The enterprise content management industry saw many significant changes during 2016. Acquisitions, mergers and rebranding abounded. For example, OpenText announced plans to acquire Documentum and the rest of Dell's enterprise content division, while Apex Technology acquired Lexmark and rebranded the enterprise software group as Kofax. The year even saw a change in the very definition of enterprise content management; Gartner's Magic Quadrant emphasized the need for a highly personalized, more flexible approach that is context-based rather than simply a means to manage unstructured content.
Emerging markets, new technologies, alterations in business models and government regulations have driven innovation in the ECM market and will likely continue to do so for some time. Following are some of the key trends that are expected to have major impacts on ECM in 2017.
- More businesses will adopt hybrid cloud deployments. During 2016, cloud adoption soared, leaving some experts to wonder whether the trend had peaked. However, Forrester predicts that 2017 will see companies moving to the cloud at an even faster rate; 59 percent of the respondents reported plans to adopt a hybrid cloud model, especially for ECM. A hybrid ECM model allows companies to serve customers with content residing in the cloud while protecting confidential or proprietary content on their own physical premises.
- Millennials will accelerate the death of legacy ECM systems. Although the precise definition of a millennial varies slightly among experts, virtually everyone agrees that by 2020, millennials will account for 70 to 75 percent of the world's workforce. This generation grew up surrounded by technology, so they are comfortable with technology and skilled in its use. They are accustomed to fast, convenient online searches, and they will expect similar performance from an ECM system. Older systems that feature slow processing times or dated technology will disappear and be replaced by ECM systems that are more flexible, faster and easier to use.
- More companies will go paperless. The rise of digital has already had a significant impact on how companies manage their ECM efforts. An increasing number are discovering that managing content digitally can improve security, reduce costs, save space and foster collaboration.
- New regulations will pose challenges. A slew of new regulations will be going into effect over the next two years. One of the most relevant is the General Data Protection Regulation that will affect companies collecting, storing or distributing personal data involving consumers in the European Union. CISOs will be faced with the need to not only better organize data from multiple sources but also ensure data security at all levels from collection to erasure.
- ECM systems will become more mobile-friendly. Current projections predict that 6.1 billion smartphones will be in use by 2020, which is the equivalent of approximately 70 percent of the global population. Despite the explosive growth of mobile devices, however, ECM systems have not kept pace. An increasing number of businesses are demanding ECM platforms that are mobile friendly and deliver the performance of the personal apps to which mobile users have become accustomed.
- More companies will attempt to integrate artificial intelligence with their ECM systems. Delivering content to the right person at the right time and in the right context improves conversion rates. However, personalized, contextually relevant content can be difficult to offer with traditional methods. Artificial intelligence can overcome many of these difficulties, especially as the machine "learns." Although artificial intelligence has yet to achieve its full potential, an increasing number of marketers are employing AI to help them create the relevant, personalized experiences that customers demand.
- Sharing and collaboration will become increasingly important. Thriving businesses rely on a variety of suppliers, vendors and partners. Traditional ECM systems were closed environments; typically, only employees could share the content or collaborate on it. More businesses are moving from isolation to an extended enterprise in which partners make various contributions. As a result, ECM systems will become increasingly user-centric to facilitate sharing and collaboration. Interestingly, a recent study from AIIM revealed that 85 percent of the respondents reported that email was used to share files externally and 65 percent reported that unsanctioned tools were being used to share files.
- The Internet of Things is experiencing explosive growth, driving the need for better management of content. As an increasing number of connected devices become widely accepted, companies will be challenged to provide more content as well as content that is customized for relevancy and delivered on the preferred channel. Businesses that want to harness the power of the IoT will need to find new ways to collect data and deliver marketing messages.
- Augmented reality will continue to grow. Augmented reality combines the real world with additional information. AR is finding its way into content to give users a more engaging experience. For example,
- Print magazines have embedded visual codes in the text; when the user holds the code in front of his computer's camera, the computer reads the codes and redirects him to a video or other content.
- Marketers are using AR to provide shoppers with a 360-degree view of a product, and
- Builders are using AR to provide realistic virtual tours of their properties.
- Snapchat has introduced AR lenses to enhance the user's experience.
- Furthermore, Pokemon Go, arguably the most popular game of 2016, relied heavily on AR concepts.
As most of the above are emerging trends, some of the impact from these concepts will not be immediately felt. As 2017 progresses, however, expect to see these trends gain momentum and become increasingly commonplace. It should also be noted that most of the emerging trends are highly focused on the user's experience. This makes perfect sense. After all, if users refuse to adopt an ECM, the company is scarcely better off than if they had no ECM system whatsoever.