The road show looks at Enterprise Content Management (ECM) – and positions Microsoft Sharepoint as illustrative of a current market phenomena: the ability to more easily embrace online content creation sharing/collaboration, but simultaneously creating a control and command issue, one that if not managed can lead to chaos, unused resources and potential great risk. This is a subject that is discussed in detail in the AIIM Market IQ on Content Security, and Market IQ on Enterprise 2.0.
The subject of collaboration versus control is not only interesting, but at the fulcrum of most ECM strategies today. No guessing as to why over 220 people attended this event in LA, with similar numbers signed up for the upcoming cities. The enthusiasm of the audience, the questions and comments made rekindled my own enthusiasm for the ECM.
Over the 20+ years in which I have been a part of the ECM market place, much has changed but much has also remained the same. The physical characteristics of the document, the approaches to "document-based" communication and the platform have changed, but the need to manage documents, no matter the format or platform, and the criticality of an ECM strategy remain constant. Viewed slightly differently: the potential value derived from enterprise content has significantly increased, but so too has the potential risk associated with poorly managed content.
I recently read an article entitled "IT Hiring Defies Broader Job Picture." The article points out that in Massachusetts, IT related jobs are actually on the rise. Among the technologies behind this is ECM. While the perspective of the article is one of pleasant surprise, I was not surprised. ECM is burgeoning. New opportunities and challenges exist. Technology alternatives and opportunities emerge on a regular basis. The ECM component of the organization is likely to stay active and grow in importance as business migrates more to e-based communication and business models.
In deed, while I often like to discuss the cutting edge issues surrounding ECM, the LA road show activity reminded me that the vibrant nature of ECM is found not just in the cutting edge, but in the ongoing adoption of technologies and capabilities that are well established components of the ECM platform.
Among the 18 technology providers that were exhibiting at the road show, 7 represented scanning and imaging products. These are technologies that have been part of ECM longer than I have. Those in the industry, like myself, sometimes take them for granted - like picking up the phone. The road show activity caused me to step back and re-assess the vibrancy of this sector of the ECM market. While imaging and scanning are by no means new, there is still a large market associated with them. While more and more content is created online, paper (that needs to be scanned) is still prevalent in many organizations, both in the form of legacy content, and new content.
In an earlier post,I introduced a New York Times article in which it was reported that for the first time, paper
consumption in the United States, France, Germany, Japan, Belgium,
Sweden, Austria, Canada and Finland actually went down, between 2000
and 2005. Such statistics cause people (including myself) to sometimes lapse into thinking scanning and paper are less relevant. Ah, but in doing research for a whitepaper he is writing, my colleague, Dan Keldsen uncovered an equally telling statistic of a different nature. The advent of electronic filing (e-filing) of taxes began in 1992. This year the IRS expected about 60% of tax returns to be filed electronically. (ah yes, less paper consumption in the U.S.) Nonetheless that meant that for the 2008 Filing Season, the IRS was still expecting approximately 52 million paper returns (Source: “Interim Results of the 2008 Filing Season” TREASURY INSPECTOR GENERAL FOR TAX ADMINISTRATION,Reference Number: 2008-40-100). In a word - WOW. Sure we are embracing new technologies and migrating to online communities and content, but in the process we are still creating a fair amount of paper that still needs to be dealt with. While more Americans are now submitting tax returns electronically, the 52 million that continue to use paper represent a very real and large scanning application.
Now keeping that in mind, also consider the fact that electronic-based content grows exponentially. While the legacy keeps ECMers busy, so too does the emerging electronic content. With it come myriad issues - many unprecedented. In an earlier post, I discussed the ongoing concern of migrating business content so that is accessible and readable years from now. This issue also surfaced in a recent article in the Business & Innovation section of the Boston Globe. Its worth a read and is referenced here to call attention to a real and present issue (yet another) that ECMers need to manage.
But access and readability over time is just one issue. If we make content accessible and readible over time we also have to worry about copyright. Electronic content is easily proliferated. ECMers must contend with the impact their domain has on copyright. After three years of hearings, studies and deliberation, the Section 108 Study Group, a committee of copyright experts charged with updating for the digital world the Copyright Act, has posted its final report on how to bring the U.S. Copyright Act regarding libraries and archives into the digital age. The results are somethingthat every ECMer need to be concerned with legally and technically.
A few weeks back I listened to an NPR "Marketplace" broadcast, in which the issue of obituaries was discussed. Apparently, obituaries are one of the last things to go the digital age. In their own way they are keeping paper newspapers alive (of the irony). But Web-based alternatives are emerging and will likely pose a formidable challenge. Newspapers, like many business, find themselves caught with one foot in the paper age, and one foot in the digital age, forced for the time being, with straddling the two to meet various market demands. Nearly every organziation must deal with issue of ECM - media migration, legality, readability, storage, process efficiency, effective communication, generational differences, the list is nearly infinite.
Perhaps this post is a bit long, but perhaps it needed to be. The point is despite its age, ECM is an issue that is still growing - perhaps an eternal issue. Old issues linger, while new issues arise. The talents and competencies required of an ECMer grow. But one thing is for sure there is great job security for those that do it well.