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Best enterprise content management software of 2024

When it comes to ECM, there are myriad vendors to consider. Delve into 10 platforms to understand their capabilities and functions before deciding.

Enterprise content management software -- especially for a larger business -- can be an expensive, heavily involved purchase, so it's important to understand the options before deciding.

Adding complexity, the enterprise content management (ECM) marketplace continues evolving to meet the ever-changing needs of competitive business operations.

Selecting the best enterprise content management software vendor depends on business goals, objectives, organizational culture and standard operating procedures. Here's a snapshot of 10 important ECM platforms to consider while making a buying decision, selected based on the product's reputation and vendor's presence in the content services marketplace. This list is not ranked and instead appears in alphabetical order.

1. Alfresco Software

Alfresco provides a content services platform to manage business documents across the enterprise. Maintained as an open source project, it supports ECM deployed either on premises or in the cloud running on AWS. Hyland Software acquired Alfresco in October 2020, and it remains a separate platform with its product roadmap.

Rather than delivering turnkey applications, Alfresco combines open source tools with support services. It provides technology partners with the building blocks for producing content-centric applications designed around the needs of individual organizations and targeting a broad range of industry verticals.

Alfresco produces open source modules that support essential ECM functions, including library services, document lifecycle management, file sharing, file sync and share with mobile devices and records management. Access controls define user and group permissions to manage document access.

Application developers can inspect and modify core functions. Alfresco produces simplified tools, including templates and scripts, for citizen developers to help administrators and nontechnical users create and maintain predefined workflows. As a result of its acquisition, Alfresco expects to use AI and machine learning capabilities and vertical industry expertise that Hyland develops and acquires.

Alfresco modules integrate with other web services through RESTful APIs. The company has developed social media interfaces for linking to popular platforms like YouTube, Facebook and X, formerly known as Twitter. Regarding corporate governance, Alfresco provides the underlying modules for records management based on predefined industry standards, but it requires some assembly.

Enterprise content management software comparison chart.
Each enterprise content management vendor has strengths and weaknesses, and finding the best fit starts with understanding what the organization needs most.

2. Box Platform

Box delivers cloud-native content services to organizations in many industries. Box Platform provides a cloud-native content hub for organizing, securing and sharing content across the extended enterprise.

Box provides seamless connectivity to Microsoft 365, email attachment support for Outlook and Gmail, and native support for personal productivity apps within Google Workspace -- Docs, Sheets and Slides. The platform also embeds editors and viewers for many other content types, including rich media files, medical images, AutoCAD files and other 3D renderings.

Architected for securing large-scale operations, Box Platform supports multiple approaches to cloud content management, content sharing and team collaboration. In addition to library services and hierarchical access controls of a centralized ECM repository, the platform features an embedded enterprise search engine and extensive metadata management tools for semi- and fully automatic content tagging. Unique among cloud service providers, Box Platform can securely distribute individual files across an extended enterprise and to anyone online.

Box Platform supports APIs that can easily connect to external AI and machine learning (ML) engines to interpret and categorize content in different business contexts. Box can track relationships between content and users, analyze patterns, make inferences and personalize delivery.

Box features an integrated workflow product -- Box Relay -- that automates and standardizes document workflows within the repository. It supports business process automation by integrating related third-party web services through RESTful APIs.

Box offers cloud-powered capabilities for content security and governance. The platform supports multiple security, privacy, compliance and data protection standards through Box Shield. Box relies increasingly on AI to monitor content flows within the repository and detect threats. It has added a malware deep scan capability to combat ransomware and continually enhances its content security capabilities to address new vulnerabilities. The company provides seamless e-signature workflows through Box Sign. And it maintains Box Platform in multiple data centers worldwide, enabling its customers to comply with data sovereignty mandates by specifying the geographical locations for storing content.

3. Hyland OnBase

Hyland OnBase manages documents and other content associated with formal business operations. It provides a central repository tailored to specific vertical industries: healthcare, financial services, insurance, government, retail, manufacturing and higher education.

OnBase focuses on optical character recognition, imaging and archiving capabilities. It features in-depth integration with various enterprise applications, including the latest versions of Microsoft Office and Outlook, SAP and AutoCAD.

Specifically, OnBase links documents maintained within the repository to the transactions in other enterprise applications, such as ERP, accounting and HR systems. It supports back-office processing, case management and managing the content from transactional systems. With content maintained in a shared repository, OnBase provides the foundations for Hyland RPA -- the company's robotic process automation tool for accurately automating high-volume redundant tasks, such as reconciling documents for insurance claims processing.

OnBase continues to expand transaction-level linking capabilities into many aspects of corporate governance. In partnership with Iron Mountain, its Governance Rules as a Service offering maintains the document retention rules based on actual mandates. OnBase's dashboard enables corporate governance managers to translate document retention mandates into working rules and configurable policies.

4. IBM Cloud Pak for Business Automation

IBM Cloud Pak for Business Automation bundles multiple ECM products with the company's cloud capabilities to develop enterprise applications for large organizations. With experience in the ECM marketplace dating from the 1980s, IBM delivers interrelated ECM products to manage unstructured business information while protecting customers' investments in legacy systems.

Cloud Pak incorporates the following purpose-built repositories:

  • IBM Content Foundation. This fully functional content repository with enterprise-grade security is designed to capture, store, organize and access business information. Users can access team spaces to collaborate on projects. Content Foundation supports basic enterprise search capabilities. Organizations can deploy the platform on premises, in the cloud or hybrid environment.
  • IBM FileNet Content Manager. FileNet features tools for content lifecycle management, transactional content processing and content consolidation across the enterprise. It includes library services and other document management capabilities. FileNet features compliance and governance tools for records management and APIs for content-centric application development.
  • IBM Business Automation Workflow. This offering takes advantage of the company's business process management (BPM) and case management expertise. It enables customers to analyze content and route business documents through predefined steps in a business process. The software then stores the complete case within one of the repositories, with full audit controls.

Cloud Pak uses the content managed within these repositories to deliver high-value business applications, such as straight-through processing and automated document approvals. Moreover, Cloud Pak can add intelligence to these applications by utilizing AI/ML services based on IBM Watson for content classification, data extraction and image recognition.

5. IManage Work

IManage provides ECM to law firms, accounting firms and other professional services organizations. The company's ECM offering, IManage Work, combines document and email management capabilities to deliver the repository of record for all content flowing through individual firms. This product is deployed on premises or through hosted servers running remotely and features native Windows applications. The company rolled out a native SaaS version of its product running on Microsoft Azure in 2021.

Lawyers, accountants, consultants and support staff can securely share their work products and client correspondence. IManage Work maintains the filing plans, folder hierarchies and controlled vocabularies for tagging messages, documents and other types of content within the repository.

IManage Work delivers granular access controls and can establish auditable firewalls within a firm to channel content flows. It can assemble messages and documents into formal collections for records management and archival preservation. IManage Work embeds an AI engine within its repository to recommend or automatically tag content and provide insights into relationships among files.

The platform also automates document-driven business processes within a firm. It provides the workflow for new business intakes and integrates with various line-of-business applications, such as expense tracking, matter management and professional time reporting. IManage Work provides multiple tools to manage content security policies, ensure compliance to governance mandates and detect threats to content stored within the repository.

6. Microsoft 365

Microsoft 365 bundles Office personal productivity tools with SharePoint to provide an extensible ECM platform for managing documents, webpages and other content types across an extended enterprise. SharePoint is Microsoft's primary ECM repository within its overall cloud-powered infrastructure.

Organizations configure and deploy SharePoint to solve many document management, content management and collaboration problems. Using Microsoft Azure for native cloud delivery, SharePoint also supports on-premises and hybrid hosting infrastructures.

As an integral part of Microsoft 365, SharePoint integrates seamlessly with related tools from Microsoft for ad hoc information sharing, including Microsoft Office apps for personal productivity, Teams for workgroup collaboration and OneDrive for file sync and share. Utilizing an underlying repository, SharePoint manages content produced by these tools, adding library services, metadata management, records management and enterprise search capabilities.

Microsoft is continually enhancing its ecosystem's content understanding, processing and content compliance capabilities. SharePoint Syntex delivers AI and ML technologies within SharePoint for automatic tagging, semantic inferencing and image recognition.

SharePoint provides the foundation for business process management. It manages unstructured business documents -- such as scanned invoices, bills of lading and material safety data sheets -- for BPM, ERP and CRM applications.

Microsoft supports content security and governance increasingly oriented around zero-trust technologies and operational principles. As part of the Microsoft 365 ecosystem, SharePoint facilitates compliance by automatically adding sensitivity labels to content and other advanced ECM capabilities.

7. Nuxeo Platform

Nuxeo optimizes its ECM platform for both text-oriented and digital assets. Nuxeo Platform manages the flow of product-related content, such as images, schematics, data sheets and 3D renderings of physical objects, through digital supply chains. Companies -- particularly those in consumer-packaged goods, retail and media/entertainment industries -- can use the platform to digitize key parts of their product design processes.

Nuxeo Platform stores many types of content in a scalable enterprise repository, running on premises or in the cloud. It integrates with Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Suite for personal productivity and content lifecycle management. Beyond ad hoc information sharing, the platform enhances teamwork through low-code capabilities for rapid application development. Citizen developers and other nontechnical users can tailor processes around work-related tasks and develop collaborative environments that overcome manual handoffs and information stovepipes.

Nuxeo adds content intelligence to business activities within an enterprise. The Nuxeo Platform supports flexible metadata management capabilities, enabling easy access and speedy search through large content collections categorized by multiple taxonomies. Nuxeo Insight, which embeds AI capabilities within the platform, provides services to train ML algorithms to recognize specific elements and attributes of their products. Nuxeo can also use publicly available AI/ML services from cloud providers.

Nuxeo relies on Insight to automatically categorize content, recognize images and automate content-centric processes within the repository. It features pre-built connectors to Salesforce and provides RESTful APIs for application developers to integrate the repository into common business applications.

Hyland acquired Nuxeo in April 2021 and expects to maintain the existing platform while employing Nuxeo services with other services within its product portfolio to deliver value-added vertical applications.

8. OpenText Documentum

OpenText Documentum is an ECM platform for managing business documents within large enterprises. The platform maintains high-value, mission-critical collections, such as engineering design documents or new drug applications. It provides a shared repository to store and manage documents securely, deployed on premises or through cloud-ready services that support various cloud-based infrastructures.

Documentum includes content analytics capabilities to extract metadata and classify content automatically. It offers federated search capabilities to retrieve documents from multiple repositories and records management capabilities for long-term retention. It relies on separate e-rooms for collaborative document sharing.

Documentum includes specialized tools for document capture and classification and for generating high-volume personalized documents, such as insurance policies. It supports secure file sync and share for synchronizing files on mobile devices. It provides proprietary and open source APIs to integrate the content stored within the repository with external enterprise applications.

Documentum supports a fully featured BPM platform that uses content within the repository. Documentum XCP automates high-volume, information-intensive processes such as case management activities within the financial services industry.

9. OpenText Extended ECM

OpenText Extended ECM, the company's flagship ECM offering, manages business documents and unstructured content through a shared repository. It features enterprise-grade document management capabilities, including library services, multilayer security, access controls, content navigation and workflow.

OpenText Extended ECM provides multiple tools to enhance workgroup productivity. Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat and other personal productivity applications connect directly to the repository. Other tools support content capture and optical character recognition indexing from scanned and electronic documents, as well as secure file sync and share with content stored on mobile devices. The repository supports content sharing for ad hoc collaboration.

The platform's extensive metadata management capabilities support enterprise search and records management. Users can tag content manually, semiautomatically or automatically based on predefined terms. OpenText Magellan, the company's AI and analytics platform, can also infer details about content.

OpenText supports ad hoc process management through connected workspaces that integrate with external enterprise applications. OpenText continues to release pre-built business scenarios that simplify and accelerate integrations with Microsoft Teams, Salesforce and SAP. Templates and scripts aggregate content, data, people and tasks to support common business functions like sales opportunity tracking. OpenText also provides development tools that integrate with the core repository through RESTful APIs for more complex projects.

Finally, OpenText Extended ECM ensures content governance through a systematic approach to records management. It applies record classifications and disposition tags to collections of files stored within the repository, which are mapped to retention schedules and removed at the end of their lifecycles.

10. Oracle

Oracle delivers tools and platforms to produce content-centric applications for large organizations. It relies on multiple ECM platforms to orchestrate content flows that support line-of-business operations and marketing activities.

Oracle maintains several purpose-built repositories for managing structured, semistructured and unstructured data. These platforms -- including Oracle WebCenter Content and Oracle Content Management (OCM) -- feature core ECM capabilities such as access controls, library services and content lifecycle management.

Microsoft Office apps can connect directly, enabling seamless content flows that enhance personal productivity. Oracle manages images, videos and other types of rich media as digital assets. OCM includes tools and applications to edit content on the fly and deliver content to multiple endpoints, including chatbots. OCM has integrated video editing and production capabilities, transforming enterprise video into another content type within a seamless user experience.

OCM relies on sophisticated metadata management capabilities to provide insights for content delivery, including chatbots and voice-enabled experiences. Depending on content types, this platform supports automatic tagging, automatic classification and image recognition capabilities using multiple AI and ML technologies.

Oracle provides extensive process automation tools to support editorial content workflows, case management and business process management applications. The company provides prepackaged adapters to integrate with related enterprise applications, including PeopleSoft, Siebel and JD Edwards.

Geoffrey Bock is principal of Bock & Company and advises organizations on content technologies and the future of business in the digital age.

Editor's note: This list was formed with extensive research into the enterprise content management market, including vendor market share, reports from respected research firms like Gartner and as much feature parity as possible.

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