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Debate Over “Content Services vs. ECM” Misses the Point

“ECM is dead.” “Content Services are the next generation.” “I’ve got a brand-new pair of roller skates.”

If you think that last quote is a non sequitur, you’re right! But so, I’d argue, are the other two, because neither speaks directly to what both really are all about:

Improving the “care and feeding” of your business-critical information.

You know what else? I bet a large majority of organizations wrestling with information management issues today haven’t even heard of content services – and most of these probably aren’t familiar with ECM either.

This is not a criticism; if anything, it’s a compliment because they’re probably wrapped up in their day-to-day and don’t have time to be distracted by such things.

It is a caution of sorts, though, for some in the professional market-watching game – and their devoted followers – who think what things are called, and how things are grouped and counted, is more important than how to use those things to solve business problems.

To be fair, these items probably are more important to folks like that because categorizing and quantifying market segments is what they do for a living. But for customers, the point is and must be something quite different, namely to bring order and discipline to the way their information is protected and used.

This is why the debate over content services vs. ECM misses the point. Both should be part of the discussion since both can be significant pieces in the overall puzzle, the latter most properly as a business practice and the former as an enabling technology set. But neither is The Answer unto itself, so it’s not an either/or proposition.

So sayeth me. What sayeth you?

4 thoughts on “Debate Over “Content Services vs. ECM” Misses the Point”

  1. I’m not sure it is accurate to call this a debate since there has been very little discussion on whether our industry has any desire to move from ECM to Content Services. Just because one consulting company adopts a new moniker for an old industry, doesn’t mean that others will follow and even less will get engaged in a debate.

    A quick search on Google for “content services” brings up very little that relates it to ECM. In fact there is more information about that term outside our industry than inside our industry. The search does bring up the Gartner post explaining why they are using the term and it picks up this post that is not yet 24 hours old.

    That certainly doesn’t qualify as a debate.

    After all these decades of managing information, the basic premise remains the same – regardless of what we call it – and that is we must create, capture, store, find, distribute and protect our paper and electronic records. I think our industry can make a much better argument for information awareness, security, privacy and governance and we can still do that under the ECM banner and not cause even more confusion in the marketplace or inside companies and organizations who still struggle with these problems.

  2. Picky, picky, picky! No, you are right; it isn’t a debate in the profession as a whole. But I’ve been in several recent conversations in which the need for and role of new terms was discussed at length, so to me, that qualifies!

    Seriously, though, I can’t agree more with your closing paragraph, which nicely articulates the things on which we should be spending most of our time and attention. Thanks for taking the time to boil it down so well, and to help keep the spotlight shining in the direction it must!

  3. I agree that really there is no debate, just an analyst doing their commercial thing and making statements to gather hits. However there was considerable discussion at AIIM conference, I don’t think you and I and a deep discussion on this topic Steve, but others did for sure. I do agree with you that its missing the point. ECM is not, nor ever was a type of technology, it is a term encompassing a strategy or concept of operations for managing the lifecycle of unstructured information. So actually, it is about the feeding and tending of information. If content services are subset of an ECM strategy, or an information management strategy, then all is well and good, no need for a debate. Except perhaps the ongoing debate on how people misuse the term ECM !! So lets just move to Intelligent Information Management eh ?

  4. I’m OK with Intelligent Information Management, and have already had fun with it by asking whether the “Intelligent” part refers to the Information or the Management! 🙂 Mostly, though, I refer to it as “tending to your stuff” and encourage people to just get on with the work!

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