Working on records and documents takes up nearly two thirds of an average worker’s day, requiring companies to use Enterprise Content Management (ECM) systems to deal with the sheer volume of content. Such tools allow organisations to co-ordinate all of their documentation in one single, unified place.
Yet lots of businesses have found that they are ready to develop and, in some cases, even move on from ECM indicating that businesses are now embracing the flexibility of cloud-based content management. It’s early days, but the cloud’s capacity to accelerate collaboration, facilitate the creation of innovative apps and offer permanent low-cost storage, means it undoubtedly represents the future for content management.
ECMs have existed for a quarter of a century and have improved continuously over the years, retaining the key features of the basic model of a complex suite of technologies based on the business premises which have made it a hit. Business owners have at times felt overwhelmed by the number of technical features, particularly as organisations have had to incorporate more than one ECM, and sometimes even one per department. Clustering all the layers of software in one monolithic system has proved fiendishly difficult for IT departments.
“84% of companies will consider using cloud technology in content management”
Content management is in a clear period of transition from ECM services to cloud platforms. More and more businesses are choosing cloud services or hybrid options to help them handle all of the documentation that works its way through their organisation using the most cost efficient and simple method, as a study by AIIM shows. Hybrid models do carry risks though, such as the location of information storage, depreciation of investments on hardware products on-site, and the transition itself, which if it is done in a quick way can result in high costs and complications, particularly if infrastructure is not yet ready for the move.
All the problems with ECM caused Gartner to consider that technology may move on to the cloud in the digital age. The research company came up with a new concept, Content Services, which would be cloud-enabled, flexible and dynamic. Rather than accepting a standalone system, companies would design their own bespoke ones. The terminology is less important than the realisation that the business environment is changing, and companies are finding it increasingly difficult to manage the tsunami of content and data from the plethora of devices in the age of digital transformation. Research supports Gartner’s view that premises-based ECM is being replaced to some extent. A survey of 231 businesses by AIIM earlier this year showed the high levels of desire for change in their content management. Only 15% of respondents said they intended to move towards an on-premises solution, whereas a third had chosen a cloud-based solution and a further 51% were developing a hybrid solution, combining on-premises content management with cloud services. The hybrid approach is understandable when you consider how much money has been spent over the years on the legacy solutions. Hybrid can be an effective temporary solution whilst more content services move into the cloud. The growing enthusiasm for cloud-based content management led research organisation "Markets and Markets" to predict that the cloud based Enterprise Content Management (ECM) market size would grow from US$9.77 billion in 2017 to US$ 34.42 billion by 2022.
One of the driving ideas behind the implementation of legacy ECMs was to put content online, where it could be accessed more easily than paper. But with the cloud, content is even more readily available. Workers in remote locations, including in different time zones, are able to collaborate easily by accessing documents in the cloud anywhere in the world on multiple devices.
Working on content in the cloud also appeals to millennials, who will make up three-quarters of the workforce by 2020 and expect to use the most sophisticated automated technologies. In addition, the cloud can offer far greater scale. In the cloud, additional storage is available whenever a company needs to expand.
By establishing your content management in the cloud, it liberates budgets from the constraints of heavy investments in on-premise technology hardware. The IT department spends less money on the up-front costs of the ECMs, and they don’t have to waste time doing ongoing maintenance. As a result, IT professionals can focus on doing more innovative work to modernise the user experience, such as developing custom user interfaces and new apps.
IT is not the only department to benefit from cloud-based storage. The cloud makes it easier to automate the technologies required for accounts payable, contracts management, correspondence management and invoice processing. Content management in the cloud allows everything from inventories to service contracts to be collected in one place and shared with authorised employees. It facilitates communication between various company departments, such as legal, human resources and finance.
There are already some innovative examples of cloud-based content services which are exciting users with their ability to take advantage of the flexibility of the services. Rather than purchasing off-the-shelf systems that are simply designed to manage content, they can more easily integrate content management and business processes. IBM has said that many organisations are blending together their previously separate content, process and collaboration functions in the cloud. Some firms also believe that the next step for development of technology for the cloud will be the use of robotics and AI to gain useful business insights from the stored content, rather as they would from big data. The development of these new tools has the potential to revolutionise content management in the cloud. The benefits for those businesses that leave their legacy systems behind and take the leap into the cloud will be exponential.