Before I came to Computhink, I was working a freelance gig with a digital marketing agency. The marketing agency was using Google Drive for enterprise content management, or ECM. We’ve written before how solutions such as Drive, Dropbox, and Box aren’t really enterprise content management, but for right now, let’s pretend they’re trying to be. My eyes hadn’t been opened to what a real ECM could do yet, and I had been working with this agency for a few months.
The Drive system seemed pretty logical at first: there were different folders, with different levels of access, and clients could go into some of them and edit documents and resources, etc. It actually seemed to be working semi-decently as a kind of traditional ECM. This agency seemed to be counteracting what we had written about in article I linked to above.
The fallout from all this was an agency losing (yes, losing) a big health care client because of an over-reliance on Google Drive as an ECM solution. It was a major revenue hit.
Now look, we know that Google often does get things right, like their search engine platform, or their self-driving cars. But just like Apple doesn’t do everything well, or Ford doesn’t do everything well, so too is Google amazing for some things (such as e-mail management) and not as amazing for others (such as file management).
ECM is serious business, and as you see above, it’s explicitly revenue-linked business as well. In those cases, sometimes a specialized solution focused on all elements of ECM can be advantageous over a more traditional or ‘enterprise’ level solution. There are numerous reasons for this, but here are some of the most relevant:
Regulatory Compliance: Depending on what content you’re managing, there are going to be varying degrees of compliance by industry. If it’s HR or legal resources, those levels may be astronomically high. A specialized solution provider likely lives and breathes compliance issues, whereas a big tech ECM provider simply includes it as one element they monitor. We offer tailored workflow, file retention, and version revision features, for example. Those are specially designed because we understand the specific needs of people looking for a high-quality ECM.
The Business of Sensitivity: If you’re a company that takes your files very seriously — ideally most companies would fall into this boat — you should aspire to work with a company that is likewise going to take them seriously. Perhaps some of the big tech companies have grown into a protection-oriented environment, but a solution like Dropbox wasn’t designed or iterated with that in mind. In the case of specialized ECM solutions, that has always been the focus. With file retention and an architecture that allows for multiple backup and redundancy options, specialized ECMs simply handle your sensitive information and documents with more sophistication.
Workflow: Let’s go back to our marketing agency above. In that example, one IT lead painstakingly set up dozens of files and various permissions internally and with the client. What happened within the first week? Agency members and the client started breaking out new versions of files not saved in the folders, editing those, sharing those on other workflow platforms (i.e. Basecamp), and essentially creating mountains of confusion on both sides of the equation. Specialized ECM providers typically have workflows rooted in (a) analysis of multiple industries and (b) years of market testing. Big tech providers typically do not. This is because the majority of these big tech companies have been selling their solution (or giving it away) directly to single users for years. B2C principles do not translate well to a B2B market. With a traditional ECM provider, workflow is an inherent part of keeping documents safe, organized, and easy to retrieve.
Security: This might be the most important issue of all. Specialized ECMs have special security in place, like virtually impenetrable encryption, to protect files (from deletion, editing by third party, etc.). The security basis on the files comes from the user permissions, which are established by admins at the time of install and constantly monitored. Personal storage giants worry about security — in today’s digital world, everyone must — but because of competing demands and product feature needs, it can’t always be a true focus. And it can’t be customized as well. This is a huge advantage of specialized ECMs.
CIO.com just asked if ECMs are becoming obsolete and irrelevant. Not at all. What’s happening in the ECM space is the same thing you’re seeing happen in many facets of business right now: companies are opting for smaller, more specialized and customized solutions as opposed to bigger, more well-known brands. This is partially the result of digital disruption; business is moving faster than ever and competitors are cropping up where companies least expected them. You need to be able to move quickly and move according to the specs your organization needs, not the specs that an enterprise giant assigns to most of its customers. ECM isn’t dying at all. It’s living a renewed life of specialization and customization.