Image by: Warchi, ©2017 Getty Images

Digital transformation initiatives are driving organizations to change the way that they approach, think about, and manage critical business content. The sheer magnitude of content in applications and repositories (official and unofficial) offers the promise of greater insight through advanced analytics but also introduces new challenges related to acquiring crucial documents and information.

At the same time, content management technologies are also evolving. Traditional enterprise content management (ECM) solutions have developed into application suites, which often include records management, case management, enterprise capture, and content workflow automation capabilities.

Moving Beyond Enterprise Content Management

Managing content refers to a number of use cases, including support for content creation and collaboration, providing a source for analytics and cognitive solutions, and serving as the single source of truth within an organization. For these reasons, the IDC MaturityScape looks at managing enterprise content rather than "enterprise content management." We consider the various use cases noted rather than a specific technology category.

To effectively manage enterprise content, organizations must understand the various content-centric use cases and business processes within their own organizations. Furthermore, businesses must adopt consistent practices for investment and for developing purpose-driven instantiations of content management technologies that are based on organizational priorities. This is best accomplished by including content management as a core component in the larger digital transformation initiatives of the organization.

A Look at the IDC MaturityScape for Managing Enterprise Content

Our maturity model for managing enterprise content describes the organizational characteristics at five levels, from a completely ad hoc, highly manual approach to one in which the word "management" no longer applies—at least from the human perspective—as artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive solutions will largely assume the management role. It is intended to help organizations evaluate current content management infrastructure and capabilities as well as identify the steps for advancing to the next stage of maturity.

This IDC MaturityScape includes five stages, with five sub-dimensions across all the stages. Note that each stage builds on the capabilities of the one that immediately precedes it.

Each maturity stage and expected business outcomes are described in this figure.

Ad Hoc: This is an excellent description of this stage, as there is no organized or coordinated strategy for managing content within the organization. Content-centric workflows are largely paper-based and/or content is randomly distributed across digital repositories, including email, shared drives, thumb drives (or other physical media), and possibly personal/consumer cloud file synchronization and sharing (FSS) services. There is no targeted funding or high-level management support.

Opportunistic: Organizations at this stage have deployed technology and formalized some processes for content management, but it is departmental (or business unit-wide) in scope. Planning is on a short-term basis and funding is focused on specific tactical opportunities. This means that an enterprise-wide strategy or budget is still lacking and cross-departmental or business unit collaboration is ad hoc and limited.

Repeatable: At this stage, the value and efficiencies gained within individual silos have been recognized at senior levels within the organization, pushing content management initiatives up to an enterprise program with support and budget now provided at the corporate level and consistent support from information technology (IT). Pan-enterprise content management, via one or more centrally managed repositories, provides a single source of truth.

Managed: At this stage, the enterprise has transitioned from deploying monolithic, one-size-fits-all applications to implementing purpose-built content management solutions, using the most suitable modules drawn from a common technology stack. A unified interface provides access to multiple content repositories, which is accessible any time and via any device. Content management centers of excellence are formalized, and global shared services teams have been established for key use cases and workflows.

Optimized: In the most mature organizations, content management is a core component of broader strategic, well-funded programs that are transformational. A collaborative culture of continuous innovation exists, and management rewards change agents. Cognitive and AI systems support content management processes, including search and decision-making within content-centric workflows as well as information governance.

Each dimension contributes to an organization's ability to progress from one stage to the next, achieving a higher level of content management maturity. At each stage, the organization develops greater skills and competencies within each dimension (vision, people, process, technology, and use cases).

Today, organizations are focused on optimizing processes, ensuring security and compliance, and leveraging the greatest business value out of their content. To this end, it is vital for organizations to evaluate the processes and technologies for managing enterprise content. This maturity model provides a framework for evaluation.

Holly Muscolino is the Research Vice President of the Content Technologies and Document Workflow group at IDC and is responsible for research related to enterprise content management, including records management and case management. Follow Holly on Twitter @hmuscolino.