Way back in the past, 2017 to be exact, industry analysts, Gartner Research, declared that ECM was dead and renamed the technology as Content Services. At this point, the two terms are often used interchangeably because the difference between the two isn’t crystal clear. However, some scrutiny regarding the definitions of the two terms tells us there is a difference.
ECM began as a way to encompass various types of technologies together. Back in the day, we used to say ECM = Document Management + Records Management+ Workflow+ Capture + Web Client. ECM also meant you stored all of your files in a single repository. Some asserted that ECM is a management technique for organizational content.
However, certain types of content, such as web pages and rich media, needed to be managed outside the single ECM platform. This was when the meaning of ECM began to change to create a federated, enterprise approach to managing content regardless of where it was stored.
Why the name change?
Gartner’s reasoning for the name change was that content management had become a supportive functionality rather than an application that stood alone. Gartner analysts wrote:
“The strategy of enterprise content management “was to provide a centralized enterprise (the E in ECM) wide platform that could meet one or all of the following primary goals associated with the utilization of ‘content’:
Regulatory compliance and risk management
Retention and dissemination of business knowledge
Cost and process efficiencies
Innovation and new ways of working”
Gartner then declared that it is almost impossible to achieve all of these goals using one platform and hence, announced the death of ECM.
Still with me? OK.
Some, (mostly Fortune 500 who make up the majority of Gartner’s clients) took this approach of melding strategy with current technology for example having a federated approach to managing documents in multiple repositories and adopted it. Gartner’s formal definition became, “a set of services and microservices, embodied either as an integrated product suite or as separate applications that share common APIs and repositories, to exploit diverse content types and to serve multiple constituencies and numerous use cases across an organization.”
Essentially, the difference between enterprise content management and content services is centering on a single document repository versus a federated one. The goal of enterprise content management is to accomplish a range of operational goals through the use of a single centralized platform. Conversely, content services are meant to improve efficiency by relying on multiple strategies and tools. Content services focus less on content storage for the enterprise, and instead, build on how the content is used by individuals and teams to gain insight into the overall business operations.
Is it me, or is there no actual difference?
In changing the definition and name of ECM to CS, Gartner is adjusting the approach to how ECM is actually used in the real world and/or in the way that delivers the highest ROI. CS is a more strategic, enterprise-centric view which hones in on multiple line-of-business systems and centers on collaboration and data usage for decision-making. ECM has changed significantly since 2017 and its modern usage, in my opinion, does not require a name change.