The Incremental Approach to the Cloud

I’m often asked about enterprise content management (ECM) in the cloud: “What are other firms doing?” “How quickly are firms adopting cloud-based services?” “What applications are most appropriate?”

In fact, we are seeing some consistent patterns in terms of how organizations are approaching cloud solutions for ECM. While the primary record-keeping content systems are hard and fast remaining on premises, many ancillary applications – and the associated content – are moving to the cloud.

For most organizations, the focus to date has been on “ancillary applications” – i.e. those applications that are on the periphery of an enterprise’s computing landscape, the proverbial “back-office” applications, such as those that support purchasing and HR. What’s interesting here is that cloud vendors are offering purpose-built, functionally-rich tools for these applications that enable departments with small (or very small) IT budgets to leverage significant capabilities in a number of document-intensive use cases. For example:

  • Purchasing: Sourcing “events” with automated RFP and bidding are becoming the norm. As you would expect, there’s a lot of content associated with requirements sent to prospective suppliers, proposal submissions, and contracting.
  • HR: HR professionals may well have been the first to leverage multi-tenant applications from suppliers, when they moved to outsource their payroll processing. But now, everything HR-related – from recruiting and resume solicitation, to annual performance reviews and employee handbooks – is moving to the cloud. Again, lots of content within an employee file, now in the cloud.
  • Regulatory Filings: Many industries have regulations that call for particular documents to be maintained; think of FINRA and principal review for financial services. Firms are finding that the specialized workflows necessary to support these regulatory-related processes are complicated to build, and are looking instead to purpose-built tools they can leverage. So more content goes into the cloud.

So as these ancillary applications get moved to the cloud, so, too, goes the supporting content. While we’re not (yet) seeing customer data moved there, the ancillary application use cases do provide an excellent proving ground for organizations to get comfortable with key documents being housed off-premises. (You’d think this wouldn’t be such a big deal, as paper records are almost all stored offsite by firms like Iron Mountain, but it’s progress.) While none of these ancillary applications are regarded as primarily content management systems, many do have a significant volume of content associated with them.

Call it the incremental approach to the cloud. And expect further proliferation of these ancillary applications in the cloud, as more organizations, representing more industries, get more comfortable with cloud-based services (not to mention the associated savings in IT dollars) and then begin to expand their definitions of what constitutes an “ancillary” application. In the final analysis, it’s an effective – and proven – way for organizations to move to the adoption of cloud-based services.

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