Content congestion

ScottishPower is, in some ways, the classic enterprise content management (ECM) software user: global, complex, with millions of customers and a seemingly never-ending set of rules and regulations with which to comply.

In February, the international energy company extended its content management system to cover the creation, management and archiving of technical manuals and drawings at its UK power stations. Using Documentum’s ECM platform, ScottishPower is providing online access to enterprise content, enabling its field and operational engineers to better maintain plant operations. It will also support ScottishPower’s health and safety regulations. Commenting on the deal, Dave DeWalt, president of the Documentum software division of storage giant EMC, says: “Regulatory compliance is a major driver for companies across all industries.”


ECM technology explained

  • COLD (Computer Output to Laser Disk) – technology for the extraction, capturng, indexing, storage, retrieval and presentment of documents and data, typically generated by host or legacy computing systems.

  • Content integration – software that integrates different vendors’ repositories through federation or virtualisation.

  • Digital asset management (DAM) – supervises the life cycle of large collections of digital assets such as photographic images, graphics and brand logos.

  • Document management (DM) – manages electronic documents from creation to archival. Key features include indexing, version control, annotations, and workflow.

  • Document imaging – software for scanning, indexing, retrieving and archiving digital images of text, graphics, CAD (computer aided design) drawings and photographs. Typically these systems provide workflow functionality and limited DM functionality.

  • Records management (RM) – used for long-term document archival through each document’s full life cycle, including the systematic destruction of documents at the end of specified dates.

  • Electronic Records Management (ERM) – software that manages the declaration, retention and disposal of ‘records’, including electronic documents, emails and physical records.

  • Information lifecycle management (ILM) – The application of technologies and processes to the management of information across its complete lifecycle, from creation and use to archiving and disposal, recognising that the value of data to the organisation will change over time.

  • Media asset management (MAM) – a subset of DAM, MAM is specific to rich media such as video and audio, which require multifaceted management tools.

  • Team collaboration – provides a workspace, project management tools, collaboration tools (synchronous and asynchronous), simple DM, reporting and basic workflow.

  • Web content management (WCM) – software that enables the collection, assembly, staging, maintenance and delivery of textual and graphic content for the web.



    Indeed it is. Just when growth in the (still relatively young) ECM market threatened to stall, a new set of corporate regulations has come along to drive new business. The Sarbanes Oxley Act (SOX) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) in the US require public companies to store certain documents for many years. These laws affect UK companies with share listings in the US, as well as public US companies that have UK operations. In the UK, meanwhile, the Freedom of Information Act, Basel II, the Companies Act, and a swathe of other new rules and regulations also stipulate long-term document storage requirements.

    For the ECM market, these regulations have come along in the nick of time. ECM consists of the technologies used to capture, manage, preserve and deliver information to support business processes. ECM pulls together multiple content types and the technologies that manage them, including email, instant messaging (IM), web forms, paper and phone/audio conversations. The core functionality of an ECM system encompasses document management (DM), web content management (WCM), document imaging and records management (RM) technologies. On top of this, many ECM ‘suites’ provide Electronic Records Management (ERM), digital asset management (DAM), media asset management (MAM), team collaboration and COLD (Computer Output to Laser Disk) (see box, ‘ECM explained’).

    Rekindled demand

    The problem was that, back in 2002, ECM looked like a solution in need of a problem. True, there were deals still being signed by suppliers. But there were only so many ScottishPowers to go round: for every global energy or insurance company with large IT budgets and even bigger compliance needs, there were many more businesses that simply did not need an enterprise-wide content system. Suddenly, a market that had enjoyed heady growth during the dot-com bubble – particularly the segment dealing with the management of web content – stalled badly, as demand in newer segments fell and older sectors matured: total licence revenue actually fell slightly, by around 3%, in 2002 to $1.48 billion, according to Ovum.

    One survey of CIOs by Rethink Research in 2003 found that, while content management systems were generally seen as important and complex, they were not mission critical. “When asked to rate the level of importance of a content management strategy, no respondent said that his or her company ‘could not function without it’,” say the report’s authors.

    Despite this – or perhaps because of it – the industry has been through a particularly savage bout of consolidation. Many smaller ‘point’ providers have either been acquired by larger suppliers or have disappeared altogether. As the shakeout appears to reach something of a climax, five significant vendors have been left standing: IBM/Lotus, following its acquisition of Aptrix: Documentum (now owned by storage giant EMC); OpenText, after buying Gauss, Ixos and Obtree; FileNet; and Microsoft.

    Another impetus, especially at the low end, has been the entry of Microsoft. True, there have always been many niche suppliers targeting smaller businesses. But for years, most content management systems (and, by extension, newer ECM platforms) were simply too complex and expensive for all but the world’s biggest companies to deploy.

    “Microsoft’s entry signals the predominance of portals over content management in the low-functionality collaborative document management and web content management areas,” says Ovum analyst Sarah Kittmer. “Here, portals are becoming the solution of choice, since they offer both content delivery and simple content management functions.”

    At the same time, the end of a period of IT budget cuts as well as the increase in regulatory pressures has spurred an upturn in sales. Revenue is expected to grow by 4% in 2004 (bringing the market back to pre-crash levels) and by a further 4% in 2005. But the improvement in fortunes is about more than spending cycles and the need for compliance. There are other factors, too, such as a fresh desire to integrate and consolidate existing content repositories, streamline business processes and improve transparency.

    Phil Goodwin, a Meta Group analyst, has seen a shift in buying patterns. “Decisions regarding purchasing and deploying ECM systems have been tactical ones until recently, but increasingly, ECM is becoming a core component of conducting business,” he says. Connie Moore of Forrester agrees. “The ECM market… has become a reality,” she says.

    Broad portfolio, or no portfolio

    Suppliers may have rushed to acquire the building blocks of an ECM platform, but many are selling them in a pragmatic fashion. For example, many ECM suppliers are aligning certain functions as ‘quick fixes’ to current business problems, such as e-government targets or Sarbanes Oxley deadlines.

    This trend towards selling modules rather than complete, integrated suites of applications is being driven partly by demand, and partly by necessity. As Forrester’s Moore argues, the ECM market is still embryonic, and integration within most vendors’ product lines remains rather basic. “The vendors are currently focusing on integrating repositories, but this must eventually give way to minimising repositories in order to create a universal repository,” she says.

    Eventually, early adopters at the high end will roll out what analysts at Gartner call ‘smart enterprise suites’, which integrate content with everything from line-of-business applications to databases. But by then, the shakeout in the market will doubtless have run its course.


    Key players

  • Autonomy, a specialist knowledge management software supplier, has been steadily expanding its technology to include the categorisation, management and retrieval of all information, regardless of format.

  • IBM’s DB2 Content Manager contains a range of ECM features and functions, including DM, COLD and DAM support. IBM also offers web content management in its Aptrix products and records management in DB2 e-Records Manager. In addition, IBM’s Lotus arm has document management, imaging and multiple workflow.

  • BroadVision has a unified platform for building highly personalised portals, called the One-to-One Portal 7.1.

  • Documentum, acquired in 2003 by storage giant EMC, is well positioned to provide information lifecycle management. Before the EMC deal, Documentum had been on the acquisition trail itself, buying digital asset management from Bulldog, content aggregation and distribution from Boxcar, collaboration from eRoom, document generation from Thunderhead and records management from TruArc.

  • FileNet has a workflow and document management heritage and has extended its reach into ECM with the acquisition of web content management (WCM) vendor eGrail and e-forms vendor Shana. FileNet has recently re-branded and re-architected its product offerings in document imaging, WCM, document management and workflow/business process management as FileNet P8.

  • Hyperwave, a point product supplier of team collaboration technology, provides scalable and horizontal collaboration platforms.

  • Hummingbird’s suite pulls together a broad set of records management tools, many of them acquired. For example, Valid Information Systems’ R/KYV product is being integrated with Hummingbird’s portal, collaboration, content and document management technologies. Other acquisitions include LegalKEY, Key Automation/Dispro and Kramer Lee &Associates.

  • Interwoven, once a web content management specialist, has extended its reach into ECM with the acquisition of collaborative document management vendor iManage.

  • Microsoft launched personalisation and search facilities in SharePoint Portal Server 2003, and Windows SharePoint Services (WSS). The products include simple collaborative document management functions and target the lower end of the market.

  • Open Text moved into the ECM market with its acquisition of German records and output management software vendor Ixos in 2003. Earlier Ixos bought content management from Obtree and workflow from PowerWork.

  • Plumtree, once regarded as a specialist portal software supplier, has enhanced its platform with content management, collaboration and search.

  • Stellent’s Content Manager product excels at distributed content creation through delegated administration, integration with third-party creation tools, web-based user interfaces, and robust library services. Its acquisition of imaging company Optika, syndication and content aggregation from Kinecta and digital asset management from Ancept expands the breadth of its ECM offering.

  • Vignette focused on WCM, portal and collaboration software; but its recent purchase of Tower Technology broadens its focus into document imaging, document management and records management.




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    Ben Rossi

    Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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