What Led to the Rise of Cloud Content Management?
Authors: Jim Lundy, Mike Anderson Date: May 18, 2012
Topics: Content Management Research Note Number: 2012-14
Issues: How will content management technologies and architectures evolve?
Summary: Several factors have led to the rise of cloud content management (CCM), including IT clamping down on file-sharing in e-mail, high ECM prices, and SharePoint fatigue.
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 collaborative content services (CCS).
When e-mail first became popular, we were a very document-based society, and faxes or overnight delivery were the most common ways to share critical information. As e-mail use grew, more and more people shared documents by attaching them to e-mails, and recipients tended to leave these in their in-boxes even after answering them. When mail servers began to clog up with un-deleted attachments, the response from IT was often to put limits on in-boxes rather than providing an alternative.
Enterprise content management (ECM) was such an alternative, but it never achieved mass-market adoption, partly due to seat costs and partly because many workers don’t need or understand its sophisticated functions. So even in enterprises that had ECM systems, most people continued to save documents in their email systems or on shared or local drives.
Another alternative was the new generation of content managers like Microsoft SharePoint, which has become extremely popular: Aragon Research estimates that 85% of large enterprises have one or more deployments of it. However, on-premise versions of SharePoint can require a fair amount of IT supervision. Upgrades currently come every three years and, like other on-premise applications, require serious upgrade planning. The good news about SharePoint is that it is available in the cloud as part of Microsoft Office 365.
Ours is a consumer-centric era, when workers and business-unit managers have the clout and the budgets to make their own technology decisions. Moreover, the world is so connected that 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. Hence the rise of CCM Tier 3 Collaborative Content Services (CCS). While ECM remains the most sophisticated content management option, it’s now being supplemented with four levels of CCM.
Overcoming Storage Limits
Business-unit managers at enterprises want more autonomy in how they acquire and use technology. They grow tired of asking for new SharePoint installations, or to mobile-enable corporate applications, or to provide auto-sync services for the new devices that they use. One of their perennial needs, regardless of e-mail limitations or SharePoint saturation, is a way for their users to share large files. CCM meets that need with free or low-cost monthly plans that let users store and share files of any size.
Aragon suggests that enterprises inventory their use of e-mail and of Level 1 and 2 CCM services. The two are intertwined. Shifting some users to a cloud-based e-mail service can cut costs for e-mail itself and also limit the need for more robust CCM services.
Moving to the Cloud
Innovation around CCM and mobile computing will continue to accelerate, particularly at the intersection of apps, repositories and the content itself. Enterprises that are deploying 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.
Figure 1 and Note 1 outline the four tiers of CCM functionality. While some vendors specialize in the lower levels, Aragon anticipates that the leaders will try to move upward as time and their fortunes permit. Box and DropBox, for example, have attracted a lot of attention and funding. Box in particular has continued to expand their CCM Level 3 offerings.
Meanwhile, tech titans like Microsoft (Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft SkyDrive) and Google (Google Apps for Business and Google Drive) are also expanding their offerings in the CCM market. The challenge for buyers is to separate the offerings that are enterprise-ready from those that are suitable only for consumer use.
Tablet users are clearly candidates for CCM services, and Level 3 and 4 providers can differentiate themselves with mobile-friendly functions like voice navigation. Google, Apple and Microsoft all offer APIs for adding such tools. The rapid growth of mobile devices has generated a large demand for business apps. To date, most CCM providers have just added mobile access to their traditional products. Some Level 3 providers have updated their offerings with app-friendly interfaces and added app markets that offer content-oriented apps.
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