Yes, it's that time of the year again: flickering Christmas lights, last minute gift shopping and… new year predictions! Which tech trends will materialize, and which will come to an inglorious end? What plans are digital pioneers cooking up? And which steps should you be considering to keep your business flowing?
Here's what we think will happen in the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) space in 2017. So sit back, have another sip of your mulled wine and let us guide you through 10 predictions for the coming year.
1 - Cloud is the new normal
Whereas a few years ago the European market was still hesitant to go down that 'unknown road', cloud and SaaS models have become the standard in many organisations, an integral part of the IT portfolio and, as such, are no longer considered just for pioneers.
In the area of document management and collaboration there's no denying the success of SaaS platforms such as Microsoft Office 365: the integration of SharePoint Online with the Office authoring tools, social tools such as Yammer and the new Teams and the chat and voice connectivity of Skype for Business make for a productivity package few organizations can resist. This is a trend that will undoubtedly be sustained or even pick up the pace in the coming year.
A related trend we have observed is the limited success of hybrid approaches, in which on-premises installations are combined with cloud platforms. The logical idea here is that 'sensitive' documents are managed on site whereas all others - often externally shared documents - are managed in the cloud. Both Microsoft and Alfresco offer hybrid set-ups, but in practice we only envisage limited success in the market. Organizations either seem ‘cloud believers’ and go all-in, or they are part of a minority of ‘cloud doubters’ (sometimes also for regulatory reasons) and keep all documents on site.
2 - Compliance and archiving will be hot again
For a long time, compliance and archiving have been the ugly ducklings in an ECM space governed by far more trendy social collaboration systems. Geoffrey Moore's division of information management in 'old' systems of record versus 'modern' systems of engagement only exacerbated this negative image. But this is going to change soon due to a wave of (overdue) legislation regarding digitization which has recently been approved at EU level.
On the one hand there's eIDAS, a European regulation on Electronic identification (eID) and trust services (e.g. electronic seals and time stamps) which opens up opportunities for digital archiving based on legally binding authenticity claims.
On the other hand there's the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which, among other measures, forces organizations to establish a plan on the management of sensitive data (it must always be encrypted, archived for a 'reasonable' period only, incorporate the right to be ‘forgotten’, and so on). It comes into force in May 2018 and will clearly require organizations to review and potentially re-implement their archiving strategies and systems, leading to a probable further growth of interest in products such as InfoArchive in 2017.
3 - You'll be talking to bots… really
Conversational interfaces or bots are clearly one of the current tech trends. Amazon has Alexa, Apple has Siri, Microsoft has Cortana and Google's currently anonymous bot is driving Assistant. What's more, all of these tech behemoths have frameworks which allow developers to implement their own bots.
While their most obvious value lies in e-commerce, where they can automate one-on-one dialogue with the customer, we predict that they will also prove valuable in the world of document management and collaboration. Think along the lines of tedious administration or governance tasks, such as keeping your intranet directory up to date:
- Bot: "Good morning, John. Can I ask you a question?"
- John: "Sure"
- Bot: "Have you picked up any new skills lately"
- John: " Oh yes, I recently did a project in Angular"
- Bot: "Thanks, John. I'm adding Angular as one of your skills"
- John: Oh, uh, great!
If that feels like it’s still a long way away, just have a look at Hyperfish, which offers exactly that. We anticipate that in 2017 we’ll see other examples of the first uses of bots in ECM context.
4 - Activity at the crossroads of ECM and DXM
Customer expectations are changing rapidly: today's customers are used to one-click shopping and overnight delivery, they track their taxi or parcel in real-time until it arrives, and they expect to get things done instantly by self-service. This has tremendous impact on what used to be known as 'internal' systems, such as ECM, CRM and ERP. It's no longer possible to keep the information in these systems locked up: modern customer service requires real-time insight and self-service options, but it can save you considerable manpower by only acting as middlemen.
As a service partner for both ECM and Digital Experience Management (DXM), at AMPLEXOR we have observed a growing need to integrate both areas. A typical example is customer, citizen or partner portals. At the front-end, they are nicely integrated into the website and reflect the organizational brand, while at the back-end they are integrated in real-time with an ECM-based case management system to provide real-time case status, access to relevant documents and digital interaction with the case handler. With digital transformation on the agenda of most organizations, the integration of ECM and DXM will definitely increase in the coming year.
5 - The new workplace is not just digital, it's intelligent
Just when we thought that artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning were doomed to an eternal academic life, they swept through the tech market like whirlwinds. It started with Watson becoming Jeopardy champion in 2011 and, since then, the momentum has continued to grow. Cars have started driving autonomously, your thermostat has developed an ego and your phone has started to know you better than you'd ever have expected. Slowly but surely we see machine learning and AI claim their spot in the workplace; in 2017 we will start talking about the intelligent workplace instead of the digital workplace.
Office Delve can be considered a first example of this trend: as part of Office 365, it makes personalized document recommendations to the user regardless of where they’re stored. But there's much more business potential, ranging from the integration of digital assistants to automated metadata assignment and automated case routing.
6 - Mixing the ECM cocktail
Until a few years ago, the introduction of the single organisation-wide repository was the holy grail of ECM. Those days are gone.
The requirements, for social collaboration are very different from those for legal archiving, for example and modern ECM tools typically target only one or mostly a few use cases. This converts the 'ideal' ECM landscape of an organization from a single ECM tool to potentially multiple tools, integrated where appropriate.
At our customers, we are typically starting to see Office 365 used for collaboration, together with Alfresco or Documentum xCP for case management, and finally InfoArchive for long-term archiving.What is encouraging is that most customers have a clear view on the case for using each of these tools and have well-defined architectures and governance plans reflecting their technology choices.
7 - Augmented Reality content gets serious
Despite the rapid failure of Google Glass and the still experimental state of the Microsoft Hololens, augmented reality (AR) will be one of the key technologies in the coming years. In fact, within mobile apps, AR has already sparked the success of Pokémon Go, Layar, Google Skymap and Google Goggles. AR as such is an amazingly powerful contextualization technology: by integrating the data from visual and potentially other sensors (GPS, sound, etc.) the system becomes aware of your physical 'context' and can start suggesting interesting information based on it.
Now, this is one of the key issues in ECM and information management in general: the smart use of context to provide information to the right person at the right time. At AMPLEXOR, we've realized that AR can play an essential role in solving problems, , e.g. for user manuals. If you were lucky enough to get one of our AMPLEXOR power banks, you can download a showcase mobile app (Android, iOS) with a user manual based on AR. Instead of scrolling through an extensive manual, just open the app, focus your camera on the power bank and the app will automatically explain to you how to use the buttons and other features. This is just the start of something that will grow much bigger in the coming year.
8 - The application master
The application landscape is exploding in many organisations: IT often has a credibility problem and loss of control, while business departments are happily shopping in the cloud. Although each of these approaches may have value, it is often very hard for employees to find their way through this jungle.
That's why in many intranet or digital workplace projects we notice a demand for an application portal function: a single gateway providing access to all relevant business applications. In its most basic form this will just be a list with links. A little more advanced is the personalized touch: allowing the individual user to sort or manage this list. But the ultimate dream is a truly integrated experience where notifications, alerts and task lists from multiple applications are effectively merged in the digital workplace. Although technically challenging, this integrated view has so much business value that we think demand for it will only grow in 2017.
9 - Employee experience gains traction
In the past few years, customer experience has been the pet subject within marketing. There are probably as many definitions for the term as there are marketing people, but in essence it revolves around understanding the customer's needs, being transparent, proactive and consistent in communication and making it very easy for customers to do business with you.
This experience concept is now also appearing at employee level: modern digital workplaces are focused on making it as easy as possible for employees to get informed and get work done, hence the focus on design and user experience for internal applications, on role-specific mobile-first interfaces and so on.
Platforms such as LEAP, which allow for easy development of enhanced user experiences, are quite new on the market and will see the first successes in 2017. Other vendors such as Alfresco are taking similar initiatives towards smoother user interfaces.
An important driver behind this attention to employee experience is definitely employee retention and engagement. As the world of human resources is moving from purely physical to digital, the ergonomic inspiring physical office also needs a digital counterpart these days.
10 - More turmoil in the vendor market
In 2016, there was considerable market movement in the ECM and collaboration space: the EMC ECD division moved to Dell and will soon move further to OpenText, Google brushed up its collaboration suite, Facebook officially launched its Workplace offering, Microsoft tried hard to crush Slack with its Teams software, and Box is slowly claiming its place as a document management vendor. We expect similar turmoil in 2017.
Facebook, for example, has only started luring the enterprise market and will most certainly step it up a notch in 2017. Facebook Workplace has the advantage of offering employees a well-known interface for social collaboration, but it currently has only limited support for document-based collaboration.
Google, after rebranding its business offering to G suite, will chase after additional customers. Given its competitive pricing and fairly complete offering including mail, document collaboration and chat/voice communication, it will be interesting to see whether it will be able to put the pressure on Microsoft's Office 365 offering.
And finally, everyone will be keeping their eyes on Slack: will they be able to resist increasing competition, will there be pressure on their pricing or will they be swallowed by one of the bigger fish? Interesting times ahead!
If these topics have sparked your interest, make sure you continue to follow our blog and social media channels for the latest updates on the ECM landscape in 2017.