The Evolution of Enterprise Content Management Systems
Okt 5, 2016 | by Daniel Pelke | 0 Comments

Finance concept: pixelated Folder icon on digital background, 3d render

I’ve been in the Document Management System (DMS) / Enterprise Content Management System (ECMS) market for more than 20 years. Sometimes very focused on a specific aspect e.g. Technical Documentation, sometimes more general e.g. ECMS platform and sometimes with focus on an industry segment e.g. Life Science. I have seen a lot of vendors, products and technologies coming and going. The latest acquisition and certainly the biggest one was just a week ago. Hopefully, this will not reduce the power of innovation.

When I started in 1995, ECM systems offered a central repository with a set of library services such as check-in / check-out, versioning, metadata, etc. Desktop Clients and an integration into Office Applications were the way how to work with.

Since 2000, we’ve seen additional services bring content in motion. The ECMS vendors entered the world of process support by offering lifecycles, workflows and Business Process Management. The access to content, mainly documents, through Enterprise Applications e.g. ERP and CRM became popular as well as the first browser-based user interfaces.


5 years later we saw that vendors started to understand that every content type needs specific features to work with. Either by acquisition or own development, they extended the capabilities by Web Content Management, Digital Asset Management, Collaboration, Records Management and Archiving. In other words, they became vendors of real Enterprise Content Management Systems.

In 2010, only 6 years ago, when the area of smartphones and tablets started, every ECMS vendor had an app in the portfolio to allow access to business critical information – regardless of time and place. Some vendors already offered their ECM system as cloud-based solution. Today, there are just a handful real cloud-based solutions on the market. Most of the offerings are hosted in a public Data Center.

So what is the next step in the evolution? We’ve seen almost everything to manage, control, connect and even to move content around; but all features and technologies are built around content. I believe we will now see technologies that will look into the content itself. Yes, Intelligent Text Mining, Cognitive Text Analytics and even Automatic Text Creation (aka Natural Language Generation) already exist. These kind of technologies have been around for years but, due to the limitation of required technical resources, they have never been used on a great scale. But today, in the area of Big Data, resources such as compute power are available in almost unlimited performance categories for a reasonable amount of money. In addition, the algorithms are more sophisticated and also available as open source, i.e. it’s not necessary to spend thousands of Euros for licencing and maintaining commercial products.

There are tons of documents such as research studies in the archives of pharmaceutical companies waiting to be read and indexed – let’s start.