Whatever Happened to the "Enterprise" Content Repository?

First, a little history. Recent history.

In the 1990s, with the advent of content management systems, enterprises tended to make one-off purchases and implementations: for instance, a content management system for engineering documents, an imaging system for signed sales contracts, and a report archive for billing. As content management became mainstream and came to be considered mission-critical, organizations recognized that a central repository – a single central repository – would make a lot of sense; i.e. one place for everything. By the start of the new millennium, buyers and vendors alike were emphasizing the business benefits of an “enterprise system,” and the concept of enterprise content management (ECM) was on its way.

Yet now the trend seems to be moving in the opposite direction. After 15 years of slowly rationalizing content repositories and undertaking system consolidation, under the banner of “let’s get all of our content in one (or just a few) systems,” we are now starting to see clients begin to move content into the cloud. They’re beginning with applications such as sales, HR, or purchasing, each of which has some basic content management requirements, and each application leveraging a different vendor. Now sales we see organizations storing their contracts in SalesForce, their HR department’s resumes and performance reviews in Workday, and their safety documentation in MSDSOnline.

What happened to the big push to get all content on one place? What about that enterprise license agreement we spend millions on with EMC? Times have changed.

Whether intentionally or not, as organizations move to the cloud, their content is now being spread in a highly distributed manner. This trend calls for a new set of information management disciplines to be adopted in this highly distributed (fragmented) environment – disciplines such as consistent naming conventions to enable federated search, common access control protocols, and the introduction of a central index. Then there’s the fact that the supplier landscape is still settling, and the winners and losers in many segments have yet to be determined. So organizations must be prepared to deal with the possibility of an eventual need to migrate content from one cloud vendor to the next. While a firm does not have to managed the annual sequence of software updates and releases that were so painful with on-premises solutions, we’re likely to see major replacements in the landscape of cloud providers every 5 or 10 years. Only time will tell. Nonetheless, the market is changing, and organizations need to consider the implications of having content managed in an array of highly distributed systems and once again try to optimize their investments.

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