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The state of ECM 2010

October 5, 2010

I just came across Jacob Morgan’s overview of AIIM’s State of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) 2010 report on CMSWire, and it got me motivated to read the original report. I’m glad I did, because there are a lot of significant findings in it, many of which have important implications for how we ECM practitioners do our jobs. I want to unpack a couple of the most telling ones here.

Executive support

In total, 36% of organizations do not have a board-level executive specifically tasked with document and records management, including 10% who have no one at all tasked with this.

State of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) 2010, p. 6

No shock here, although in looking through the data, I would say that it’s worse than this: on top of the 36% of organizations that have no executive support, another 11% have their “board-level executive support” from a “CRO/Head of RM/Head of Inf. Mgmt.”, which is non-board-level in 2 of the 3 cases, and a weak board-level in the third. So I would up this to 47% of organizations not having true executive support for ECM.

That leaves us with almost half of organizations with no executive support for ECM, yet 86% of respondents have some sort of ECM system in place. If we’re generous and say that the 14% of organizations without ECM systems also have no executive support for ECM, this still means one-third of the organizations have an ECM system with no executive support for ECM…and that’s a lot of organizations “asleep at the wheel” of their ECM program, with low likelihood of adequately leveraging their investment in ECM, delivering significant business value, etc.

ECM roles

Respondents from Local and National Government made up 28% of the survey…Records management, information management and compliance staff make up 38% of respondents. IT staff constitute 26%, consultants or project managers, 18%, and line-of-business managers and chief executives 7%.

State of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) 2010, p. 23

These two demographic specifics caught my eye. First, the high proportion of government respondents may cause typical private-sector business drivers like competitive advantage, collaboration, and customer service to take more of a back seat than they otherwise would in the survey. Can’t prove this, but if true, it would fit with my experience working with government versus private sector organizations on ECM.

Second, there is a real shortage of leadership roles responding: 7% identified themselves as LOB managers or Chief Executives. This would seem to gel with the lack of executive level ECM ownership at many organizations the report highlights.

But beyond that, given the low executive turnout, I would expect the results to be light on the kind of executive, corporate ECM viewpoint that IT, compliance, and RM often don’t have. Throughout the report, then, I would encourage folks to take the results with a grain of salt, because they’re heavily weighted to the “doers” rather than “leaders”. In the end, I wouldn’t assume that the responses in the survey reflect the point of view of the people who actually write the check for ECM at an organization…just something to keep in mind.

ECM drivers

Across the user base, improving efficiency and optimizing business process are the two strongest drivers, followed by compliance and risk mitigation…Grouping these factors into Cost, Compliance, Customer Service and Collaboration, we see the mid-decade effect of stronger regulation being overhauled by the more recent recessionary imperative of reducing costs. Customer service as a primary driver continues to fall.

State of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) 2010, p. 9

I think this general characterization wouldn’t surprise anyone who’s been muddling around in the ECM space over the last 18 months. But when you compare the list of drivers AIIM asked about to the list of ECM project priorities, things get interesting. [NOTE: click on the figure to enlarge it]

What’s striking to me is the disconnect between what folks say the key cost drivers are (improved efficiency and optimized business processes) and what they say their ECM priorities are (implementing electronic RM and managing emails as records). Because what you’ll get from delivering RM for electronic content and emails is not primarily efficiency gains and better business processes across the enterprise. So what’s up?

I think a number of things could be behind this.

  • First, since we don’t have many executive respondents here, it’s possible that more business-focused concerns are under-represented.
  • Second, since many organizations don’t have executive level support of ECM, it’s possible that no one has ever taken the ECM owners to task over the discrepancy between what they say the benefits of their systems are and what actually gets delivered.
  • Third, it may be that there isn’t a tight linkage between ECM product SKUs and business drivers. Vendors have tended to sell modules around things like RM or email management rather than business drivers like competitive advantage–although that’s shifting somewhat with things like advanced case management, customer communication management, and collaboration.
  • Finally, it could also be due in part to the mechanics of the survey itself, which asks about big bucket categories like “improve efficiency” alongside more granular ones like “improve customer service” and blurs the lines between categories of drivers.

The final word

In the end, this is a great survey, really eye-opening, excellent data points for anyone involved in ECM. Would love to hear what folks think of the report or my take on it: does it gel with your experiences over the last year, what you’re seeing in the industry or your organization? If not, what’s been different for you? For your organization?

Jump in and let’s get the conversation started…

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