At the end of 2016 Gartner declared that Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is dead, and has been replaced by the term Content Services. This was met with a surprising amount of controversy and rebuttals, but overall, Gartner’s idea seems to be on point. The term “ECM” no longer captures the complexity of content management in enterprises today, and our way of thinking about these software systems could do with a healthy refresh.

ECM: A Strategy or a Solution?

One of the reasons Gartner gave for the change is that ECM is actually a strategy for how enterprises manage the entire breadth of their content. Because software solutions have traditionally been designed for specific use cases (web portals versus CMSs, for example), there didn’t used to be an issue with using one term to describe both a strategy and a solution.

ECM was never meant to describe a unique set of technologies that applied to one use case, but analysts need to segment software somehow, and that’s how the ECM label was used for a while. If you look at the evolving definitions of the term, however, it’s clear that ECM expanded beyond the technology a while ago, and now describes the complexities of managing and delivering content in an enterprise. Companies tackle these challenges with a monolithic, custom platform or a CMS that integrates additional capabilities as needed, which makes the prospect of setting clear boundaries for this technology segment unrealistic.

In fact, with the broadening of features in solutions, many traditional categories are converging into new terms. This is why we continue to see industry buzzwords change. Software isn’t static, and vendors are developing solutions in response to customer needs, even when that breaks the accepted industry boundaries.

ECM, DAM and CMS Are All Becoming Content Services

The term Content Services, in a way, is a smaller reflection of the trend towards the DXP product category. Because content is becoming a core feature of everything, the services and extensions that it requires are pushing CMSs, ECMs, DAMs and other content solutions to overlap into one category. Content Services simplifies this by pulling together all software that enables you to manage and publish content of any kind, with the necessary sophistication to accommodate all advanced services, tools and extensions. It’s a useful term, but calling your software “content services” doesn’t erase the need for a comprehensive ECM strategy.

Building a Roadmap for the Future

Rather than focusing on shifting terms, enterprises should look at their current content and what it will need to be able to do in the next six to 12 months. These questions can start the process of building a roadmap:

  1. What new devices are coming, and are you prepared to deliver content to them?
  2. How will new technology affect the content you produce? For instance, Artificial Intelligence can already write basic content, which shifts the priorities of what your content creators work on.
  3. How can Content Services better support employees in their current work tasks? Cloud-based repositories open up access to content, but introduce potential security threats which your organization will need to prepare for.
  4. What capabilities can be consolidated?
  5. What API-driven services or other integrations need to be implemented? Disruptive technology such as Internet of Things devices or Virtual Reality may turn into new channels that need to consume and deliver content.

In the meantime, it would be beneficial to keep an eye on the evolving definition of digital experience platforms, many of which bring a CMS-heritage that will become an essential part of ECM. As product categories continue to converge, the concept of integrated, lightweight platforms will continue to be relevant, whatever term we settle on.

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