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ECM Objects in Mirror Are Further Than They Appear

Over the past several weeks, it’s been my pleasure to participate in a TweetJam and a couple of podcasts with my friends at and Word of Pie on the current state and immediate future of Enterprise Content Management (ECM), especially as it relates to electronic file-sharing services and the cloud. This run of analytical and speculative reporting has been both enlightening and fun, and it has cemented a belief that I’ve held for a couple of years now:

The transformative welter of ECM/EIM/governance goodness we’ve been expecting to overtake us for years remains in the mirror, and is further away than it appears to be.

Why do I say this? Because every year at this time I get calls from reporters and clients asking “Will next year be the year [insert technology here] finally explodes?” – and every year I find myself having to answer with a resounding NO.

This is true regardless of the technology being discussed, and the reason is that the functional, economic, and usability advances being made are more evolutionary than revolutionary. Even the cloud – or should I say, THE CLOUD – hasn’t been as disruptive as it was made out to be only a short time ago. It’s a great alternative for many organizations, but it hasn’t yanked information management in an entirely new direction because it’s fundamentally just a new economic and technical model for hosting, and hosting isn’t new.

The thing is, transiting the path of process and information betterment is a journey, and there’s no new technology that is going to suddenly expose some unseen shortcut. Advances in usability, interoperability, and practicability certainly smooth our way, but the key to maximizing the total value of our information and information infrastructure lies in our ability to understand and target our business needs – something that has nothing, really, to do with technology.

So make no mistake: “next year” – whenever that year comes – will not bring us a magic bullet to use to solve all of our governance problems in one shot. There’s plenty of ammunition available now and certainly more on the way, but the long-expected and hoped-for objects of transformation likely will never get closer than they are right now.

4 thoughts on “ECM Objects in Mirror Are Further Than They Appear”

  1. I’ve come to the conclusion that if we in the ECM industry remain obsessed with the information “object” we’re trying to manage, we’ll always be further away — and can get passed by in the process. We’ve just engaged with dozens of CIOs from top organizations; not a one of them knows what “information governance” is. Similarly, they don’t know what “content management” is. Now, substitute data and you’ve got a conversation, and still an appreciation for what we’re all trying to effect.

  2. Precisely why I call it “stuff”! My decades of experience with clients and in the classroom have made it crystal clear that we spend far too much time arguing over whether it’s “content,” “information,” “data,” or what-have-you when the issue really is the business problem that is to be solved. The rest, as the T-shirt says, is just details!

    Thanks for taking the time to write, Peggy. Have a super Thanksgiving!

  3. Bravo Steve. You highlight “business needs” over “technology”. No where is this more a challenge than where all technology (sort of) converges in the Internet of Things. I have written this up from my Interop NYC fall 2014 presentation “Business is the only Thing: Business Semantics and the Internet of Things”. In our rush to the latest shiny thing, we neglect the hard work required to really understand the processes and rules and other artefacts of business meaning that are required to make tech work.

    If it’s OK, here’s my LinkedIn write-up on this subject:

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