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2019 trends in content management: Personalization, AI

AI, personalization, open services platforms and vendor wars, content management software industry observers say, will be the top trends in 2019.

It's inescapable: Just as increasingly sophisticated AI continues its march through every sector of the tech world, it also tops the list of tech trends in content management software to watch heading into 2019, industry observers said.

Also expected to emerge or continue rising rapidly over the next year in content management are personalization technologies and the war for market share among the major vendors and smaller competitors that are advancing.

Each vendor of note -- not only industry leaders Box, Hyland, IBM, Microsoft, OpenText and Google, but also contenders like M-Files, Nuxeo and Alfresco -- has already incorporated AI tools and machine learning algorithms into its core platform and related systems.

Now, vendors are accelerating their AI efforts as users quickly get comfortable with the no-longer-new technology and even have come to expect AI software tools that surface or help end users find the right text, visual and audio content.

AI content management applications

Beyond enterprise search, AI also boasts a wide range of other content management applications, including web content and digital asset management, marketing automation and content marketing.

Artificial intelligence, which, of course, is a much used and abused term, is becoming a major trend in terms of what vendors are adding to their platforms.
Michael WoodbridgeGartner

"Artificial intelligence, which, of course, is a much used and abused term, is becoming a major trend in terms of what vendors are adding to their platforms," Gartner analyst Michael Woodbridge said. "It's already happening. It's happened over the last 12 months plus, but now, it's starting to penetrate into all vendors, not just the few that are at the leading edge."

Those AI additions mostly fall into two major enterprise categories, in Woodbridge's view:

  1. Productivity enhancements using machine learning and graph technology for content collaboration by suggesting collaborators and related content, for example; and
  2. Content classification use cases, such as extracting sentiment and core knowledge from business documents and storing it as metadata for applications like contract management, risk analysis, fraud detection and customer service.


Particularly notable among other key trends in content management technology for the year ahead is the rapid growth of personalization for both web content and enterprise content residing in content management systems (CMSes).

The convergence of AI and personalization to effect better customer marketing, sales and service is a trend in itself, as one of the top personalization software vendors, Evergage, unsurprisingly sees it.

In the past, personalization -- if it was done at all -- relied on rules, in the same way traditional AI did as far back as the 1960s. AI breaks personalization out of the rules-based engines and can automate things to a more granular level -- at least that's the hope.

With the rise to dominance of the web and digital marketing and advertising, personalization has become an integral part of how online retailers and other organizations do business by tailoring customer and user experiences individually as much as possible.

For that, it will increasingly rely on AI and its variants, not rules, said Andy Zimmerman, Evergage's CMO.

"The big areas of focus in the space are on applications of machine learning to deliver experiences at the one-to-one level," Zimmerman said. "Rather than a marketer trying to figure it out and guessing and testing, you can have a system that's self-learning and optimizing and doing its own testing of different experiences, whether it's offers or headlines or images to show."

In the enterprise CMS sphere, Evergage's strategy is to let the big vendors do their own personalization for users -- usually relying on AI and machine learning, as exemplified by Box's Box Skills AI framework collaboration with AWS, Microsoft, IBM and Google. Some CMS vendors, such as Nuxeo, for example, hire Evergage to do personalization for the vendors' own websites and blogs.

A chart explaining dynamic offers

Vendors pursue contrasting strategies

The battle for supremacy among smaller but fast-growing native cloud vendors, like Box, and big tech companies, such as Microsoft and its arsenal of on-premises and cloud content and collaboration systems, is another of the top trends in content management that promises to intensify in 2019.

Microsoft has deep roots in content management technology with its nearly 2 decades-old, mostly on-premises SharePoint document sharing and storage software, which now is integrated with Office 365 and other Microsoft CMS products.

Matthew McDermott, a Microsoft SharePoint, Office 365 and Azure expert, said he sees the immediate future of the content management world through the prism of the re-emergence of the traditional intranet in a new form -- the modern CMS.

Content often is scattered around organizations, with individual departments typically managing their own content. But end users encounter difficulty finding the content they want in this model.

"We hoped they would take control of their content, but it hasn't necessarily worked out that well," said McDermott, principal technical marketing engineer at Spanning Cloud Apps, an Austin-based content backup and recovery vendor. "I think you're going to see enterprises take a hard look at that and decide they still need some sort of central location."

McDermott predicted that SharePoint, which has a massive installed base in large enterprises and government, won't go away. Instead, it's evolving into a sort of server system for more agile Microsoft content management and collaboration software, such as Office 365, Teams, OneDrive and Yammer, he said.

Box wants to be content platform

Box, meanwhile, is sticking to its self-anointed mission of becoming the hub for all an organization's content needs.

The Silicon Valley vendor, which has been growing its user base at a dramatic pace, even though the company has yet to turn a profit, is pursuing an open content services platform (CSP) approach.

Gartner defined the CSP category in a 2017 report in which the consulting giant said the classic enterprise content management paradigm has changed into an open approach built on cloud-based APIs.

In an interview at the BoxWorks 2018 user conference, Box Chief Product and Strategy Officer Jeetu Patel talked about AI's importance in Box's technology strategy, in which the company aims to improve customer experience with each of its new features or products.

"The way we think about breakthrough technologies and what the market is doing and the megatrends in machine learning and cloud and AI -- in these areas, we felt we could have a meaningful … innovation where things would be different if we innovated versus if we didn't," Patel said.

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