A Tale of Two Content Management Conferences: AIIM/info360 and Gartner PCC

A Tale of Two Content Management Conferences AIIM-info360 and Gartner PCCIn the past two weeks, I attended AIIM/info360 in the nation’s capital, immediately followed by a west coast enterprise tech party at the Gartner Portals, Content and Collaboration (PCC) Summit in Los Angeles.

Both events cover a broad range of topics and technologies under the ECM software market umbrella. However, the two conferences have historically offered very different perspectives – each focused on opposing ends of the ECM technology spectrum.

The heart of the AIIM community consists of providers, integrators and end-users of ECM technologies that serve as operational and administrative systems of record (e.g. image and data capture, document-centric BPM and records management). The AIIM organization would like to change that. Under the leadership of John Mancini, AIIM is working, in earnest, with a core group of vendors to persuade its broader communities of interest to recognize the impact and embrace the potential of social and mobile technologies like Facebook, Twitter and the iPhone.

Not surprisingly, the AIIM/info360* conference led with an Enterprise 2.0 (E 2.0) theme, particularly the keynote presentations.

In his own keynote address, Mancini argued that the ECM industry has reached an inflection point. He asserted that ECM vendors and solution providers must bridge the gap that exists between conventional ECM as systems of record and the social and mobile technologies that serve as systems of engagement. According to Mancini, while systems of record for supporting standard operating procedures will continue to play a vital role for the foreseeable future, he predicts that social and mobile technologies will, increasingly, be the driving force behind new sources of innovation, value creation and also, unfortunately, organizational risk.

On the other hand, Gartner PCC has always been more about portals, search and collaboration than process-oriented content management. This year’s event didn’t change my opinion in that regard, despite the fact that ECM analyst, Toby Bell, was the conference chair and his ECM colleagues were well represented on the conference agenda.

Echoing John Mancini’s call to action at AIIM/info360, much was made at PCC about the need to bridge the gap between systems of record and social applications, albeit in a much broader sense. The perspective of the Gartner analysts covering social applications extended well beyond the intersection of social computing and process-oriented ECM solutions (or in Gartner’s vernacular, “composite content applications”). Oddly enough, their primary points of reference with respect to systems of record were not ECM solutions, but data-centric enterprise applications like CRM and ERP software.

We Need Conferences of Engagement

Speakers at both conferences advocated the need to bridge the worlds of systems of record with systems of social engagement. And yet, it seemed to me, too little of either conference’s agenda allowed for proponents of these two distinct worlds of technology to be on stage together to discuss and debate one another’s perspectives.

To me, case-based applications would have been the perfect set of usage scenarios to discuss how to blend applications for supporting standardized procedures with personal computing tools for performing non-routine, but high-value tasks and interaction with people inside and outside an organization. Outside of EMC promoting their xCP platform, there was very little coverage of case-based applications at either conference.

That’s unfortunate, especially as both Gartner and Forrester Research agree that case management is the next frontier for process-oriented ECM solutions. More importantly, case-based applications aren’t the exclusive domain of ECM vendors. BPM, CRM and specialist case management providers are also laying claim to this space.

At PCC, Toby Bell made one statement during his case management presentation (the lone session on case management) that should make end-users cringe: “At this point, the vendors may have you believe that case management is anything you want it to be.” 

If this is indeed a reality, it’s not just bad news for end-users – it hurts us vendors, too! Vague solution positioning means vendors end up sending well-intentioned, but ill-informed sales people into the wrong opportunities. The resulting market confusion makes it harder to earn the trust of prospective buyers, thereby extending our sales cycles and undermining revenue objectives.

Putting Case Management in its Place

The case management discussion I would have loved to have seen at PCC or Info360 will actually take place at the Gartner BPM Summit  later this month. That session will feature a debate as to where case management belongs. Is the domain of ECM, BPM or CRM vendors? Fittingly, the debate will feature a BPM analyst (Janelle Hill), an ECM analyst (Toby Bell) and an insurance analyst who covers CRM, BPM and ECM vendors selling claims case management solutions.

If we want the market to understand the value of case management solutions, they need to understand the different ways ECM, BPM and CRM vendors attack the problem. To do that, we shouldn’t discuss the various technologies (social and transactional) and vendor approaches (ECM, BPM or CRM) that form the continuum of case management solutions in isolation. 

Here’s an idea: If ECM and other markets are converging around case management, end-users will need forums to help them understand how to find solutions that best fit their needs. That requires discussion, debate and the cross pollination of ideas between people from different IT and business backgrounds.

If a conventional conference won’t do, perhaps someone will find a way to get it done via the social Web.

Ken Burns

Ken Burns manages the Analyst and Influencer Relations program globally for Hyland, creator of OnBase. He is responsible for keep leading industry analyst firms informed about Hyland’s company and product strategies. He has worked in the ECM industry for nearly 15 years and is a keen observer of the customer and competitive forces shaping the software segment.

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