Is ECM Going The Way Of The Dodo? Or Maybe The Way Of The Social Intranet?

Sean R. Nicholson

Last week was a great week for online discussions relating to Intranets. On Monday, Alex Manchester of Step Two Designs posted an article to his blog asking whether the term Intranet is dead. His thoughts were sparked by a recent presentation by Jane McConnell of NetJMC and the conversation that ensued was a healthy dialog on the future of Intranets, their relevance in a world of social media, and whether the term “intranet” was really the best way to describe an interactive workplace. The conversation continued throughout the week and I’d encourage anyone who works with Intranets to check out the threaded discussion and add their $.02.

Tuesday continued the interesting online conversations as Jarrod Gingras and Alan Pelz-Sharpe of CMS Watch made his predictions for technology in 2010. One of particular interest to me was his prediction #1 that :

1) Enterprise Content Management and Document Management will go their separate ways
ECM as a marketing and technical concept has great validity. But the idea of having a single overarching platform to manage all sources of content management only works well in those enterprises that follow a unified and services-oriented architectural approach to IT.

I agree with Jarrod and my interpretation of this prediction is that organizations that aren’t able to settle on a single vendor for all of their information systems or aren’t able to invest in a comprehensive services-oriented architecture just won’t be concerned with Enterprise Content Management (ECM) because they won’t be able to address every departmental business process problems with a single ECM tool.

To expand on Jarrod’s prediction, I’m thinking that as more and more vendors build document management functionality into their applications, organizations will be less concerned with where it is stored, as long as it is stored properly, is accessible to the end-users that need it, and can be discovered and produced in time of legal necessity. Instead of costly redevelopment of business processes to restructure where content is stored, organizations will invest in search technology that allows content to be stored in native applications and use search tools like Microsoft Enterprise Search, Autonomy, and Google appliances to ferret out information.

In other words, federated search will become crucial to organizations that choose not to implement a structured ECM architecture.

The results of this kind of shift are as follows:

  1. Content and documents  will reside in their native application, allowing the information to have more context than if it were stored in a centralized ECM system.
  2. Those ECM vendors who wish to provide value to the enterprise must figure out how to store the content centrally, yet serve it back to end users in a context that is meaningful to their end users.
  3. ECM vendors who provide true, enterprise-scale software MUST offer a full services-oriented architecture that will allow business applications to easily access the content and surface documents in the context of the business application.

S0…this brings me to my question of the week. Is Enterprise Content Management going the way of the Intranet and becoming an outdated notion? Will better federated search technologies negate the need for a central repository? Are organizations better off investing in the functional elements of ECM like document management, records management, and business process management instead of buying the whole enchilada?

I’m curious to see what others think…looking forward to thoughts/comments.

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