Will ECM vendors catch up to Back Office Content Solutions?

Back in March I was already telling the ECM industry that they were not alone.  I was researching a trend where I thought vendors were emerging that offered out-of-the-box back office content solutions that were being sold directly to business users.  I expected to find a few examples in each content-rich core business areas.  What I found in quick searches were half a dozen vendors.  In deeper dives of specific solutions I found dozens of vendors.

racingIt seems like every time I turn on my computer I find more vendors.  Looking at Contract Life Cycle Management (CLM), I found vendors like CobbleStone Systems, Conga, and Exari.  In Accounts Payable, I found vendors like Esker and OmPrompt.  In Compliance Documents, I found vendors like QualTrax, and Vivaldi.  I even found vendors, like ConvergePoint and Coupa, who cross enterprise silos.  Ask yourself, have you run into these vendors before?

These vendors are talking to business users in their language.  “Drafting contracts” rather than “authoring documents.”  “Matching invoices and purchase orders” rather than “relating files”.  They offer solutions that require days of configuration instead of weeks or months of customization.  They offer the same technologies as ECM, like OCR and electronic signatures, but sometimes with different names.  For example, they use “Templates and clauses” instead of “compound documents and components.”

Only a few ECM vendors have their own out-of-the-box solutions.  M-Files and OpenText offer a CLM solution while Hyland OnBase and Lexmark offer an Accounts Payable solution.  A few solutions are offered by ECM partners like Gimmal’s CLM solution on EMC Documentum.  These ECM vendors and partners may address one or two business challenges, but there are back office content solutions in every process.

Yet, while these back office content solutions do a great job of meeting the specific business challenge, they don’t address information governance.  Most of these solutions are creating information silos.  Documents aren’t shared across departmental silos.  Except in obvious places like compliance, records retention is often forgotten.  This leads to multiple collections of ultimately unmanaged content.  These solutions are also unproven at volumes of millions or billions of documents.  Storage and performance are some of the strongest lessons learned by ECM vendors.

So with back office content solution vendors talking to customers about how they solve specific business problem, why is the ECM space so enthralled by a bunch of repurposed features?  The decision makers are buying solutions for business problems today, not a set of tools to build a solution tomorrow.  If I’m wrong, I’ll buy you a drink … tomorrow.

4 thoughts on “Will ECM vendors catch up to Back Office Content Solutions?

  1. ECM vendors shouldn’t catch-up. They need to start appealing to those solution providers as the platform for their solution. In the same way people don’t build their own database software, solutions should stop building their own content management software.


  2. Why not have both. Buy a solution first based on a platform that can have further solutions deployed on it.

  3. Both great points.

    Many of us, including Pie, have tried to promote ECM as an OEM platform. We have been promoting CMIS, CEVA, ODMA, WebDav, and you name every other OEM related strategy since blogs gave us a voice. The ECM vendors have not listened. Which has brought the market to where we are today.

    ECM vendors competed with custom solutions rather than looking to partnership. This let new vendors fill the gaps. There are significant companies worth hundreds of millions out there today offering solutions in AP, Compliance Documents, and Contracts. These vendors are not new.

    ECM vendors ignored EFSS. It looks like they’re ignoring these Back Office Content Solution too.

  4. I’m with you, Marko. Most customers don’t have the development resources to create specific applications from omnibus “platforms.” There will always be a legitimate debate between platforms and products, but the ECM industry — until recently — has had a dearth of the latter. You do a useful service by pointing out that the world is changing…

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