This article appears in the Fall-Winter 2019 digital issue of DOCUMENT Strategy. Subscribe.

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Throughout the history of Image Management, Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and now Content Services Platform (CSP), technologies and approaches have affected the industry, often times disrupting the industry leaders. As a long time consultants in the industry as well as a contributors to our own internal software product direction, we are forecasting significant change to the industry and solutions in the next decade. The evolution from optical platters to spinning magnetic to memory based storage were embraced as easy add-ons to push the industry forward with faster, cheaper and better solutions. While technology will always to drive change, technology change will not only improve the cost and performance of CSP, but will reduce the people support costs and efforts. As vendors and customers look and plan for the future, they should consider some of the following potential disruptors in their vision.

Object Stores getting smarter – Chance of disruption 100%

CSP vendors have adding object stores to replace SAN or other network mounted storage. Giving the content to an object store and managing a key rather than a complicated network drive structure freed administrators from worrying about managing storage. Object stores getting smarter to reduce administration and improve capabilities will include both on premise and cloud with smarts to push content to where it’s most needed. We would predict that the object store will own the content and provide links to one or multiple CSP repositories depending on the use case eliminating having the CSP/ECM repository being the sole owner of the content. CSP vendors with a future-focused vision will look to support multiple object stores and leverage common protocols like S3 for linking to where the content exists. This methodology results in significantly faster linking versus the traditional content ingestion were the content file itself needs to be processed through the vendor’s API. Smarter object stores already include security, de-duplication and content streaming. Future visions should prepare for more capabilities direct from the object store including meta-data, analytics, renditioning, thumbnails and other traditional CSP/ECM capabilities.

Digitally born content replacing the mailroom – Chance of disruption 100%

Any future vision would include the elimination of the mailroom, scanning, fax or other paper based processes. Content will come direct and indexed from the source in a completely digital manner. Some aspects of machine learning for indexing will emerge here as well. Paper will not completely go away but any vision should prepare for less paper in the future.

Cloud Vendors infrastructure replacing On Premise – Chance of disruption 80%

The major cloud vendors (Amazon, Microsoft and Google) will have a huge impact on client’s internal infrastructure costs. While not all clients will move to the cloud, cloud clients will want to leverage their cloud vendor skills and purchasing agreements to move or build new CSP systems in the cloud to reduce their people costs for internal infrastructure. Software differentiators will include support for both cloud infrastructure as well as services like database, search and object store natively to further reduce support costs tied to bring your own software to the cloud options.

Low Code replacing Development Environments – Chance of disruption 75%

Clients want solutions with configuration rather than development environments to reduce their internal need for developers. Experienced CSP customers that have developed on proprietary platforms will look to reduce their developer and support headcount.

Not Only SQL replacing SQL – Chance of disruption 70%

Big Data solutions will replace traditional relational databases (Oracle, SQL Server, MySQL…) powering the majority of the CSP vendors to remove DBA support costs. Visionary vendors will embrace the simpler and scalable solutions of NoSQL to not only offer increased performance for their clients but also to reduce the cost of the CSP stack.

Machine Learning and AI replacing manual activities – Chance of disruption 50%

CSP will leverage Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence to increase productivity. Success will depend on use case as ability to accept the “fuzzy-ness” of results will determine the success or applicability. Initial use case will be around capture but other areas like leveraging AI to better find and reuse content will benefit as well. As more and more use cases are successful with ML and AI, we would expect the disruption to increase even for the more conservative implementators.

Content Services SAAS replacing IAAS, PAAS or on Premise – Chance of disruption 20%

SaaS solutions will continue to disrupt but only for certain scenarios. Similar to when IT moved to completely offshore their IT department only to bring components back in-house, we would predict that 100% SaaS for content storage will have similar issues. Customers will want the flexibility to pick and choose technology and vendors without their content being locked in and owned by any singular vendor. Successful leaders will pick SaaS solutions that add value to their content for specific scenarios (DocuSign, Box, Google Drive…) without giving all content to any one vendor.

Dave Giordano is the Founder and President of Technology Services Group (TSG), a Chicago technology consulting firm with 40+ enterprise content management (ECM) consultants. Previous to founding TSG in 1996, Dave worked for nine years for Accenture (Andersen Consulting). Follow the TSG Blog or follow them on Twitter @tsgrp.
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