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Content Services and How ECM is Evolving

05/10/2018

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Content services is a useful tool that has evolved from enterprise content management (ECM) and document management. The term “content services” was introduced in the hopes to encompass the broad range of access, management and delivery of virtual content, when you need it, where you need it. Content services are meant to solve multiple business process challenges with multiple integrated solutions throughout a business.

What are Content Services?

According to Gartner’s December 2016 report, Reinventing ECM: Introducing Content Services Platforms and Applications, content services are:

“a set of services and microservices, embodied either as an integrated product suite or as separate applications that share common APIs and repositories, to exploit diverse content types and to serve multiple constituencies and numerous use cases across an organization.”

There has been much evolution of ECM systems. What started as a document imaging and storage repository system evolved by adding document workflows and new integrated content and process management.

Today, content includes electronic forms, audio and pictures, video recordings, and additional data collection as work processes move from step to step. Also, storage of critical e-mail communication from Outlook pertaining to the task at hand, and automated status updates to workers or customers warning them when something is falling behind schedule. In a time where digital content is expanding, new approaches need to be sought for integrating systems.

Content services is a new approach to improving operational efficiency. It relies on multiple tools and strategies to intelligently and efficiently capture information, send it to the right person, department, or process using digital channels, usually through the cloud. Many organizations need multiple repositories, making cloud content services a better option. Companies using content-as-a-service solutions are delivered real-time content ensuring business needs meet changing compliance requirements while remaining cost effective and scalable.

Elements of Content Services

Gartner delineated three categories of content services: platforms, applications and components —all interoperable pieces to a holistic content management strategy.

  • Content services platforms (CSP) will have its own repository and may also integrate external repositories through connectors and APIs or packaged integrations. Content services platform providers offer integrated sets of content-related services, microservices, repositories and tools that support common content use cases.
  • Content services applications provide business solution-focused capabilities. Examples include HR onboarding, legal contracts management and insurance claims management.
  • Content services components are utility-based services that add additional capabilities to existing applications and platforms.
Reinventing ECM - Introducing Content Services
Credit: Gartner, Reinventing ECM: Introducing Content Services Platforms and Applications, December 5, 2016

Difference between Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Content Services Platforms (CSP)

The two terms are used interchangeably at times because the difference between them is still unclear. However, there is a difference between ECM and CSP.

ECM is a means of converting paper documents into electronic information and sharing that information to employees. It originated as a solution to merge the capabilities of different types of content repositories together. These included enterprise document management (EDM), web content management (WCM), and digital asset management (DAM). ECM allowed content supported by these platforms shared common business requirements and provided a single platform for all the content they included.

ECM is a valid way to handle content, but its centralized platform is limiting. Today, digital organizations need more holistic services. There is a need for platforms that can compile content across multiple repositories in order to connect dissimilar applications. This allows for an improved strategic approach to solving business process problems. In the end, the most effective solution hinges on how dependent an organization is on varying kinds of digital content and how they combine them to take advantage of what each technology solution does best.

When this content evolved, it became more difficult to manage in a single platform. The meaning of ECM shifted to be more about standard principles. Then, things shifted further in January 2017, when Michael Woodbridge of Gartner created a bit of a stir in content management world with this pronouncement in The Death of ECM and the Birth of Content Services

“ECM is now dead (kaput, finite, an ex-market name), at least in how Gartner defines the market. It’s been replaced by the term Content Services, a strategic concept that covers three aspects, namely Content Services Applications, Platforms and Components.”

CSP is about service-oriented processes over content-oriented processes. It’s about agile and flexible services that solve real business challenges. Gartner expounds on these two approaches:

“The transformation from ECM to content services denotes an important conceptual shift away from the ‘management’ of content and too much focus on the repository as the solution. Redefining the market as content services recognizes that it is no longer strictly about the storage of content for the enterprise, but rather about the consideration of how content is used by individuals and teams — internally and externally — to create, collaborate, share, transform, and leverage that content in business processes and to gain insight. This transformation will be a multiyear evolution in many organizations, and reflects a change in requirements from buyers, affecting several markets.”

The shift from ECM to CSP indicates a conceptual shift from the management and storage of information and focus more on how content is used by a company, to share, transform and leverage that content in processes to gain insight. This new centralized approach is meant to improve efficiency by relying on multiple strategies and tools.

Same Goals with a Different Approach

Ultimately, ECM and Content Services Platforms have similar goals, but they each take a different approach. While ECM intends to achieve operational goals with a single system, CSPs employ a combination of strategy and integrated technology to achieve these goals.

The strategy of ECM was to provide a centralized enterprise platform that could meet one or all the following primary goals associated with the utilization of ‘content’:

  1. Regulatory compliance and risk management
  2. Retention and dissemination of business knowledge
  3. Cost and process efficiencies
  4. Innovation and new ways of working

However, Gartner found that a single platform was almost impossible to achieve all four of these goals, and therefore declared the death of ECM.

Whether your organization uses the content services approach to improve operations or swears by a philosophy of centralization, it can gain valuable perspective by taking each of these methodologies into account.

How Can Businesses Benefit from Content Services?

Businesses can put content services into action is by integrating multiple technology solutions across the enterprise. Combining the information and functionality from different systems will allow businesses to save time and money while producing lasting operational benefits. Integrating content services platforms, applications and components are key to the content services methodology.

Here are three examples of how software integrations can increase efficiency in multiple industries:

  1. Accounting and finance: Easily generate invoices by using process automation software to pull information from emails, PDFs or paper documents and route it to an accounting application.
  2. Human resources (HR) management: Quickly access all employee information from a single interface by integrating an ECM system with HR automation software.
  3. Contract management: Easily extract contact information from a CRM system using workflow automation software, populate the information into a contract, and gather client signatures using a digital signature tool.

Questions to Ask About Content Services Solutions

The content services approach looks beyond content storage and focuses on other important questions, such as:

  • Who is storing and processing the content?
  • How can a unified content strategy can help those individuals work more efficiently?
  • What additional technologies can be integrated with the centralized storage platform in order to achieve business goals?
  • How can these technologies improve our business processes?
  • How can they help in the drive to digital transformation?
  • Can the solutions be deployed easily with a minimum of time and cost and business disruption? 
  • Can you buy applications a la carte or do you have to buy an entire platform?
  • Does the solution work across applications?
  • Does the solution have both on-premise and cloud options?
  • Is there functional transparency across both the on-premise and cloud versions?
  • Are there “pre-configured” business applications like employee onboarding and invoice processing to get you started?

Answering these questions allows organizations to take a more comprehensive, strategic approach to improving their operations. It helps them leverage multiple resources at their disposal to improve collaboration, increase productivity and work smarter.

OnBase for Enterprise Content Management (ECM)

LBMC Technology Solutions offers OnBase for content services. OnBase is a leading provider of world-class enterprise content management solutions combining integrated document management, workflow management, business process management, case management, and records management into a single application.

OnBase manages digital content including:

  • scanned documents
  • faxes
  • print streams
  • application files
  • electronic forms
  • web content
  • multi-media files
  • emails
  • industry standard files

OnBase provides organizations with the ability to:

  • automate business processes
  • reduce the time and cost of performing important business functions
  • improve organizational efficiency
  • address the need for regulatory compliance through the management, control, and sharing of digital content with employees, business partners, customers, and other constituencies.

OnBase provides a competitive advantage through:

  • streamlined processes
  • reduced costs
  • increased internal controls
  • audit assistance
  • improved customer service.

LBMC’s solutions enable organizations of many different sizes and characteristics to improve productivity levels by addressing specific document needs within each business area. Our certified consultants recommend, implement, and support these systems to help organizations save time and increase efficiencies. Contact us to learn more.

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