Regulatory compliance requirements are driving demand for IT systems that can secure, store and manage documents and data in a structured way. So what are suppliers doing to meet this need?
The pharmaceutical, legal and healthcare industries have used document management systems for some time to store and organise their data securely and meet their legal obligations. And now few organisations are immune from compliance pressures from laws such as the Data Protection Act and the forthcoming Freedom of Information Act.
To address this, suppliers such as Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and Adobe have merged their systems with content management and other applications. This new breed of software has been dubbed enterprise content management.
Connie Moore, director at Forrester Research, said document management companies have metamorphosed into enter-prise content management suppliers.
"After three years of consolidation in document management, web content management, document imaging, records management, digital asset management, and collaboration, enterprise content management is now a major software category, paralleling the way ERP and CRM developed from point solutions into broad suites," she said.
"Now IT suppliers want a piece of the action, consolidation will pick up speed in 2005."
Moore said document management giant Documentum started the trend by developing web content management systems and acquiring suppliers of collaboration, digital asset management, and records management, before itself being bought by storage supplier EMC.
Another leading content supplier, Interwoven, formerly focused solely on web content management, but it made multiple acquisitions including collaborative document management, digital asset management and records management providers.
Vignette, which previously sold web content management, had a similar transformation, according to Moore. She said Vignette expanded its product family to offer a portal, collaboration, document imaging, document management and records management.
"And Open Text continued its buying binge by acquiring business process management, message archiving, document imaging, document management, web content management and digital asset management suppliers."
Gartner principal analyst Tom Eid said many content and document management suppliers provide vertical, industry-specific and line-of-business-focused products. The financial services, government, healthcare, insurance, legal, manufacturing and pharmaceutical industries are among those catered for.
Line-of-business products include suites designed for sales, marketing, customer service, finance, accounting and compliance, program management and IT management, added Eid.
"In 2003 the content and document management market grew by 9.2% to more than £558m in new licence sales worldwide. This is in marked contrast to 2002, which saw a decline of more than 12%," said Eid.
There are a number of factors behind the consolidation of enterprise content management technologies and the rise in demand for them.
One is IT consolidation, as most organisations have shifted from a decentralised IT infrastructure with multiple niche application servers to a more centralised model, in an attempt to drive down costs.
The economic downturn drove this move, said Moore. "Centralised IT organisations know that an enterprise content management suite from a single supplier can reduce costs by obtaining deeper discounts from suppliers for larger deals," she said.
"Costs can also be driven down by consolidating IT support, development and training, reducing the overheads inherent in dealing with multiple suppliers and streamlining infrastructures through server consolidation."
Another of the drivers behind the adoption of enterprise content management is knowledge management - the need to manage information held in the thousands of electronic documents generated by an organisation. These might be Microsoft Office documents, letters, notes or presentations, e-mails, or operational documents such as purchase orders or invoices.
Effective management of documents and records across the whole lifecycle, from capture to archiving and destruction, has become essential.
Document security is another concern. Many documents are inherently insecure, with insufficient access controls. Such documents can be transported out of the organisation by staff using web-based e-mail, instant messaging or portable devices such as USB drives.
Enterprise content management systems can lock down the documents. Adobe, for instance, is building stronger security into individual documents. Version 7 of Acrobat Reader, launched this week, can be combined with Adobe Policy Server to protect and secure documents that contain sensitive information, and prevent unauthorised people from opening a document.
The Adobe systems works by locking documents via the internet, and can also prevent screen grabbing, printing, and editing. This can stop documents being leaked to the press or competitors, said Mark Wheeler, senior enterprise marketing manager at Adobe.
David Yockelson, senior vice-president and director at analyst firm Meta Group, said, "As compliance and regulation concerns pervade organisations, the time is right for large-scale deployments of document management systems that are easy to use, administer and buy.
"As the major platform providers polish their enterprise document management offerings, organisations should consider taking advantage of these to get a better grip on content and information assets, for compliance as well as knowledge management."
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What the major enterprise suppliers are offering
SAP is building enterprise content management capabilities into products such as Enterprise Portal, part of Netweaver. In the past, it has partnered with EMC/Documentum, Filenet, IBM and Open Text to add content and document management to its ERP applications.
SAP has also included its own document management capabilities in its ERP modules for some time.
David Yockelson, senior vice-president and director at Meta Group, said, "Microsoft has been seeding the market with its combination of Windows Sharepoint Services (WSS) and Sharepoint Portal Server (SPS), products that generally cost much less to licence than those from traditional providers.
"However, WSS and SPS are typically targeted for 'team sites', and are not usually deployed enterprise-wide." This means they are not used to support a complete document lifecycle for thousands of concurrent users and transactions on a distributed basis, he said.
IBM and Documentum
IBM and Documentum offer low-end and mid-range document management tools. Both have employee collaboration tools to compete with Microsoft Sharepoint. IBM Lotus Team Workplace (formerly Quickplace), and Documentum Eroom incorporate basic document management capabilities.
Portal suppliers such as Plumtree offer document and web content management capabilities as separately licensed add-ons, said Connie Moore, director at Forrester Research. "As this occurs, mainstream IT suppliers are seeing first-hand the importance of integrating content into core business processes," she said.
In 2005, Oracle plans to introduce document management capabilities into Oracle Collaboration Suite, building on its Files capabilities. Meta Group's David Yockelson said, "I believe Oracle will lead the [new document management] charge, although IBM and SAP are potential competitors."
The integration alternative
Forrester Research pointed out that many companies have already installed document management, document imaging and web content management technologies.
Replacing these with a single suite could be impractical, expensive and disruptive to the business. An alternative would be to use a layer of software to link together existing and new enterprise content systems.
Forrester said enterprise content integration could provide the glue for multi-supplier environments, sitting between applications and content repositories to integrate heterogeneous environments.
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