Image by: Marek Uliasz, ©2017 Getty Images

The change in the enterprise content management (ECM) market is a reality. In fact, it’s been happening for some time. ECM has become a service. New vendor landscapes have emerged to support documents and compliance—the driving force for document or content management—which has remained consistent. Yet, for some reason, the long-standing principles of information governance seem to be ignored by analysts as content services and content solutions evolve.

Content Services Become “a Thing”

The concept that the ECM market was fragmenting was first formally presented in late 2015. In Q3 of the 2015 Forrester Wave reports, they started looking at ECM as a service and broke the market into transactional content services (TCS) and business content services (BCS). In January of 2017, Gartner announced it would no longer report on ECM but would instead look at content services.

When Forrester identified the change, it separated content technology into transactional content and business content. Transactional content is defined as high-volume system-generated or scanned documents, like accounts payable (AP) invoices. On the other hand, business content is created inside the company by employees using desktop applications, like contracts. This is a clear separation of the major ways in which ECM works with content, but this services approach looks at “custom” solutions, which can be developed on those services.

Looking at content services alone, however, misses the fact that content solutions exist today that do not use content services. This would be fine, except that content solutions are not being held to similar basic principles of information governance.

Content Solutions Are Part of the Enterprise

There are many solutions that already exist that, by definition, would be consumers of content services. The most common of these are identified by ECM vendors and analysts as employee onboarding, contracts management, quality control documents, and invoices. While any of these solutions could be built from scratch on a content services platform, all of them are being offered by dozens of vendors using homegrown document management. For instance, in contract life cycle management (CLM), there are at least 20 major vendors. Only one is based on ECM.

This is also the case in insurance claims processing, which is the “star” of every ECM vendor’s mobile demo. Gartner’s "Magic Quadrant for Property and Casualty Insurance Claims Management Modules" mentions “document management” once as a feature, but it makes no reference to the requirements of records management or e-discovery. These features are critical to a content services solution and are part of the principles of information governance.

Even in areas where there are ECM-based solutions, the assessments made by analysts make no mention of support for records management or e-discovery. Gartner’s "Market Guide for Contract Life Cycle Management 2015" mentions Beach Street Consulting. Its solution was built on both Documentum and IBM FileNet, but Gartner did not report this fact or that it included records management.

Content Services or Content Solution, It’s Still a Document

Ignoring the arbitrary guide rails that have been built around each content solution space, the act of managing documents is still held to consistent rules outside the organization. For example, I-9 documents need to be accessible for one year after an employee leaves her/his employer, unless there’s pending litigation. It doesn’t matter if those I-9 documents are managed by an off-the-shelf onboarding solution, a custom-developed one using content services, or stored on paper. However, the assessments around content solutions do not address the ability to support these requirements.

Analysts understand information governance, because they had a part in formalizing the concept. If analysts feel that information governance is an important principle for organizations to adopt, then those principles should be weighted equally—no matter what type of system that information is stored in. This means that vendors of content solutions should be graded on the same scale as content services solutions, not on a curve. Information governance is not a technology feature; it is a business principle.

Marko Sillanpaa is co-founder of the blog Big Men On Content and the founder of BMO Consulting. He has been working in ECM for over 18 years for vendors like Documentum, EMC, Hyland, and SDL Trados and systems integrators like CSC and Accenture. Follow him on Twitter @MSillanpaaBMOC.