How can something’s future be what it isn’t? That’s the almost paradoxical approach that will define the future or Enterprise Content Management (ECM).

The rise of the digital enterprise has changed the landscape of business and along with that the role ECM plays in an organization. Traditionally, ECM has been all about the back-end with an emphasis on technology for managing, securing, and organizing content. ECM was first developed in a pre-cloud world, before mobile, social and big data. And while the tenants of traditional ECM are still important, content – in and of itself – is not the end goal for today’s digital enterprise.

The end goal for today’s digital enterprise is to better serve the customer. And this takes a more progressive approach to what ECM needs to be to meet that goal. One with an emphasis on business – experience, speed, and productivity – to offer a more personalized and engaging user experience that delivers differentiated services and access to content anywhere and anytime a user needs them.

So how do we make ECM relevant for today’s world? How do we provide compelling experiences via cloud-based platforms, deliver content via a wide variety of mobile devices, and leverage social tooling and analytics to increase collaboration and make it easier and more intuitive to find content?

An Un-ECM Approach

A progressive ECM strategy doesn’t mean building out traditional ECM in a slightly different way – it requires an approach that fundamentally subverts the traditional elements of ECM. This is where we see an “un-ECM approach” coming into play to disrupt the world of ECM as we know it. An un-ECM approach has following key tenants that flip traditional ECM from the inside out:

Modular over monolithic: Traditional ECM platforms had been by necessity an all-or-nothing approach. Through major advances in security, mobility, cloud application delivery, collaboration and big-data analytics, modular sets of services are able to replace so called fully loaded “Cadillac” platforms that contain features for the most highly regulated of industries – not everyone needs that. In the future, organizations will use only what they need and pay for only what they use.

Apps first and foremost: ECM systems grew up as platforms. From the platform came the apps locked in to that particular system. The future of ECM requires an apps-first strategy. This doesn’t mean that the platform disappears, it will still be critical, but much like the “app economy” we live in as consumers, the future will be a curated marketplace for content apps built upon a cloud-native platform. Apps will be modular and individually indispensable, but even better when they work together to power the digital enterprise.

The end-user moves to the front: ECM traditionally looked after the needs of IT first. The future of ECM is in the hands of the business user. ECM will need to move beyond the technology and explore how content actually plays a vital role in the digital user experience. And deliver that experience with a focus on simplicity, mobility, collaboration, and productivity.

Cloud-first, but not cloud-only: ECM has long been designed for the world of on-premise, but the future is being born in the cloud. While cloud-only offerings make sense in some situations, many industries will continue to require on-premise offerings due to regulatory or integration requirements. Cloud is critical, but on-premise will continue to play a vital role.

This un-ECM approach is the key to developing a content management system that meets the expectations of today’s worker. The future is enterprise productivity squeezed into lightweight mobile apps. It is getting work done with an awesome user experience regardless of the device you are on. It’s having insights at your fingertips that have been revealed through new connections. All while meeting enterprise-grade requirements.

ECM is a complex market with a lot of history and over the years the expectations of what constitutes a complete ECM solution have constantly evolved. As ECM continues to advance in the digital era, an un-ECM approach will shake tradition to move the industry forward and reinvent collaboration and productivity for today’s new world.

(About the author: Rohit Ghai is president of the Enterprise Content Division at EMC)

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