A Look Back at ECM 2017: New Entrants Take Center Stage

In 2017, the market for enterprise content management (ECM) continued to turn away from the major players toward newer entrants. In many ways, 2017 saw the bigger, traditional ECM vendors losing steam, and newer entrants which began life in the cloud, starting to take center stage. (See this video blog post from September for an overview of the ongoing changes in the ECM landscape.)

Rumblings among the Major Players

As I look back at the year, there were three events in particular which gave customers of the major players reason to think twice about the long-term future of their technology investments:

  • The OpenText acquisition of Documentum. OpenText completed its acquisition of the Content Division of Dell EMC Enterprise, including the Documentum brand, in January 2017. How did this acquisition impact the market? Well, looking at it from the standpoint of our consulting clients, the problem is the likelihood that there will be little investment in future development of the Documentum product. OpenText has purchased many companies and their products over the past decade, and in too many cases, it’s made only limited investment in product enhancements. As my colleague Joe Shepley observed earlier this year, "The end is in sight for Documentum as a viable ECM platform."
  • Confusion in the market for customer communications management (CCM) tools. 2017 also saw OpenText integrating the leading CCM solution, Exstream (purchased from HP, Inc., in 2016). This when OpenText already had an existing CCM platform, plus the eXpression solution which came to it as part of the Dell EMC acquisition. The result: three different products, three different code bases, three different development teams. (Seems excessive, not to mention expensive.) And so far OpenText appears to be leading with Exstream—which makes sense, given the product’s market share. But eXpression clients do have reason to be worried, as a future migration now seems likely for them. (For the record, here's what we had to say about this particular conundrum.)
  • IBM seeming to deprioritize its ECM platforms. IBM still offers FileNet, Content Manager, and Content Manager OnDemand (CMOD), but in 2017 the company appeared to be paying precious little attention to these ECM platforms. As evidence. look no further than the fact that its content portfolio is now tucked under the IBM Analytics “end-to-end ecosystem” of data management, business analytics, and big data analytics. And all those organizations which are IBM customers experienced the repercussions of turnover within IBM’s sales and support functions, as IBM shifted resources to other parts of the analytics business.
Here Come the Newer Players

But while Dell EMC, HP, and (to some degree) IBM are de-emphasizing ECM (if not jettisoning it altogether), newer players used 2017 to firm up their offerings and their presence in the field. The suppliers of cloud-based ECM solutions are now starting to prove themselves as enterprise players in the market:

  • Box, Inc.: In 2017, Box began took significant steps to address compliance concerns, providing more robust records management and improving the security capabilities of its enterprise file sync and share (EFSS) offering. In additional to Box’s bullet-proof document management functionality, the company filled several critical gaps that enable the largest enterprises in regulated industries to consider Box as a viable replacement for traditional ECM solutions like Documentum or FileNet.
  • Google and Dropbox, Inc.: Both Google and Dropbox continue to gain market share in small and medium-sized businesses, likely as a result of their familiarity to many consumers and independent users who’ve adopted these tools outside the workplace.   
  • Specialized offerings: Industry specialists such as Veeva Systems, for life sciences, or M-Files, Inc., for multiple industries, now offer cloud solutions, further expanding the options organizations can consider to meet their content management needs.
Wrapping It All Up

Of course, there was one major IT vendor which did double-down on ECM in 2017: Microsoft. Microsoft’s SharePoint offering continues to roll onward, earning enterprise-class chops. And talking to our consulting clients, Microsoft Office 365 is on the roadmap for a wide range of organizations, providing an integrated desktop, email, and collaboration platform. (If it’s also on your roadmap, check out our tips on how to succeed with O365.)

Looking back, the major acquisitions we saw in the industry in 2017 might seem to indicate further consolidation in the market for ECM solutions—at first glance, anyway. But look past the established players, and there’s ample evidence that the market is actually expanding. The variety of solutions (in terms of suppliers) and the spectrum of deployment options (hosted, cloud, SaaS, etc.) continue to give organizations a wide range of ECM options to consider—and, as Martha Stewart would say, “that’s a good thing.”



Rich Medina
James Watson
I’m President and co-founder of Doculabs, serving as executive sponsor on consulting engagements for financial services clients.