Against this, organisations should also regard the savings that will be achieved by implementing the ECM system, and in this respect Return On Investment (ROI) is perhaps a better indicator of the true cost and benefit of implementing a system than just taking into account the TCO.
Other factors that need to be considered include the ability to integrate external applications to provide additional functionality, and external repositories that can be managed through the ECM solution. Butler Group believes that it should be possible to manage all content, structured and unstructured, through a single ECM solution, and organisations should be aware of this fact when purchasing an ECM system, selecting a product that can scale and evolve to meet future requirements. IBM and Gauss are already working towards this end, and Butler Group would expect major vendors such as Documentum, FileNET, and Interwoven to follow suit.
A major justification for implementing an ECM solution is the need to share information around the organisation. In the past, much of the knowledge within a company would have been in the heads of its employees, which is why employees were always regarded as an organisation's greatest asset. When an employee left the company, so did the knowledge he or she had acquired. Butler Group believes that we have become much better at recording our knowledge and expertise electronically over the last few years. However, much of this knowledge is still in the personal folders of the creator, typically destroyed when the employee leaves the organisation. Content management provides the ability to centrally store that knowledge and share it with other employees to the benefit of the entire organisation. This has made collaboration one of the key features of ECM products.
ECM should be considered as an infrastructure component, rather than as an application. We believe that these products must provide a complete platform for the management of content, with which content service applications can integrate. This means that the key element of any such ECM system has to be its integration capabilities. Most vendors now support Web services to provide the integration layer, enabling the ECM platform to interact with content from a variety of sources stored in both content management and external repositories, as well as file systems. Butler Group believes that as more structured content is managed through the ECM platform, this need will become increasingly vital.
Currently, vendors providing an ECM platform provide content services via integration with external applications. Many of these are tightly integrated, so that an end-user will never realise that they are not using part of the core functionality. Vendors such as IBM use a combination of their own products and those of third parties, typically small niche players, to provide these content services, and Butler Group expects to see some of these products become embedded in the ECM platform and provided as core functionality.