Key ECM Trends to Watch in 2017

The year 2016 was one of change for the enterprise content management (ECM) industry. In September, OpenText signed a definite agreement to acquire one of the other larger ECM players, Dell EMC’s Enterprise Content Division, including Documentum. The highly-publicized merger put the ECM industry under the spotlight — sparking questions about OpenText’s future growth strategy. In November, Lexmark was acquired by Apex Technology — a deal that will separate their Enterprise Software group (now rebranded to Kofax). Simultaneously, new and innovative “next generation” vendors are gaining market shares from the legacy players.

With a constellation of new technologies, external market challenges and evolving digital business requirements at play, even the definition of ECM has evolved. The term was traditionally used to describe products with a range of capabilities for managing unstructured content. However, in its 2016 Magic Quadrant for ECM, Gartner refined its definition of ECM to emphasize the need for a more flexible approach to content management – one that is highly personalized and based on context.

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Now, here we are, about to turn the corner into 2017 with a collection of forces at play that will no doubt bring continued change, growth and innovation to the ECM market. Following are a few of the major trends we predict will have the biggest impact on ECM in the year to come.

Introduction of New Regulations Will Create Compliance Challenges

There’s an alphabet soup of new regulations that will go into effect in 2017 and 2018. The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is probably the most relevant new regulation for companies that manage personal data of the citizens in the European Union. Data Protection Officers will have a new set of challenges to comply with this regulation because they now have to not only organize this data from multiple repositories better but also implement procedures to enable the erasure and portability of the data.

Hybrid Cloud Deployments Will Gain Steam

In many ways, the rubber hit the road for cloud adoption in 2016. But many experts agree the market is entering something of a “second wave.” According to Forrester, “Cloud adoption will accelerate even faster in 2017 as enterprises seek to gain efficiencies as they scale their computer resources to better serve customers.” Notably, Forrester also found that 59 percent of decision-makers said they plan to adopt a hybrid cloud model.

As more organizations realize the value of moving their various applications to the cloud, and even more specifically hybrid-cloud environments where cloud solutions are integrated with on-premises systems, an increasing number will tap cloud-based ECM software as well. In fact, hybrid cloud-based ECM has already emerged as one of the most viable options for companies looking to manage some content in the cloud, while keeping other, more confidential, content on-premises.

Businesses Will Finally Get Real About Mobile

The hype around mobile has been building for years, but reality is most organizations have only begun to scratch the surface when it comes to mobile. Experts predict that by 2020, there will be 6.1 billion smartphone users globally, which, stunningly equals about 70 percent of the world’s population. This points to the need for a more strategic approach in how mobile technologies are leveraged in the workplace. This hasn’t happened on a large scale yet primarily because companies haven’t enabled their workforces with enterprise software applications that meet the expectations set by modern consumer mobile apps.

This is set to change in 2017, as more and more businesses are realizing that employees expect to have mobile apps in the workplace that deliver the simplicity and functionality that they have with the apps on their personal devices.

Mobile-friendly ECM platforms will become more en vogue in 2017 because they give employees the freedom and flexibility of anytime, anywhere access to corporate resources while simultaneously providing the workflow capabilities and access control systems necessary to support and enhance demanding information management environments, such as companies that have demanding regulatory requirements. For example, an electronic signature can be facilitated from a company- or employee-owned mobile device in instances when email attachments and online file sharing platforms are not viable options. Beyond convenience, this capability actually improves workflow efficiency while fulfilling the most stringent regulatory compliance requirements such as those associated with FDA 21 CFR Part 11.

A variety of forces are converging to make information management more complex than ever. In order to create the optimal information management environment, organizations need to be vigilant about understanding these forces and adjusting their ECM strategy to ensure they’re addressing the ever-evolving needs of their workforce while also ensuring security, compliance, and operational requirements are met.