Author: Jim Lundy Date: October 20, 2014
Topics: Mobile, Content Management Research Note Number: 2014-42
Issue: What technologies and architectures make up a mobile ecosystem?
Issue: How is content management evolving?
Summary: Mobile content management goes beyond file sharing and sync, providing rich ways to manage and secure content and collaborate with content on the move.
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Documents, broadly defined, are the primary mechanism that people use to share information and conduct business. In recent years, the way this information has been transmitted and shared has changed. The limits of how content can be shared inside the enterprise, combined with a control-oriented culture by IT has given rise to content management in the cloud, or what Aragon Research calls mobile content management (MCM).
While enterprise content management (ECM) is about managing what are often the most critical documents in the enterprise, the average user often doesn’t have access to the ECM repository. Email has been the go-to way to distribute content. File sharing and synchronizing utilities have become popular, but users need to do more than just share files. Mobile content management (MCM) makes content more usable on mobile devices – where people spend their time – but it does much more than that.
Mobile Content Management Defined
MCM does more than just manage content; it also provides security and access control, while allowing collaboration around it (see Note 1). Much of this takes place in the cloud, which is what makes it uniquely suitable for mobile users working on disparate platforms from distant locations. A lot of what is now MCM was born as a convenience utility for consumers with mobile devices that do not offer a conventional file directory system. However, many MCM providers have moved on from a consumer focus to target business users, who now have the clout and the budgets to make their own technology decisions and have helped to fuel the growth of MCM. In a cloud-enabled world, these empowered users don’t have to make large capital investments; they can rent the storage and content management they need on a month-to-month basis.
MCM feature sets are converging from a variety of perspectives:
- Electronic file sharing and sync systems are designed to simplify those activities for individual users. The aim is to provide ready access to all of a user’s content regardless of file type and independent of their location or device. Mobile access is a key feature, as users typically need to access content on their work PCs from home computers, laptops or mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. However, although sharing and sync are features of MCM, they do not define it.
- Enterprise content management (ECM) systems, designed to secure enterprise information and support production workflows, have historically been costly and IT-centric, often hosting a limited number of named users. They started with an on-premises repository focus tied to specific enterprise applications, but clients increasingly want support for a larger, more diverse and mobile user base engaged in a broader range of activities, with less need for central planning and IT engagement. The maturation of the MCM market has led to more interoperability between MCM tools and traditional ECM systems, and leading providers on both sides offer APIs or connectors that can federate content across repositories.
- Mobile device and app management (MDM, MAM) vendors approach content as an element of the mobile ecosystem, with the mobile device and its management as the design point. A growing number of MDM and MAM products allow enterprises to secure and protect the content on a mobile device, and manage what can be done with it. Sophisticated tools can connect to ECM systems, access secure networks and implement multi-layer encryption.
At the heart of MCM is what Aragon calls content in context. Every business document plays a specific role in a specific business process, which constitutes its context. This context is crucial for collaborative interactions between colleagues and external parties.
Email remains the baseline mobile collaboration tool, but its security remains an issue, and many enterprises are shifting to more secure email clients that can securely access enterprise networks and mail servers. Many MCM providers lack more advanced collaboration features such as real-time, but we expect that to change via partnerships and possible acquisitions to integrate collaboration capabilities.
Document Editing and Annotation
Mobile document editing offers a simple, fast and easy way for workers on the go to create or update a document that may be mission-critical. Annotation, which may be one of the most-used features, lets team members comment on each other’s work. Mobile users can now choose from a robust set of mobile editors (e.g. Apple, Google, Microsoft) and many may opt for the native editor. For workers who don’t need a high-end editor, an MCM editor may be a good value.
Securing Content in a Mobile World
Giving users access to apps and data through their mobile devices is great for productivity and improves enterprise agility. People increasingly connect with their email and essential business processes at any time and place. A critical issue for business is ensuring that sensitive business information is secured and protected. Only authorized users should have access to enterprise resources, and even they may need to be governed by the time and place they are using it. Business data stored on mobile devices must be protected when a device is lost, stolen or otherwise compromised. Enterprises need reliable ways to secure and control business data on mobile devices, especially those of BYOD users who personally own and control their equipment.
Whether public or private, a secure content cloud has become a standard MCM feature. Through a secure cloud, enterprises can control what content gets distributed to which users, and can ensure that only the most up-to-date content is in the hands of mobile users. Time or location controls on the secure cloud can allow time-sensitive content to be automatically updated or wiped and prevent critical data such as financials from being accessed from outside business locations.
A key concern for enterprises in managing mobility and mobile access is controlling access to and use of corporate information. Embedding or wrapping documents themselves with security policies and controls can protect sensitive files regardless of where they are downloaded. Providing multiple levels of security protection for documents on mobile devices is the new way forward. The ability to control access to individual documents on any type of device is becoming a de facto standard in MCM.
Preview capability (viewing without downloading), watermarking, and the ability to recall documents are also emerging as standard features in the MCM suite. Besides recall, being able to wipe or selectively wipe content from a compromised device is also important. Finally, being able to manage encryption keys provides enterprises with a higher level of control. The features we see as important include:
- Remote and/or offline viewing
- Full or selective content wiping
- Content retention policies
- Audit trails of content sharing and access
Rights Management and Encryption
In an era of increased IP theft, rights management for content has surged back into the picture. MCM providers offer rights management at various levels. Many MCM providers focus on encryption, but rights management combined with encryption is a better long-term strategic approach.
Data and documents can be encrypted, and access to any data can be restricted to apps selected by the enterprise. The risk of leaking sensitive information, either innocently or with intent, is high on mobile devices. Enterprises need to define policies regarding what information can or cannot be sent via email, what content can be copied from the secure container to other locations, and what data can be blocked from the print and copy functions of mobile devices.
The Impact Of The Cloud
Innovation around MCM and mobile computing will continue to accelerate, particularly at the intersection of apps, repositories and the content itself. Enterprises that deploy mobile systems should inventory their content and collaboration needs, evaluate their technology providers and look for synergies that they can exploit in the emerging cloud-centric content and collaboration ecosystem. Many enterprises have been reluctant to move their content to the cloud, but that is changing, particularly since many have shifted their email to the cloud over the last five years.
Figure 1 shows three tiers of MCM functionality. See Note 2 and our accompanying Research Note 2014-43, Three Tiers of Mobile Content Management for more details.
Figure 1: The Three Tiers of Mobile Content Management
Federating with Enterprise Content Management
Enterprises use enterprise content management (ECM) to manage and secure their mission-critical content. It combines document management, records management, paper scanning and imaging, basic collaboration (discussions) and archiving with high levels of security, scalability and reliability. Most ECM systems today are on-premises. As cloud-based ECM options emerge, enterprises should evaluate their on-premises systems, see how they compare with the new services, and explore the possible advantages of moving them to the cloud.
Succeeding with Mobile Content Management
For many enterprises, the first step is developing a strategy to consolidate the multiple repositories they have today. Many enterprises have up to five different ECM systems, often with limited interoperability or scalability beyond their original missions. Even though they represent huge capital investments, their limitations can leave them underused or restrict them to narrow applications in local silos. Meanwhile, other content and collaboration needs may be going unmet. In contrast, cloud-based solutions offer simplicity, fast deployment, ease of use, access from a wide range of devices and the ability to add users both inside and outside the enterprise.
In the future, Aragon expects traditional ECM vendors to acquire many of the emerging MCM providers. This is no surprise. ECM providers have taken steps to acquire specialists in nearly every content management category that has arisen, to ensure client renewals by offering the full range of content services that their clients require.
Planning Assumption: Fifty percent of the major MCM providers will be acquired by the end of 2016.
- Understand the features of MCM and target your key “must-have” features for intensive evaluation.
- Evaluate your vendor’s approach to security both for content and for applications.
- Carefully evaluate product roadmaps before making an investment decision.
- Realize that there will be multiple MCM tools in the enterprise.
- Federate with your existing ECM system for compliance and records management.
Mobile content management is all about securing content outside of the repository while also enabling people to get and share content quickly and easily. Enterprises need to provide MCM for their knowledge workers to facilitate the flow of information inside and outside of the enterprise.
Note 1: The Seven Features of MCM
- Ability to store files in the cloud or in hybrid cloud models
- Ability to quickly and easily access content from mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and other emerging mobile devices
- Mobile apps that make it easy to access and manage content
- Ability to collaborate with others on or around the content
- Ability to edit content
- Ability to protect content outside of the repository
- Ability to manage content via policies
Note 2: Three Tiers of Mobile Content Management
- Mobile Email: Sharing content is a major use case for mobile email. For mobile users, email is the most common way to share content and the most basic level of content management.
- Electronic File Share and Sync (EFSS): Automatically synchronizes content files between desktop or tablet devices and a cloud repository.
- Mobile Content Management: MCM makes it easy to create, edit, share and collaborate on documents from a mobile device. It also offers document security, version control, distribution, digital rights management and data loss protection.
Copyright © 2014 Aragon Research Inc. and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.