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.
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.