Crystal Ball Gazing … Enterprise Content Management 2020

With a few big ECM related announcements over the past couple of weeks … Microsoft SharePoint 2010 and IBM Advanced Case Management topping the list, I thought I would do a little crystal ball gazing and set my sights on the future.  This is always fun and a bit risky at the same time.  Consider Thomas J. Watson, Sr. who despite very scant evidence is widely credited with saying (in 1943): “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers”.   I supppose we’ll never know for sure if Watson said it or not, but despite the risk of being wrong, I share my perspective on what ECM will look like in 10 years.

In today’s ECM … You find the document you need

The Document is King

ECM as we know it today started as a way to control paper and evolved to electronic documents.  From there it grew into something that could support the document sharing and creation processes and then into electronic business process creation, management and optimization.  It has increasingly been enhanced and expanded in a number ways … most notably with better search, process and compliance technologies.  Even today, nearly 30 years after the founding of FileNet (who is largely credited for inventing the industry in the 1980s), the document is the center of the universe with everything else in supporting roles.  It’s become so easy to create and share documents we’ve lost a critical value point along the way … the context.  Endless hours are spent searching for documents without the ability to know which versions are trusted and are an accurate representation of the business context.  We’re at a tipping point of a business realization and content utility – while critical to the success of a business, a document is still only a communication medium useful for the ability to track thinking and provide historical value.  A document is a form of communication, not the end goal of a business.  Workers, in their roles, are what supports the end goal of business today.  Successful businesses and their employees need technology to support their roles and to enable deliverly of savings and new revenue.  Today … these same workers are expected to produce results AND manage / find documents.   This dynamic will change over the next 10 years, driven in part by advances in collaborative, social, case management and other ECM related technologies. 

 The Context (or worker role) is King

In 2020 … The document you need finds you.  ECM will evolve and minimally exist as we understand it today.  The concept of ECM will have changed because it’s no longer about “content,” rather it’s “worker role” or “context” as the central planning aspect.  ECM as we knew it in 2010, will have become more than content repositories, process, records and searching.  Workers, and their business roles are the central aspect, with all processes and communication flows either inputs our outputs in context to these roles.  Some examples are:

  • Inbound and outbound communication are expanded to include voice and text from any source (unified communications becomes table-stakes).
  • Processes are defined, developed and optimized around supporting role execution.
  • Composite information dashboards are the interface across systems and processes and deliver in-business-context information on demand.
  • Information is organized, trusted, proactively managed and self described.
  • Certain basic ECM problems have been “fixed” and no longer top priority ECM issues (retention, disposition, eDiscovery, search result quality).
  • Institutional knowledge is managed as knowledge, not documents.
  • Content Analytics is the norm where Ontologies describe trusted semantic relationships from both internal and external information sources.
  • Processes and system interactions become truly dynamic and can “learn” from historical execution to recommend streamlining options.
  • On-premise, appliance, cloud and hybrid delivery models all interoperate and are invisible to end-users.

I could go on for pages but if anything remotely like this crystal ball vision comes true … the implications for all ECMers are significant.  Technologies like Microsoft SharePoint, IBM Lotus Quickr, IBM Advanced Case Management, IBM Content Analytics are amomng those that will drive the next generation of ECM usage and adoption within business context of businesses, processes, workers and roles.

Time will tell if I am right or not.  In the mean time, leave me your feedback … what does ECM look like in 2020 in your crystal ball?  I’d love to see what everyone else thinks about the future of ECM (right or wrong) … after all it was the same Thomas Watson who said: “The way to succeed is to double your error rate”.