ECMOur recently published Process Generated Content Management (PGCM) and Content Management for Knowledge Workers (CMKW) Vendor Landscapes are showing an interesting trend that is re-shaping the differentiators between process focused and knowledge focused ECM products.

It is clear that the market is struggling to deal with the expansion of content sources. None of the vendors have a module or functionality that allows externally created content to be secured without user intervention.

Sure, OpenText and Documentum (EMC2), champions in both Vendor Landscapes, have excellent additional products that can control, move, and dispose of content outside of the system, but there are additional costs on top of the price of the ECM.

The good news is that all of the vendors recognize that managing on a filetype by filetype basis is no longer good enough. All sixteen vendors are adding robust workflow and user customization tools to allow organizations to manage information flow.

The differences in how the vendors have decided to manage that flow can be seen in the stark differences between CMKW trend setter Alfresco and PGCM trend setter HP’s Records Manager. Alfresco brings good workflow and excellent user experience across devices to ensure that the important information is generated and stored within the system. Records Manager takes advantage of the IDOL search engine to find and classify information in any integrated system or through the RM client.

Moving forward, the choice between which group of vendors – process generated or knowledge worker – is going to become less clear. The use case and the complexity of information flow is going to be a key differentiator. Large vendors, including IBM, Documentum, HP, and OpenText, are moving towards a more vertical solution that can not only control information flow, but provide tangible control of storage growth. This is the idea of “Enterprise Information Management” (EIM). These types of solutions, moving forward, will be characterized by their ability to manage information in a content and location agnostic manner through clean mobile clients and integration into storage controls to enable enterprise wide disposition scheduling. There are a select group of smaller vendors that can meet this challenge: Perceptive, Alfresco, and Laserfiche.

The other group still manages information flow, but has clearer focus on enabling processes to function better through integration with productivity tools and clean, easy to use BPM tools. This model is exemplified by Hyland, M-Files, and Nuxeo. This is also the direction that Microsoft is taking SharePoint as it moves towards a cloud platform.

Info-Arch
Click image for our Information Governance Project Blueprint infographic.

ECM is a very mature, but fragmented market. You need to start with a well described Information Governance plan to define your ECM – or EIM – requirements prior to even evaluating vendors.

 

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It is not longer a question of “if” the consumerization trends behind cloud file sharing will compete with traditional Enterprise Content Management (ECM). It is a simple matter of “when” and when is 2014.

That was the impression Info-Tech analysts Tim Hickernell and Ben Dickie came away with from the recent BoxWorks conference in San Francisco. BoxWorks is an annual conference held by Box, a leading cloud file sharing vendor focused on the enterprise

boxworks

Info-Tech has been covering cloud file sharing for two years now and has predicted the technology’s ability to be a disruptive technology for traditional ECM and collaboration platforms, especially Microsoft’s SharePoint. To date, we have advocated complementary co-existence with collaboration platforms and mid-range ECM like SharePoint. However new features announced at BoxWorks 2013, such as metadata support, lightweight workflow rules, high fidelity viewers and basic document creation/authoring, raise the stakes and clearly indicate that in some cases, enterprises can replace or use Box in lieu of SharePoint for common document collaboration use cases.

Microsoft’s goal was indeed to democratize ECM for the masses by giving away entry level SharePoint and exploiting it as a Loss-Leader for add-ons and to further nurture the Microsoft development community. They believed that “free” would lower the entry barriers so as to ensure IT adoption and knowledge worker acceptance.

They were wrong.

While IT rushed to embrace SharePoint as a content sharing platform, after 10 years it is clear that knowledge workers have rejected the complex content management metaphors and lack of time, place and device ubiquity that it offers. Despite the inelegance and lack of manageability with simple file folder hierarchies, knowledge workers understand folders and don’t need help from IT to use them for business value. Add cloud ubiquity to the mix and it’s all but over. Cloud file sharing vendors have won over the average knowledge worker and consumerization of IT is once again democratizing another well-established business application domain, this time ECM.

Box is already the enterprise leader in cloud file sharing services due to an intentional strategy to focus on enterprise use cases.  Box offers centralized administration and is executing an effective partner strategy comprising integrations with numerous existing enterprise applications such as CRM and ERP. Indeed, Info-Tech recently awarded Box “Champion” status in our Cloud File Sharing Vendor Landscape, mostly based on strong enterprise credentials. Over the next two quarters, Box will be releasing numerous enhancements, once again aimed at the enterprise, such as:

  • High fidelity document viewing. Full integration of the high fidelity HTML5-based document viewing technology it acquired from Crocodoc. This enables Box to remove the need for native authoring apps to view documents on any platform . In an increasingly mobile-driven  work, this is a necessity to support document collaboration on any platform, especially mobile. By ensuring high fidelity of the original document, transformation to PDF is not required, unless the after-market features of PDF are desired, such as form fields or layers.
  • Document metadata. Box is adding the ability to tag objects stored in Box for manipulation in custom views, apps and workflows from both the web application and the API. Note that Box has already showcased customers demanding bulk input and delivery of files, such as one client that automates the drop of 500k files to customers at the beginning of each day. Enabling document metadata is of course a natural evolution to enable content lifecycle automation, a key feature of much more complex traditional ECM products. Box even demo’d one client’s use of metadata to output dynamic. While Adobe and many other output management vendors have been doing this for as long as two decades, Info-Tech suspects that with Box, building custom content assembly solutions on its platform won’t cost you six or seven figures, as with prevailing enterprise document assembly solutions. To be fair, while the prototype assembly app we saw was nothing near as functional and rich as Adobe Digital Publisher, the bones are there. For now, the target will be better integration between Box and existing ECM and workflow systems. A private beta is will begin in a few months.
  • New iPhone and iPad app. Following the acquisition of iOS app, Folders, Box has completely rewritten the app to focus on speed, security and meeting the ever rising user expectations on the new iOS apps. Users will gain a new and much faster preview for high fidelity files, including audio and videos, support for over 100 file types for server-side conversion to preview, ability to turn pages and search within PDFs.  The new iOS app has much improved real time search, offer the ability to work with multiple files at a time (for move/copy/delete actions) and a more prominent showcase for Box OneCloud application gallery in the user interface for easier access to the partner ecosystem.
  • Box Notes. Box Notes is a new collaborative content creation app aimed mostly at note taking scenarios for now. It includes the ability for users to see each other and make changes and annotate in the note in real-time. While the comparisons to Evernote were spreading at the conference as freely as San Francisco fog, Evernote and OneNote shouldn’t start worrying just yet. Box Notes is complementary to collaboration patterns that by definition are file-centric. Evernote and OneNote enable capture and recall of any type of information in almost any form, from files to snippets. The product is being positioned as “between word processing and communication.” Box Notes enters limited beta soon.
  • New Policies and Automation Engine. The Box platform is gaining a new rules and automation engine. For now, the first exposure of this engine to users will be through the admin console, to enable policy automation for security and compliance. Combined with capabilities of Box partners like CipherCloud and Code Green Networks, full Data Loss Prevention (DLP) can be implemented. But the larger question is what else can they build on top of the new rules engine? A business user workflow builder, especially a graphical drag and drop WYSIWYG tool, is a likely next step in our opinion.

While some of Box’s competitors will likely be acquired by traditional ECM and collaboration vendors, it’s clear that Box is plunging full steam ahead to deliver a consumerized version of ECM designed for the way people want to work in today’s increasingly cloud-enabled, mobile-connected social work environments.  Microsoft  SharePoint 2013 as a cloud service, coupled with SkyDrive Pro in every enterprise tier of Office 365, ensures Microsoft will remain Box’s top competitor in the near future.

But what about the cloud privacy concerns? Will there be sufficient demand for cloud file storage and content collaboration? Box’s latest stats show 20 million users at 180k companies, with some level of presence (not defined) at 97% of Fortune 500 companies. Our analysts spoke with dozens of Box customers and attendees and challenged them about the perception of cloud privacy. We found custom solutions written to the Box API to be commonplace among financial services customers, especially in the mid-market. All spoke of the competitive advantage of reduced cost and time to market by using Box’s API at the heart of their solutions, with little concern about security during storage in Box’s data centers or file transfer. Most were focused on device-level security though and had adopted a Mobile Device Management (MDM) vendor. And the most popular use case we observed that was driven solely by IT was the remote backup and restore scenario. CIOs and IT Directors we spoke with were convinced that using cloud file sharing services to sync end user documents to the cloud, so that IT’s restore role is a simple re-imaging of the company’s standard laptop configuration added great value in terms of reduced support costs and restoration times. Many of those same IT leaders shared with us plans to migrate users from laptops to tablets on their roadmap.

Bottom Line: As an industry leader, Box is executing a strategy that is clearly designed to take advantage of the current IT consumerization trends to democratize traditional enterprise content management. They won’t be the only cloud file sharing vendor to do so. Organizations refreshing and expanding content lifecycle automation, especially for mobile document delivery, capture and collaboration among knowledge workers, should consider cloud file sharing services as a component of their system design. But organizations must ensure vendors have robust platforms, high capacity APIs and enterprise-class controls. Simply having a nice remote device synchronization client, connected to the cloud, will not provide strategic advantage in the long run and this capability already being commoditized by Microsoft SkyDrive Pro.

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Web Content Management (WCM) was the darling technology of the late 1990s. It was positioned as a tool to help IT overcome the complexities of hand-coding web pages and publishing them to the web. The use case for WCM has changed. It is now a marketing tool.

WCM enables marketers to effectively create content and push it to the web. More importantly, WCM solutions allows marketers to create and test content and to monitor how users interact with a web presence. This interaction is key for enabling things like prospect conversion and upsell. In some cases, the website can be customized on-the-fly to appeal to particular customer/prospect desires or expectations.

Of course, with increased complexity comes increased maintenance. IT and marketing professionals must work closely to ensure that the WCM solution is delivering to expectations. The key challenges with WCM typically aren’t related to traditional IT issues. Info-Tech data indicates that enterprises have a good handle on concerns like the usability or the adequacy of various tools. The real concerns include working with marketing to actually discovery up-sell opportunities and convert prospects. These are traditionally marketing issues but they go right to the heart of WCM success.

Recent changes in web user behavior is also forcing people to rethink their WCM and web marketing strategies. Social and mobile are particularly thorny issues. Social content, for example, can give marketers unique tells about a user’s preferences and interests. Mobile, meanwhile, presents challenges for both content delivery and user profiling since a mobile device can provide insights on user location and preferences.

These emerging issues speak to the need for integration. WCM is no longer a completely stand-alone system. IT professionals must consider integration with different tools for customer management, lead management, and social media management.

For more information on WCM, see Info-Tech’s recently published Develop a Web Content Management Strategy. Info-Tech also offers two Vendor Landscapes on the topic: VL: Web Content Management and VL: Web Experience Management.

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man with many options

How do you balance compliance with knowledge sharing? This is the question that all of the vendors in the CMKW landscape are, frankly, struggling with answering. There are great products available, particularly from the champions OpenText, EMC, and IBM. The question surrounding these well-rounded solutions is cost and complexity.

The innovators in this space, Alfresco and Nuxeo, have taken a platform-based approach to allow organizations to build their own unique solution.

The 900lb gorilla in this field is SharePoint. It has wide use right now and could sit on its laurels and still shape the market! Microsoft has decided not to do this. SharePoint 2013 has gotten a nice set of tools for users making it the trend setter in this landscape. It still will require work, but it has drastically improved from a usability standpoint.

SharePoint is joined in the Market Pillar space by new entrants M-Files, Xerox DocuShare, and DocuWare. All of which provide strong document management solutions. Oracle rounds out the section with its WebCenter offering which is a must-have for Oracle shops.

HP TRIM, Autonomy, and Xythos round out the landscape in the emerging player category. All of these vendors provide strong offerings based on verticals.

The take home message is that the market is fragmented. At the moment there are very few vendors that provide solutions that can be the single ECM solution for organizations. Enterprises looking for an ECM solution still need to address their acute needs and plan on integrating the appropriate other products into that central solution.

For guidance on choosing a CMKW solution, see Info-Tech’s, Vendor Landscape: Enterprise Content Management for Knowledge Workers.

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I was recently discussing email management with a member of the Info-Tech community. She asked: “Well, what do you do about email?” It’s always dangerous to ask an analyst an open question!

Email dependence is a bad thing. We are all conditioned like Pavlov’s dogs to respond to the “ping” of the inbound message. Academic literature indicates that lessening our reliance on email generally improves productivity due to a decrease in task switching. Removing email also decreases the stress hormone cortisol. Increased cortisol is strongly linked with pretty much every poor health outcome you can imagine. The decrease in cortisol might be due to the removal of the stimulus – the email “ping” – or it could due to increased movement. Without email, people just move more. More steps and less sitting is generally a good thing.

But there’s a problem. We can’t just get rid of email since it is crucial to getting things done in knowledge-centric environments like Info-Tech. Other enterprises have had some success in diverting task management from email towards other tools like collaboration suites, document repositories, and activity streams. The less structured our tasks, however, the more we rely on very fluid communication media. For the most part, however, we depend on email.

Email is like red wine: a little bit is tasty and healthy but swilling rot gut will kill you.

So, what should we do about email? It’s not the technology; it’s our reaction to it. In general, email pain comes from two distinct vectors: distraction, and maintenance. Adopt tactics to deal with each of these vectors.

A. Distraction. Email disrupts our ongoing ability to get things done. It diverts us from the tasks we need to accomplish and effectively breaks our day up into vanishingly small segments. Knowledge workers generally require relatively large block of time to complete research, review, and writing tasks.

  1. Eliminate the distraction. Turn off alerts and pop-ups. Don’t be a slave to email. Time-sensitive messages will find their way to you via synchronous communication like phone and IM.
  2. Make time(s) for email. Set specific windows for checking and responding to email. In general, 30-minute windows first thing in the morning, immediately after lunch, and before the end of the day are appropriate.
  3. Use a Pomodoro if you’re jonesin’. The Pomodoro technique is a time management technique involving a timer that breaks the day into 25-minute intervals followed by a 5-minute break. Set a timer – I like www.timer-tab.com – and get to work. When the timer is up, check your email.

B. Maintenance. The ever-increasing inbox is an additional source of stress. Individuals are generally either filers with byzantine collections of folders or pilers with one large inbox. Filers must devote more energy into maintaining their organization system than pilers but get better retrieval… except they don’t (at least for paper-based systems). Generally, elaborate folder systems don’t facilitate information recall or retrieval except for very tightly defined project or process requirements. Most ad-hoc or personal classification systems represent an individual’s efforts to make sense of disparate information. Unfortunately, that sense is fluid and changes with the individual’s experience thereby undermining the significance of the classification system!

  1. Do your spring cleaning. Adopt a zero-email inbox… at least some of the time. Empty your inbox on a regular basis. Some people maintain empty on a constant basis, others do it on Fridays, or at the end of the month. Collecting too much junk foils search tools (or, in information-retrieval speak, lessens precision).
  2. Keep things flat. Filers see no advantages. Process email into the only two folders that you really need:
  3. @Action. If something needs to be done with a message put it into the @Action folder. Endeavour to keep this folder empty. Dedicate a Pomodoro or two to getting it cleared out.
  4. @Reference. If you don’t know if you will need something or not, put it into the @Reference folder. Knowledge workers are generally information-hoarders and collect far more than they really need. Don’t agonize about where messages should go. Just dump them into @Reference and use search to access them on the very odd chance that you need to access them.
  5. An aside: Why “@Action” instead of just “Action”? Appending the @ symbol will float these folders to the top of your list of folders. Keep the old folders or just move them into @Reference.

Experiment with productivity tools where appropriate. Instead of the @Action folder you could turn messages into Tasks or create different Task entries. Email management isn’t a replacement for task management but your email management strategy has to integrate with task management! Read Getting Things Done by David Allen for more guidance on this topic.

Build a tabernacle for blessed email. The @Reference folder works well for messages of dubious value. Some email, however, has very definite value. Move these messages into a stable repository that deals with documents of all kinds including PDF documents, images, recordings, web pages, etc. This repository could be a OneNote, Evernote, or even a file share (but friends don’t let friends use file shares).

That said, I’ve just mentioned a few tactics for dealing with email. Our roles change constantly and we need to be fluid in how we manage information. Add these tactics to the toolbox but don’t treat them as finished projects or SOPs!

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