Real Work Gets Done."

In 2012, we institutionalized this “visioning” capability with our Executive Leadership Council program, a “think tank” of industry visionaries, and commissioned noted futurist (and past AIIM chair) Thornton May to head the effort. Two white papers were the result. The first, C-Change: The Impact of Consumerization of IT, made the case that the consumerization of enterprise IT gives IT a chance to redefine its role within the enterprise. The second, The Big Data Balancing Act: Too much yin and not enough yang?, contended that in the hype of Big Data, organizations were underestimating the need for “data entrepreneurs” to actually put all those potential “big data” insights to actual business use.

So let me introduce a new topic – the future of ECM and how we talk about the industry – and the Board Task Force driving this work. Four AIIM Board members – Martyn Christian from Kofax, Ken Bisconti from IBM, Robin Daniels from Box, and Lubor Ptacek from OpenText – teamed with AIIM staff to consider the future of ECM. We were led in our efforts by well-known brand strategists Sasha Strauss and Kara Alter from the firm Innovation Protocol. We augmented the work of the Task Force by interviewing twenty executives from the ranks of the industry, from the user community, and from the broader ecosystem of the industry – analysts and consultants – to gain a picture of where the industry has been and where it is going.

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Sasha Strauss and Kara Alter

Over the next few weeks, I’d like to report on the work of this Task Force and solicit your thoughts on the future of the industry. More specifically, I’d like to talk through these questions in a series of posts:

  1. How has the industry evolved over the past few decades?
  2. How has AIIM evolved?
  3. How have the needs and perspectives of the professionals responsible for managing content changed -- and continue to change?
  4. How is the definition of the ECM industry itself changing?

Let’s start with #1 and #2. For those with deep roots at AIIM, this will seem somewhat pedantic – and there will likely be some disagreement with the broad brush I will take. That’s OK. But given the relative newness of much of the AIIM community to AIIM, I think it important to understand where we have been in order to postulate on where we are going.

During the 50s, 60s, and 70s, it was all fairly clear – at least through the rearview mirror. The industry was microfilm, and AIIM (then the National Microfilm Association) was its association.

Content Management in the 1950s through the 1970s

The Microfilm Era: During this period, the “industry” consisted of a relatively small number of vendors, and the relatively well-defined community of users and prospective users (often records managers) associated with those vendors. NMA was all about a single, hardware-centric technology. We conducted a relatively small conference focused on that technology and on educating those users, and most of the activities of the organization were associated in some way with that annual event. And then, during the early 1980s, the “Digital” guys came to town.

The Imaging and Document Management Era: The focus of AIIM expanded, and NMA became AIIM. The vendor community was still largely hardware-centric, but more and more software companies started showing up at AIIM activities, and “The Show” entered its rapid growth stage. Huge Show margins allowed for most AIIM products to be delivered to the membership below cost (great while it lasted; not so great later on). INFORM magazine knit a growing – and increasingly diffuse -- community together.

Content Management in the 1980s through the 1990s

There was a huge demand for basic education and a huge desire to “see” the new technology. This was reflected in a Conference that peaked at 2,500+ attendees in 1994 (at >$1,000 per attendee), and a Show that peaked at 30,000+ attendees at about the same time. Sue Wolk and the Boards of this era should take enormous pride in this transformation; it was a transformation that could have easily missed AIIM if not for the collective insight that everyone was not, in fact, in the “microfilm” business, but in the “document” business.

Inform Magazine: War on the WebAt the tail end of this era, the Internet appeared on the scene to the initial dismissal of many of the established players. At the 1996 Conference, only 2 out of 100+ sessions even mentioned the Internet. The editorial from the 1996 Show issue of Inform noted, “until the webmeisters persuade us otherwise, we'll hang onto our CDs and floppies, along with the aperture cards and other imaging artifacts that have served our corporate and personal purposes so cost-effectively in the past.”

As the 90s came to a close, an industry in a great deal of internet-driven transformation settled about the term “Enterprise Content Management” as a description of who we were and what we were trying to do.

The ECM Era: After initial confusion, in the post Internet boom, the industry galvanized on the “ECM” term, never entirely comfortable with it, but nonetheless better than the alternatives. Hardware began to disappear from the industry, software took over the driving role, and software in turn morphed into a focus on services. There was a massive consolidation as the major vendors sought to create consolidated “ECM Suites” to lessen the pain of user integration. The community became even more diffuse and even more difficult to define. The AIIM Board came to the conclusion that “The Show” would ultimately become unsustainable given the maturation of the industry and its transition into services, and sold the Show in 2002. Microsoft Office SharePoint Services (MOSS) arrived on the scene in 2007, to the initial dismissal of many in the ECM Industry (“It’s not ‘real’ ECM.")

Content Management in the 2000s

The post-ECM Era: The past few years have brought about strains in the usefulness of ECM as a label for our industry, and processes and applications began to replace content as the “core” of the industry. The AIIM SoR/SoE story was adopted widely by vendors, but difficult as a market definition.

Content Management in 2013

To make matters even more complex, the lines began to blur between structured and unstructured information. Traditionally a market space focused on Fortune 1000 scale companies and complex and expensive processes, the “industry” began to bleed over into the consumer world, as a result of the combination of cloud, social, and mobile forces.

This transformation contains with it additional forces for change. Let us begin the discussion of what comes next.

  1. Organizations are increasingly realizing they need a different type of skill set to deal with the explosion of content volume, variety and velocity. User roles and responsibilities are evolving. As consumer technologies rip through the enterprise space, how and what buyers buy is changing. In our 2nd post, we’ll explore these trends in “The Emergence of the Extreme Buyer.”
  2. “ECM” as a market definition is becoming increasingly strained. In our third post, “Living in the post-ECM World,” we’ll explore what comes next – both for the industry and for AIIM.


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About John Mancini

John Mancini is the President of Content Results, LLC and the Past President of AIIM. He is a well-known author, speaker, and advisor on information management, digital transformation and intelligent automation. John is a frequent keynote speaker and author of more than 30 eBooks on a variety of topics. He can be found on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook as jmancini77. Recent keynote topics include: The Stairway to Digital Transformation Navigating Disruptive Waters — 4 Things You Need to Know to Build Your Digital Transformation Strategy Getting Ahead of the Digital Transformation Curve Viewing Information Management Through a New Lens Digital Disruption: 6 Strategies to Avoid Being “Blockbustered” Specialties: Keynote speaker and writer on AI, RPA, intelligent Information Management, Intelligent Automation and Digital Transformation. Consensus-building with Boards to create strategic focus, action, and accountability. Extensive public speaking and public relations work Conversant and experienced in major technology issues and trends. Expert on inbound and content marketing, particularly in an association environment and on the Hubspot platform. John is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the College of William and Mary, and holds an M.A. in Public Policy from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.