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Proof Finding ECM Platforms is Difficult

I think most of the time, we in the industry take for granted that “everyone” knows what ECM (Enterprise Content Management) is.  If you have a document management problem, you suddenly miraculously figure out that what you really have is an ECM problem.  You then immediately discover the Gartner Magic Quadrant and you are ready to deploy.  I think that it is for this reason that there are so many vendors in the ECM space.

When I finished my first pass on Contract Management solutions for our index of ECM vendors, I found over 62 vendors.  I was amazed.  It started to show me the vast size of the small vendor space within ECM.  I wrote about this last year in “Two Guys and a Computer.”  But why is it so large?  My hypothesis is that it is hard to find the solution you need.

My Methodology – Calculating Search Efficiency

When we first started the blog I wrote an article on search efficiency.  I created this approach after I had been asked to discovery “why” a custom content for a FAQ solution was not returning the business results expected.  I looked at their search query history and manually performed the same searches.  What I found was confusing results, which is of course what the users found.  What the end users would search for would not return a result.  This meant a call to customer service and yet another article being written on the same topic.  In that situation, the solution was the use of a common vocabulary.

I used the Calculating Search Efficiency approach to review Enterprise Content Management.  A big part was to run the same searches that the end user would be using.

Testing my Hypothesis

I took the buyer persona of a business person trying to find a solution to their document problem.  I wanted to start with a business problem.  I feel that ECM is still not a common technology concept within IT.  It is also common for business users to start without the support of IT, especially in the mid-market.

I played the role of corporate counsel looking for a solution to manage the company’s contracts.  In the persona of corporate counsel, I used terms that would be familiar to me.  I used “contract management” because those were the documents I, as corporate counsel, was hoping to manage.  I also used “contract management software” assuming that in my search I would find an existing software solution for my challenge. Here are the results of my Google search.

I started by searching for:

I have ten companies to review.  After reading through these sites, I learn of a solution space called “Contract Lifecycle Management”, so I decide to do another search on that topic.

The new results included ads that still lead me to those vendors above.  But it is the first time that I find the Gartner Leaders in Enterprise Content Management; EMC, Oracle, and SAP.

Finally the results introduced the Gartner Magic Quadrant, a trusted analyst report, but only for Contract Lifecycle Management and not Enterprise Content Management.

What Does ECM Return?

In the industry, we often act as if everyone knows exactly what ECM means.  So I decided to search for “ECM”.  The following results were returned:

Searching for the term “Enterprise Content Management” rather than the acronym “ECM”, does start to match with those often considered leaders.  The results were:

The results also led me to AIIM and the Gartner Magic Quadrant, this time for Enterprise Content Management.

Drawing My First Conclusion

Following the scientific method, I asked my question, constructed a hypothesis, and ran some test experiments.  It is time for my conclusion.  It is not easy for some in a buyer’s persona to find an ECM platform solution.

For those that know of Enterprise Content Management, the journey quickly brings you to the key answers that ECM platform vendors rely upon.  Those are the Gartner Magic Quadrant for ECM and AIIM, which lead you to the leaders in the Magic Quadrant.  But two vendors, EMC and Microsoft, never show up in my search results.

Following the business user persona of a contract manager, I find myself moving down a path that takes me away from ECM Platform vendors.

Next Steps

I’d like to get a better idea of the resources business users used to find their solutions.  I want to verify if they started with an internet search or if they went to an outside consulting organization early in the process.  I also want to see when and how the Gartner Magic Quadrant becomes part of the decision process.

Anyone in the user community interested in sharing how they learned about their ECM solution, please feel free to comment below.


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