Why SMAC will change your company's content management strategy

Trends like social, mobile and cloud have become entrenched in business operations but also pose serious challenges to managing and securing information.

As trends like social, mobility, analytics and cloud computing become more entrenched in business practices, they have enabled companies to collaborate in new ways but also introduced new challenges for managing and securing enterprise information.

SMAC, or social, mobile, analytics, cloud, has enabled dispersed, global workforces to collaborate on projects, share files and reach beyond the boundaries of their offices' four walls. But the cloud and mobile devices have also blown apart traditional notions of information security and created new challenges for companies that relied on traditional enterprise content management software -- often elaborate, costly and nonintuitive. Many companies have turned to apps like Box to meet basic file-sharing and collaboration needs.

While industry observers have been predicting the importance of hybrid cloud-based ECM -- with information both on-premises and in the cloud -- the trend has proceeded incrementally in most enterprises. So too, enterprise collaboration platforms that are designed for teams to work on projects in common, communicate with one another and crowdsource information have been slow to take off.

SearchContentManagement sat down with Alan Pelz-Sharpe, a research director at 451 Research and a speaker at AIIM's 2015 conference, to talk about trends in content management and how information managers should think about governing corporate information this year.

What are some of the big trends in content management?

'For general file sharing, it's hard to justify the cost and complexity of [ECM software].'
Alan Pelz-Sharperesearch director, 451 Research

Alan Pelz-Sharpe: What's different, and it's been a trend over the past couple of years, is the impact of file sync-and-share. Fragmented workforces expect to work on anything anywhere anytime. We have been talking about it for years. AIIM is also going through that same transition. I would assume that many people are coming to the show to get educated. We see the impact of the Dropbox Effect. But where is the good advice on how to deal with it?

Do you think file sync-and-share versus ECM forced it to change its architecture to become more open, flexible, user-friendly?

Pelz-Sharpe: I think first that there will always be a need for traditional ECM. That market isn't going away. If you're managing an insurance claim, you're not going to use Dropbox. You'll use FileNet or Documentum or whatever -- these are sophisticated platforms to build sophisticated business applications.

But it's impacted ease of use and every traditional ECM vendor has had to improve ease of use software dramatically because it's had to. You don't want someone breaking the rules and doing their own thing. It's also impacted the pockets of ECM vendors. It has made ECM a specialist tool for specialist environments. For general file sharing, it's hard to justify the cost and complexity.

What have cloud and mobility done to change the information security equation?

Pelz-Sharpe: It has moved the security discussion beyond the perimeter. It has made it more of a holistic discussion. It has brought a sense of reality to the security discussion. If you turn the clock back five years, there was the IT perception that you could secure everything.

But today, we realize that's not possible. So the question is, How do I manage that ever-moving situation? How do I identify what I really need to lock down and what is an acceptable risk for the rest of the stuff? You just can't have a lock-everything-down mentality -- because it just ain't gonna happen.

Hybrid cloud-based ECM systems have often been touted as the next big thing in content management. But they haven't really taken off. What could speed adoption?

Pelz-Sharpe: I would argue differently. It has taken off, but it's a slow-moving train. But I think it's going at the pace it needs to go. You have the two extremes: Small companies that are greenfield sites can say, 'We'll run everything in the cloud. We won't invest in any hardware on-premises.' But enterprise-level organizations, you're dealing with 20, 30, 40 years of legacy and that stuff has incredible complexity. You can't just flip a switch. It will be a multiyear digital transformation.

The big projects are not standalone projects. They are part of more complex ERP, supply chain, business process implementation. Companies will also have to restructure business, jobs, roles, and restructure the technology.

Are you saying that trends like cognitive computing will replace human efforts?

Pelz-Sharpe: Today, we've got robotics, artificial intelligence, autonomics -- that's the next generation of what's happening. When you put in a new business process, a machine learns what is right and what's efficient and what isn't. That is game-changing.

People don't like to talk about it, but let's be honest about it: It is about introducing efficiencies and doing more with fewer people, potentially people in cheaper locations.

Why haven't enterprise collaborative platforms really taken off?

Pelz-Sharpe: Enterprise social networks [ESNs] promised so much and delivered so little. The idea was to implement an ESN, and suddenly all this magic will happen because people are now connected. But clearly it wasn't that easy.

As we look at ESN, Microsoft and IBM, Jive and specialists like Huddle and Glip -- which is very cool stuff -- there's lots of them on the market. Where they are investing is into the underlying analytics. We can all connect, share calendars and even video chat, but what we can do as well, is put analytics in place to spot patterns to make more intelligent recommendations. No one needs an activity stream: that your coworker Sandra just logged on. But having information once a month delivered to you, that there is a project you need to know about, suddenly you have added value to my work.

There's a lot of investment going on in employee monitoring. And now I can really see what my fragmented workforce is doing. Not to be all doom and gloom and Big Brother, but companies are using these tools this way. It's one thing to get visibility into a FedEx delivery person's activity -- that's a hard transaction -- but it's another thing entirely with a knowledge workers.

But isn't the problem that vendors haven't really built ESNs into existing software that is built for work processes?

Pelz-Sharpe: That is the problem. If your ESN isn't connected to your underlying business process, the chances of adoption are slim. But doing that is hard. So again, just because of a new product, the world doesn't change. You get app fatigue quickly. The ESNs of the future are the place you work because of the back end. I use the supply chain, it pushes the work to you, you monitor in real time.

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