A warning sign that says END - ECM migrates to the cloud concept
PHOTO: Unsplash/Matt Botsford

While Gartner announced the ‘death of enterprise content management’ (ECM) and the rise of content services at the beginning of 2017 it created a bit of a stir in the enterprise tech business. Enterprises had been investing heavily in content management systems and ECM since the early noughties and for a research agency, even Gartner, to tell you that you need to change direction, was a tough pill to swallow.

Legacy ECM Problems

However, when CTO’s and IT professional started looking at what exactly was changing, Gartner’s arguments clearly made sense. The biggest shift in the enterprise space had happened slowly but surely and content services was the obvious outcome for those trying to manage their data. That shift, of course, was the cloud.

There were, of course, other technologies coming into the enterprise and the digital workplace was starting to become a reality. This resulted in problems that legacy enterprise content management (ECM) systems just couldn’t solve. As content management evolves toward the cloud with an increasing focus on agility and innovation, businesses that rely on ECM face a fork in the road.

Jeanette Sherman is a senior content marketing manager at New York City-based Nuxeo. In a recent blog post, she cited Nuxeo research in the UK, which showed that in financial services firms, average knowledge workers are dedicating 11% of every day to finding content locked up in separate systems. Multiplied over thousands of workers and hundreds of workdays, these tasks create a productivity drain that costs enterprises tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars.

This is not new though and over the years research report after report has identified the inability to access the right information at the right time as one of the major issues facing enterprises. There are many practical solutions to manage this problem but, Sherman outlines four principles that enterprise should consider.

Related Article: 6 Problems ECM Can Still Solve in the Enterprise

1. Platforms Vs. Solution Suites

Traditional ECM software typically started with one solution, becoming a suite as mergers and acquisitions, as well as internal product development, brought new solutions to the fold.

2. Universal Content vs. Documents and Data

Too many legacy ECM vendors simply don’t understand the magnitude of — or can’t catch up with — this massive diversification of content.

3. Cloud Natives Vs. Cloud Newcomers

Cloud is everywhere, now with the promise of better uptime and fewer security vulnerabilities than traditional on-premises deployments. Now, ECM vendors must scramble to get cloud-ready

4. Upgrades vs. Continuous Development

As previously mentioned, ECM vendors must scramble to get cloud-ready. However retrofitted result often looks like trying to force a square peg into a round hole.

Moving From Legacy ECM

There are many ECM problems which are encouraging more and more businesses to make the move from legacy software to more modern alternatives. So how do you know that you have a problem? A Technology Evaluation Center (TEC) post at the end of 2017 offers this list of criteria to assess whether you should be moving away from this older, cumbersome systems:

  1. It doesn’t do everything you ask it to do
  2. Performance problems
  3. The technology fix isn't in
  4. You want to stay competitive
  5. Lack of external support
  6. Lack of internal support
  7. User unfriendliness
  8. Lack of mobility

Sarah Gibson is Canda-based TEC’s senior director for analyst services. She told CMSWire that updating older software, rather than replacing, was a relatively viable option that companies often choose. It can still be a good idea if a business is running an older, homegrown ECM system, and has the internal resources and knowledge to bring it up to today's operational standards (in our experience, this is rare).

This is also true if the software vendor has committed to doing so and the timeline is reasonable. After all, updating an older ECM will avoid the complex challenges of data conversion that come with replacement. But with the advent of digital transformation, updating may not be worth it. Newer applications are built on better architecture, that can be updated to last well into the future. “If ever there was a time to drop idiosyncratic, older systems that don't support your business needs, and adopt more modern business software, this is it,” she said.

For many content-driven businesses, a well-equipped ECM solution is the single biggest key to overall digital transformation. This alone legitimizes the replace option as a serious contender. It should also be kept in mind that a good, modern ECM tames and digitizes huge and disparate collections of information; facilitates far better collaboration on content creation; uses AI to greatly enhance search, categorization, and reporting capabilities; and offers wider integration options for devices and other enterprise software systems.

Related Article: Why Enterprise Content Management Is Giving Way to Content Services

Migrate Your Data

If for absolutely no other reason than keep a track on data, organizations need to at least migrate their data to the cloud. While legacy ECMs systems are still used in some companies, they are limiting, especially in the modern era of digital content, Will Ellis, founder of of Privacy Australia, said. The fact that these systems are not prepared for change (and software editors no longer support those systems) means that your company will need to pay high maintenance costs. With these costs rising and the outdated legacy systems not being able to keep up with technological advancements, your security becomes weakened. 

“My suggestion then is to migrate your data to a new system and utilize new technology which is able to manage volumes more efficiently,” he said. “These new technologies also bring with them the benefit of a more likely chance of finding employees who are actually familiar with using them.” This will make processes more streamlined and secure, as well as being able to keep up with the ever-changing environment that exists in the digital workplace. 

Migrating to a Single Place Is Not Enough

Many legacy ECM systems were designed 20, 30 or even 40 years ago, when enterprise technology was much different. Having one (or more likely) many of these systems, that traditionally use older, closed sourced technology, results in several key business challenges, Paul Hampton, director of product marketing at Boston-based Alfresco, said. Finding employees with the skills and willingness to learn out of date APIs and archaic programming languages is becoming harder and harder, making it extremely difficult to develop and evolve the legacy platforms to meet current business needs.

Today, most organizations are looking to use cloud computing as it offers lower running costs, dynamic scale and ease of deployment without the need to over provision technology inside the data center. So, what to do with legacy systems?

While migrating the data and content from legacy systems is relatively easy these days (thanks to many automated tools), migrating to a single, new cloud ready ECM solution is not the answer, he said. Why? “There is the big issue of all of the legacy applications that are running on the old platforms, affecting many parts of the business. Trying to move all of these applications would be expensive, time consuming and risky,” he said.

Organizations today are looking to a new federated architecture and are selecting a modern, cloud-native platform that they can run in their own virtual private cloud. They can then federate content from multiple legacy systems to this new platform. New applications can then be built on the new cloud platform, accessing content from multiple legacy systems.

“Content and applications can be migrated over time (rather than all at once), reducing disruption to users and minimizing business risk. In the long run, legacy, archaic systems will be decommissioned as new applications based on the new cloud platform take their place,” he added.