ECM and Zombies
Image by April McGuire – @octipuff – Used With Permission.

ECMS’ are graveyards and they are a dead end. They may be called digital landfills or “deep archives” or enterprise document management storage systems.  But they are where content goes to die.  Content that is coughed up by these information catacombs is a husk withered by the desiccating lack of context and lurching through presentation memes that were full of life in a previous digital age.  (JOKE: if deep archives are content graveyards what does that make eDiscovery lawyers?)

The goal of information management is to foster re-use, sharing, and to decrease the extreme amount of re-creation of existing (but hidden) content that goes on in organizations.  The idea of businesses saving information its own sake is silly.  Look a bit deeper and there’s always a reason, rationale or ROI lurking nearby.  It might be to manage risk.  It might be to foster accidental collaboration. It’s never “because we like spending money on storage for stuff we’ll never use, never want to use and poses no risk to us if found.”

So what’s the point of ECM?  The big vendors – IBM/Oracle/Microsoft/OpenText/EMC etc keep searching for their purpose.  Right now it’s web engagement.  A couple of years ago it was a one-giant-size-fits-all portal/platform/wcm/collaboration story.  Before that it was WCM, Invoices, Documents.  The story changes.  Analysts help that story change with each new wave, quadrant or expensive report on industry trends they put out.

It’s a tired but true platitude that we are generating more information than ever before.  We’re swimming in it.  Mining it for value and reusability is tough.  We’ve tried our hands at baked in search engines.  We’ve tried integrated search engines.  We’ve created metadata schemas that are inhumanly complex and disposition rule frameworks written by lawyers for lawyers and delivered to us mere mortals (to our horror).  We’ve coined new compliance and reusability standards (SCORM, DoD5015, CFR 2111) and even developed new integration standards (CMIS) because we realized one size doesn’t fit all.  Unfortunately CMIS tries to solve the problem by pulling one too-big platform together with three or four others (gaaaahhhhh!!!!).

So what SHOULD be the point of ECM?  ECMS’ should exhibit, not exhume. ECMS’ need to curate information. They need to tap into social power to do it.  Nothing else (yet) scales.  But they wont.  So it is left to the start ups.

Look at all the start up trends getting funding and getting acquired. There are TONS in the content/info distribution, content branding and content app-ification space.  A quick review of TechCrunch at the time of this writing shows 6 articles on content related startups.  Twitter acquired Summify today. Hmmm, sounds like someone with a lot of content (twitter) acquired a technology that helps raise personal relevancy to the top of the heap (summify). How many ECMS’ make those same claims? (answer – all of them in one way or another).

Others have pointed out that the legacy brands still carry “trust” with the buyer (e.g. the old saying, “you’ll never get fired for hiring IBM”).  But this “trust factor” is aging as fast as the Boomers who control the purse strings. Millennials give trust first then take it away. Legacy trust carries less weight with these new buyers and influencers – especially when it comes with the IBM/ORACLE/MICROSOFT/EMC/OPENTEXT price tag attached.

Your action: adopt a new mindset.  You are the Sommelier.  Seek to exhibit.  Museums have vast areas of storage with amazing collections.  The exhibit curators understand what will be interesting to the public; what will challenge them; what is an old favorite or a needed reminder.  Adopt that mindset and then appreciate your content managers the way you appreciate an amazing gallery.  Empower your content managers, your “corporate librarians” your “archivists” to pulse your community and display, showcase, advertise and foster an ecosystem where the past is not all rot but is rather an inspiration.
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