Imagine the content held in the U.S. Library of Congress, then multiply it 300,000 times—it totals more than 31 exabytes. That’s the estimate a 2003 study conducted at the University of California at Berkeley School of Information Management and Systems gave for the amount of new content to be produced in the year 2009, a statistic supplied by Vignette.
Content explosion is just one of the trends facing content management (CM) vendors. The 2006 AIIM Exposition held in Philadelphia, PA addressed some of the latest issues associated with CM. The AIIM Expo had roughly 250 exhibitors, while the ON DEMAND Expo had approximately 200, and a new compliance pavilion attracted about 15.
In addition to stalwarts such as docHarbor, EMC Corporation, FileNet, Hyland Software Inc., IBM Corporation, Interwoven, Stellent, and Vignette Corporation, AIIM hosted new companies such as Business Objects Corp, Cognos Inc., Google Enterprise, Microsoft Corporation, and Oracle Corporation.
One of AIIM Expo’s event producers, Christina Condos, group director, technology events for Questex notes, "It was the first time we had people like Microsoft and Google Enterprise," who focus on working with businesses."
A Shift in Trends
Larry Warnock, chief marketing officer, Vignette, a leader in installed—also known as in-house—CM solutions, provides additional insight. Warnock sees four major trends gaining momentum. First and foremost is the exponential increase in content. Second is the expansion of CM beyond the personal computer. For example, content is being generated on personal digital assistants, cell phones, and other devices. Warnock adds, "It could be an image from a satellite orbiting Mars." The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), a Vignette customer, has content that ranges from text to Hubble telescope images.
"If you go to www.nasa.gov, you can click on a button that says My NASA and you can create your own personalized experience by specifying an interest in Saturn, Earth, super novas, global warming, and so on. They have millions of users, from all over the world, who go each week to learn about science and about exploration. Each user gets a highly personalized experience and it’s Vignette CM and Vignette portal that delivers the experience. That’s a situation where we manage a massive amount of content, much of which is not generated by PCs, and for a huge number of viewers."
A third trend is that vendors are bundling products into suites of solutions. Finally, the fourth trend is verticalization, i.e. making CM products relevant to vertical markets. "It’s no longer generic conversation about documents, images, and publishing; it’s specific. For example, the publishing challenges for the automotive sector, the legal sector, health care, etc. It’s not just us, we’re seeing it from our competitors as well," finishes Warnock.
One company to recognize the importance of reaching out to specific sectors such as aerospace, government, and financial services, is Stellent. Dan Ryan, chief operating officer, sees standardization as one of the dominant trends in the market. Information technology (IT) departments in various businesses have decided to standardize CM systems in a bid for cost savings and increased flexibility for projects such as building a corporate extranet that could incorporate digital asset management, Web CM, and records management. "I think the merger of compliance and CM is certainly coming. In fact we’re already seeing that to a degree," says Ryan.
Fisher Valve Division of Emerson Process Management, a Stellent customer with 600 locations in 85 countries and headquartered in Marshalltown, Iowa, must comply with a number of regulations domestically and internationally. However, Fisher Valve solved another problem when they initially installed Stellent’s Universal Content Management system to cut printing and other costs. Mark Heindselman, Emerson Process Management’s manager of Knowledge Network and Information Services, says, "We’ve saved about $3.7M with the $500,000 investment we made in 1998. More than that, we’ve been able to change some of the ways we work. We now have a way to request the use of parts that would have been scrapped because, under the old process, we couldn’t get information about them in a timely fashion."
As you might expect, there are some contrasting views about trends in CM. Companies such as Clickability, Inc. and iUpload have a business model that’s based on offering hosted services—or Application Service Providers (ASP)—as opposed to an installed solution for Web CM.
As Clickability, Inc.’s Noah Logan, VP, sales and marketing, points out, "Our company CEO, John Girard, predicts that in the next three to five years, there will be an explosion in CM software delivered as a service and it will eclipse installed solutions within ten years or sooner." Logan goes on to describe the company’s special focus as putting relevant data at the point of decision for authors and editors.
Robin Hopper, CEO and co-founder of iUpload, which focuses on managing new social media, offers further insight into their business model. "We’ve always done things as a hosted solution and five or six years ago that was a big challenge, but now it’s seen as more of a benefit. At some point in the sales cycle, customers have to be satisfied that we meet all their security needs but even IT departments in pretty large corporations are kind of handing the reins over to us."
McDonald’s, an iUpload customer, gives out blogs to their staff and encourages them to write about whatever they’d like. They can share best practices information and/or detail their dog’s personal quirks; it doesn’t matter because McDonald’s wants their employees to use their blogs as information repositories. Then, by liberating the best content from all those individual blogs, iUpload’s platform helps McDonald’s build sections of their intranet site. For example, someone who writes a blog on a human resources (HR) topic can find that the article is also populating McDonald’s internal HR site.
Petro-Canada, headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, another iUpload customer, is one of Canada’s largest oil and gas companies with almost 5,000 employees around the world. The company also has interests in the US Rockies Northwest Europe, Northern Africa, and Northern Latin America.
Kate Trgovac, senior manager, Web evolution for Petro-Canada, favors hosted solutions, company policies permitting. "Personally, I’m a big believer in hosted solutions because I like leaving the maintenance and the taking care of the upgrades to somebody else."
A couple years ago, Trgovac started a blog project at work where her team could share knowledge. It was so successful, the company decided to expand it. In 2005, they ran a pilot project internally with a blog product that did not have a friendly user interface. This year, Trgovac and 34 other employees are testing iUpload’s Customer Conversation System.
Since starting the pilot three months ago, Trgovac and David Carter, CTO and co-founder of iUpload, has identified printed material and other content that would be better placed in wikis and blogs, "Because the internet is so real-time and the CM tools are getting so much more friendly than they used to be, it enables someone to look at their work models and ask if there isn’t a better way to gather and distribute information."
Understanding Content Management
One company with a big footprint in the CM space is IBM. A leader in market share according to many analysts, IBM has been in the CM market since the early 1990s. Theresa O’Neil, director for IBM Content Management and Discovery, notes that the company has a presence in what is more traditionally considered CM as well as a presence within the newer Web CM space.
While IBM’s Content Manager stores more than 50 percent of the check images in the United States, IBM also provides Web-based solutions for companies such as Campmor, an outdoor specialty retail business based in Paramus, New Jersey. Using IBM WebSphere Content Discovery solution, Campmor increased its online revenue by 64 percent.
O’Neil also points out that much of the information companies want to manage is unstructured information. She adds, "For a lot of customers, most of the content they have is not necessarily in a managed system, like a CM system. Alternatively, it may be in many systems such as enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management, etc. and/or a customer may have multiple CM repositories and other vendors. It doesn’t really matter, the point is that they want to be able to access, manage, and make sense out of all their information, structured or unstructured."
Being able to find and make sense out of today’s plethora of information is one of the three trends that O’Neil sees as important for CM. In common with the other experts consulted for this article, O’Neil cites volume as one of the key issues facing vendors. "The second issue is compliance and corporate governance. For some companies, it’s not necessarily that they’re trying to comply with government regulation but they want protection against litigation and they want to comply with their own internal policies." She adds the ongoing transition to a purely electronic workplace as another important trend.
As mentioned earlier, the CM space has attracted a lot of attention from major companies that could, in the future, provide serious competition to the current incumbents. On May 15, 2006, Bill Gates made a presentation about Microsoft’s Office SharePoint Server 2007 at the Global SharePoint Conference in Bellevue, Washington. The latest product release—due in the second half of 2006—is an integral part of Microsoft’s most recent bid to develop a world class enterprise content management platform (ECM).
The major players in the CM space agree end customers and businesses alike are struggling to keep up with an information boom that is expanding at a soon-to-be unimaginable rate. Vendors are responding with improved search tools, interfaces that make CM processes almost invisible to all but the most rabid power users, tools that allow businesses to better communicate with their customers, and products that are designed to work smoothly within a heterogeneous IT environment.