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From ECM to Content Services – How and Why We Got Here

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Organisations are awash in content. Invoices. Reports. Emails. Whether it’s a government department managing citizen information, an insurance company handling claims or a mortgage lender reviewing loan applications, organisations thrive via their ability to effectively manage their content. After all, the information contained within that content informs the decisions, impacts the service and drives the business processes that determine success or failure in the marketplace.

Recognising the need to harness all this content and securely deliver it to the people, systems and processes that rely on it, many organisations are launching digital transformation initiatives.

The birth of ECM

It might be the “it” phrase on the minds of business and IT leaders alike, but digital transformation is really nothing new. We’ve previously written about “going paperless.” In fact, OnBase grew out of this very idea, as a way to help banks eliminate the costs of printing paper reports every evening.

In the early days, the industry categorised solutions such as ours as “document imaging software.” As solutions evolved to include search and retrieval capabilities, the term became “document management software.” The solutions grew more complex, accounting for the full lifecycle of content across the enterprise and incorporating workflow tools to route content to the right people at the right time. Thus, “document management” became “enterprise content management (ECM).”

ECM evolves into content services

The evolution continues. In late 2016, IT research and advisory firm Gartner announced it was retiring the term “enterprise content management” in favor of “content services.” “Going forward,” Gartner’s analysts reasoned, “the practice of managing content will be enabled as a set of services that coordinate content usage by all parties: users, systems and applications.”

Gartner’s decision reflects a big change in the way organisations create, use and share content, both internally and externally. Whereas ECM has primarily been a means of transforming paper documents into electronic information and distributing that information to employees and staff, today’s digital organisations demand more comprehensive content services. They don’t need monolithic document repositories; they need platforms that can aggregate content across multiple repositories to connect disparate applications and minimise IT sprawl. They need to provide business users with complete, centralised views of the information required to work most effectively—ideally within the applications those users already know and use. And they need ways to securely share content with stakeholders, customers and collaborators outside of company firewalls.

What content services means to Inpute

Gartner’s shift to redefine the market to a more inclusive content services moniker mirrors the evolution of Inpute’s content service solution, OnBase. While its origins were in content management, OnBase has become so much more than ECM. It’s an enterprise information platform that provides a variety of services for managing content, processes and cases, deployable in the cloud or on premises. It connects to and helps consolidate systems to reduce sprawling applications across the enterprise. It scales to meets the needs of small organisations to colossal state agencies. It integrates with and content enables core applications, enabling insurers to pull up relevant claims documentation without navigating away from existing systems. It seamlessly connects to ShareBase, our cloud-based file sharing and collaboration product, supporting secure collaboration with stakeholders outside company firewalls.

At Inpute, we’re all-in with the shift to content services. But what does it mean for your organisation? If you’re aiming for digital transformation, embracing a content services platform will help you hit your target. Even at organisations with mature ECM implementations, an enormous amount of critical content hides in information silos across the enterprise—in applications, email inboxes, network drives and consumer-grade file-sharing tools. As a result, employees waste time looking in multiple systems in an attempt to see the whole picture. Or they fail to see the whole picture. Either way, service suffers. By taking advantage of content services, you establish an information strategy that delivers your content to the right people, at the right time, right where they need to see it.

The content services paradigm shift has the potential to liberate organisations from the one-size-fits-all ECM systems of the past. With a content services layer to tie everything together, organisations can choose applications and components à la carte to meet specific business needs. Content services platforms empower organisations to harness their information no matter where their content resides; flow it into workflow and case management tools to drive critical business processes and casework; surface it within the context of core business applications where employees are already working; and securely share it with others, both inside and outside company walls. These platforms deliver information on desktops, laptops and mobile devices, anywhere across the globe, even while offline.

In this mobile, connected world, where everything is electronic and the speed of business is constantly accelerating, content services enable organisations to keep pace—to work toward the promise of true digital transformation.

This article by Bill Priemer originally appeared on OnBase.com with edits by Kieran O’Toole
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