Oct. 5 2009 12:00 AM

In our world of content technologies, we are at a point where current technology offerings considerably lag behind the needs and expectations of the buyer. A particularly obvious example is in the area of mobile content management. For whilst enterprises large and small have for years now been deploying mobile devices in the form of laptops and PDAs to the workforce, enterprise content management (ECM) vendors have continued to imagine that the world instead revolves around their applications, and that secure documents (for example) can and should only be accessed within the secure boundaries of their proprietary systems.

Enterprises, on the other hand, need secure management of business critical content to be enabled wherever their employee or partners are working, and on whatever device they happen to be using, both on- and offline. It's a perfectly sensible thing to expect your content management system to support, but almost none today do so, and it is not unfair to say that none at all do so well. After years of virtually ignoring the world of mobile and handheld devices, ECM vendors are slowly starting to recognize the need to focus on mobile computing requirements.

This past summer, we have seen a number of vendors ratcheting up their mobile reach; in particular, we noted that Search-cum-ECM vendor Autonomy announced the release of an integration for its recently acquired WorkSite product for the iPhone, a product that is particularly well-known and widely used within the legal community. Smart mobile devices are increasingly usurping the role of laptops as the mobile computing device of choice, so secure access to documents in your ECM system via the iPhone makes a great deal of sense, particularly if you are an on-the-move lawyer.

There were also iPhone-related releases from Xythos and Alfresco, and it is fair to say that virtually all ECM vendors are now trying somewhat belatedly to deal with the mobile environment - "belatedly" because many enterprises we have talked to are on the verge of giving up with their ECM vendors and simply accepting that content management is a mess, a near impossible muddle to deal with and that email is the real tool for managing content within and outside of the enterprise. It's important that this trend does not go unchecked; ECM tools not only allow people to access and manage content securely, they also provide the functionality to manage the complete life cycle of content from creation to destruction in accordance with legal and regulatory norms.

Chaos is chaos, however one paints it, and secure content floating around the net and sitting unsecured on mobile devices is unacceptable. If ECM vendors cannot rise to this challenge quickly enough, no doubt somebody else will come along to do so.

Alan Pelz-Sharpe [aps@cmswatch.com] is a principal at CMS Watch, covering ECM technologies and practices. For more information on these technologies and other findings in "The ECM Report 2009," please visit www.cmswatch.com/ecm.