In June 2016 I asked, “Will ECM vendors catch up to Back Office Solutions?” I pointed out that Enterprise Content Management (ECM) vendors were missing the boat on content solutions being sold directly to end users. These back office solution vendors don’t talk about “content” and do not see themselves as ECM vendors. They might call themselves document management solutions (DMS) vendors, but usually their focus was on the specific document types, like contracts, accounts payable, and employee files. I took a deeper look at this in my Document Strategy article in February. So the question is, has this changed?
The Analyst View
Interestingly this shift ties into a conversation I started before the AIIM conference around “Enterprise Content Management” versus “Content Services.” I had a good conversation at the conference with Hanns Koehler-Kruener of Gartner. I found that we shared a lot of common ground. We both felt that the ECM message was missing the change in how documents were solving challenges in an organization. The Gartner view was to change the name of the ECM space to “content services.” The more I think of it “content services” is a good term for the underlying components of ECM that are required to support content in Back Office Content Solutions like Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM). It makes me wonder if by putting our focus on ECM as a solution we missed the need to change to support the new business document environment. I still believe that the term ECM has a place.
The Vendor View
I will say that some ECM vendors have seen this shift and have entered the back office space. M-Files is one that’s embracing this shift to back office content solutions. M-Files is now talking about Accounts Payable and Contracts as solutions in addition to its message of being an ECM platform. By having its solutions on the M-Files ECM platform, the silos that would have emerged through the deployment of individual document type solutions, like contracts or AP invoices, are being eliminated. Now someone in sales can see the contracts for a specific customer AND all of the invoices using a single solution. ECM vendors often promised this in the past, but it was rarely realized because it required a custom configuration.
Other vendors are seeing it too. They are looking at what it means to support these back office content solutions. Which vendors? I’ll let you know as the official announcements are posted. For now, if your organization is not looking at it then you’re already behind.
Interestingly, the back office content solution vendors do see the ECM market. They have run into roadblocks in larger organizations that have standardized on an ECM platform. When IT is brought in on the discussion the question of build versus buy immediately pops up. They are looking to see what ECM means to them. (I’ll share my thoughts on this in the future.) I would not be surprised to see back office solution vendors at the next industry conference.
The Year Ahead
I predict an interesting year ahead for traditional ECM players when looking at back office content solutions. The view of how enterprise content management and document management are looked at as generic solutions in the business is beginning to make way for content specific solutions. As more ECM vendors recognize this shift, will yours be left missing the big picture?