Oh, I should start by saying I’m already a bit tired of reading predictions for 2012, and looking at the next year is so short term! So this one might be for 2013. If you ask me about 2012, I would tell you it will just be a smooth transition to the next year…
So here we go, what’s next for Content Management? I believe 2013 will be the year of Transparent Content Management, that’s my prediction—my only one. I won’t say it is “The year of Mobile Content Management”, “The year when the Web 3.0 reinvent Content Management” or “The year the Cloud made it to ECM”, but simply the rise of what I would call “transparent content management” (some might have already use the term…).
I can say it another way: 2013 will be the death of Enterprise Content Management as a standalone entity! Enterprise Content Management will really become one of many horizontal pieces of the multidimensional puzzle that make up Enterprise Information Systems, just one piece of technology and processes that will be reused by all enterprise applications, in a transparent way to their users. Enterprise Content Management will expand out of its original silo to all area of enterprise architecture, to a point where it almost even doesn’t exist by itself beside the technology layer, a one that talks only to architects and developers building apps.
Actually I’ve been expecting and even waiting for this to happen for a while. It all started during a conversation with one of my uncles who was managing a large department at INSEE, a respectable institution specializing in data analysis and statistics in France. He was running some of the organization’s operations and purchase processes. A man of numbers immersed in a house of numbers, where science and metrics dominate business decisions. I remember talking to him at that time, it was in my early years of dealing with content management, I was passionate about it and I was bidding for a large project at his organization, markets for which he would be the final signature. So, discussing the topic, he told me plainly about his take on “content management”, challenging my passion with a very scientific scepticism: “What does this Content Management thing mean? Couldn’t you find something more unclear? We manage people, business, departments, processes…we certainly don’t manage content.” The man was and is certainly right; the more entrenched I become in this field, the more I think that words, thoughts, pictures, numbers, ideas and overall what we call content, manage you more than you manage them… Anyhow, it was ironic to see this man of data so skeptical about the concept of content management! I often think back to this discussion as it still challenges many of my thoughts…
More recently, I remember the words of Dries Buytaert, the young guy behind Drupal, giving a talk entitled “R.I.P Content Management System” at SXSW 2010 (see a cmswire note about it). At the time, now almost 2 years ago, I was working for eZ Systems, a WCM Open Source company, and Drupal was of course starting to be one of our serious competitors even if we kept saying “we are Enterprise and they are not…”. I was (and still am) disagreeing with the headline of this talk and think it was buzzy and opportunistic, implying Drupal killed the WCM market, which was certainly not true (no one did) and the content of the talk itself was actually quite different than what was implied.
But somehow now I must acknowledge Buytaert was a visionary at least in the headline. Beyond the “surfing the acronyms” wave, I truly believe the shift from WCM to WXM is a real one. Yes, you can manage the experience of your visitors, customers, collaborators online. No, I don’t think you really manage content—you use it, you leverage it, you benefit from it—but you don’t manage it; and WCM really became about that: managing and controlling user interactions on web channels! Of course this requires interactions on content, but also many other things as well (many of which ECM is not about, see my post about it).
And now, after 13 months at my new job with Nuxeo, focused on building an Enterprise Content Management Platform, I can only assess that ECM is going through a similar shift as well, and give credit to my uncle and Dries. ECM is evolving to something else, something that doesn’t exist by itself, something that is more deeply linked to real business processes, more scattered into enterprise applications and information systems. What our technology helps manage is not content and documents but real business and organizational processes. Name some? HR processes, specific business asset management, invoicing processes, customer relationship management, e-librarians, contract management, customer support… you want more? I could certainly go on… but I won’t as this post is already way too long!
So, while I love to contradict people who tell me ECM is a technology and answer them by saying, “you’re wrong, it’s a process,” I might rewind… Content Management is not anymore a process by itself, it’s an integral part of almost all business processes. That is part of our vision at Nuxeo, to move from traditional ECM to ECM platforms enabling the development of business apps that are content-centric. It is like “Communication” and almost as important. If Communication is king, Content Management is Queen, and together they can enable any business and organizational process. And this way, content management will be everywhere, but transparent, users won’t have to know about it!
On this note, I wish you all a happy new year from new york and would love to hear about your retrospectives and predictions for 2013 or 2012!