Enhanced expectations for information access have fundamentally transformed the enterprise content management (ECM) landscape due to the rapid adoption of mobile devices and services. Today's document
management assumes a private corporate network with a controlled repository. But tomorrow, it will take hold of the worldwide Internet with access to documents stored in various cloud and on-premises locations.

While it's possible to frame content management from an infrastructure and technology perspective—many companies do just that—it's better to define a strategy to reflect your business contexts and tradeoffs in this time of disruptive business and technical change. In Forrester's "Content Management Playbook," my colleagues and I maintain that firms must build an ECM strategy that includes three elements: your organization's business capabilities, your unique workforce needs and the technology landscape. With this approach, your strategy will not be affected by the ever-changing marketing of content management
tools; instead, your strategy will reflect how your firm wants to support content to maximize profitability.

Take a business context view instead of a technical view
Why do business and technology leaders invest in content management initiatives? Primary drivers include the need to simplify infrastructure, comply with regulatory requirements and improve process efficiency. Forrester has found that the missing piece and root cause of most ECM woes is not tangible needs but, instead, is a lack of understanding of business context—how people and business processes consume, modify, process and output content.

When IT organizations force technology upon employees without much knowledge of how the technology can benefit them, employees often refuse to use it. To address this real issue, business leaders
  • Understand the business context. This step starts with documenting how and why employees create, consume and use content. This use can focus on the tangible, such as the cost savings from improving new account openings in retail financial services. However, numerous intangibles can also define business context, such as the benefits associated with helping people more quickly find documents as part of an activity or improving how people collaborate on a document.
  • Find the right people to ask. People in operational roles understand what makes a particular line of business tick. With this knowledge also comes a good understanding of how better use of content can help the organization achieve its objectives.
  • Ask the right questions. Here is the challenge: How can you determine the business context for all of the unstructured information within your company and not drown in a requirements cycle?

To address this problem, Forrester has developed a list of questions to help companies determine and develop the right approach.
Use business context to segment content use cases
While the content needs of different roles, lines of business and functions may vary, they are not unique. By analyzing similarities across roles in terms of business capabilities, ECM teams can develop a model that places different roles into segments that share common characteristics.

Segments will differ based on industry and organizational maturity, but typical segments that Forrester has identified include:
  • Transactional: Manages content for core business processes.
  • Corporate services: Captures lighter ECM tools and requirements.
  • Outreach: Organizes persuasive content applications.
  • Advisory: Collaborates and leverages internal and external research.
Map technology based on business capabilities
When asked to look three years into the future and consider how great a change they expect in various parts of their business, 31% of enterprise architects expect either a "complete replacement" or "major or pervasive change" to their content platforms. As if ECM alone wasn't complicated enough, several new solutions are being incorporated into ECM strategies, such as dynamic case management, file sharing and collaboration solutions and enterprise social platforms. In order to remain competitive in the business landscape of the future, business leaders must look forward and plan for not only ECM best practices—but next practices—through a deep understanding of business context, use cases and the next wave of technological innovation.

Craig Le Clair is a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, serving enterprise architecture professionals. For more, visit www.forrester.com/Craig-Le-Clair.

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