How ECM became content services (and why you should care)

Organizations are awash in content. Invoices. Reports. Emails. Whether it’s a hospital network managing patient information, an insurance company handling claims or a mortgage lender reviewing loan applications, organizations thrive via their ability to effectively manage their content. After all, the information contained within that content informs the decisions, impacts the service and drives the business processes that determine success or failure in the marketplace.

Recognizing the need to harness all this content and securely deliver it to the people, systems and processes that rely on it, many organizations are launching digital transformation initiatives.

The birth of ECM

It might be the “it” phrase on the minds of business and IT leaders alike, but digital transformation is really nothing new. We used to call it “going paperless.” In fact, Hyland grew out of this very idea. In 1991, Packy Hyland, Jr. created our flagship software platform, OnBase, as a way to help Necedah Bank eliminate the costs of printing paper reports every evening.

In the early days, the industry categorized solutions such as ours as “document imaging software.” As solutions evolved to include search and retrieval capabilities, the term became “document management software.” The solutions grew more complex, accounting for the full lifecycle of content across the enterprise and incorporating workflow tools to route content to the right people at the right time. Thus, “document management” became “enterprise content management (ECM).”

ECM evolves into content services

The evolution continues. In late 2016, IT research and advisory firm Gartner announced it was retiring the term “enterprise content management” in favor of “content services.” “Going forward,” Gartner’s analysts reasoned, “the practice of managing content will be enabled as a set of services that coordinate content usage by all parties: users, systems and applications.”

Gartner’s decision reflects a big change in the way organizations create, use and share content, both internally and externally. Whereas ECM has primarily been a means of transforming paper documents into electronic information and distributing that information to employees and staff, today’s digital organizations demand more comprehensive content services. They don’t need monolithic document repositories; they need platforms that can aggregate content across multiple repositories to connect disparate applications and minimize IT sprawl. They need to provide business users with complete, centralized views of the information required to work most effectively—ideally within the applications those users already know and use. And they need ways to securely share content with stakeholders, customers and collaborators outside of company firewalls.

What content services means to Hyland

Gartner’s shift to redefine the market to a more inclusive content services moniker mirrors the evolution of OnBase. While its origins were in content management, OnBase has become so much more than ECM. It’s an enterprise information platform that provides a variety of services for managing content, processes and cases, deployable in the cloud or on premises. It connects to and helps consolidate systems to reduce sprawling applications across the enterprise. It scales to meets the needs of small credit unions and colossal online retailers alike. It integrates with and content enables core applications, enabling insurers to pull up relevant claims documentation without navigating away from Guidewire ClaimCenter; providing civil engineers with access to building plans directly from ESRI maps; and helping college administrators evaluate student transcripts in PeopleSoft. And it seamlessly connects to ShareBase, our cloud-based file sharing and collaboration product, supporting secure collaboration with stakeholders outside company firewalls.

At Hyland, we’re all-in with the shift to content services. But what does it mean for your organization? If you’re aiming for digital transformation, embracing a content services platform will help you hit your target. Even at organizations with mature ECM implementations, an enormous amount of critical content hides in information silos across the enterprise—in applications, email inboxes, network drives and consumer-grade file-sharing tools. As a result, employees waste time looking in multiple systems in an attempt to see the whole picture. Or they fail to see the whole picture. Either way, service suffers. By taking advantage of content services, you establish an information strategy that delivers your content to the right people, at the right time, right where they need to see it.

The content services paradigm shift has the potential to liberate organizations from the one-size-fits-all ECM systems of the past. With a content services layer to tie everything together, organizations can choose applications and components à la carte to meet specific business needs. Content services platforms empower organizations to harness their information no matter where their content resides; flow it into workflow and case management tools to drive critical business processes and casework; surface it within the context of core business applications where employees are already working; and securely share it with others, both inside and outside company walls. These platforms deliver information on desktops, laptops and mobile devices, anywhere across the globe, even while offline.

We’re ready for content services. We’ve been ready. In fact, we were even named a ‘Leader’ in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Content Services Platforms.

In this mobile, connected world, where everything is electronic and the speed of business is constantly accelerating, content services enable organizations to keep pace—to work toward the promise of true digital transformation. Are you ready?

Bill Priemer

Bill Priemer

Bill Priemer is president and chief executive officer of Hyland, creator of OnBase. Bill joined the company in 1997 as vice president of Marketing. He was promoted to Vice President of Sales & Marketing in 2001, named Chief Operating Officer in 2005 and became the company’s CEO in January 2013.

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