Cloud ECM: How to ensure you get the most out of off-premises solutions

As cloud enterprise content management (ECM) continues to gain in popularity, it’s important for organizations to learn about the impact it can have on their business processes. In this video, Craig Le Clair, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, provides an overview of cloud ECM as well as benefits and questions you should ask any cloud provider.

Video Transcription

Craig LeClair, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research

As an analyst there, I cover things like enterprise content management and business process management. I did a lot of the early work and development of smart process applications and dynamic case management.

What is driving interest in cloud ECM?

We asked, in a large survey, “what were the more transformational innovations that are occurring?”, and we had things like business intelligence, analytics, mobility and cloud. Interestingly, mobility got the top two spots, in terms of being transformational. Cloud was considered more evolutionary than revolutionary. So it is a deployment option that is not as much transformational from a customer experience and process standpoint, but one that's very important. So we see that accelerating as most of the world does.

What are the benefits of cloud ECM?

The reasons are pretty simple and they've been around for a while. Number one is more rapid deployment, but related to ECM,

I think number two is pushing the risk of adoption to the cloud vendor. With cloud, you can basically start the content solution with the provider’s stack in the cloud, and see how it works. You certainly will keep the pressure on the provider to make sure it works, and you can learn a lot, modify it and reduce your expense in doing that.

The third thing is that a lot more of the content, we used to think that content management was all behind the firewall, highly locked down and protect it, and its large extent that governance and clients still exists. It's very true, but we're seeing a sharing of content outside the firewall. That's why the popularity of file sync and sharing technology has really taken off in the last couple years with very high adoption. So if you have a lot of content that's being shared externally by third parties, it makes sense that it’d be more cloud-based.

You have the emergence of core systems in the cloud like and many others that are creating this ecosystem of solutions that are outside and off-premise. As that occurs, ECM is being dragged out there to really support a direct integration with cloud-based solutions.

What concerns companies about the cloud?

Always security, and the good news is that every year we do our survey on cloud, security, while number one, goes down. It used to be 33%, then it goes to 27%, and then 22%. Perception-wise and attitude-wise, cloud is much more acceptable today than it was two years ago or even one year ago.

From an implementation standpoint, the more integration points you have for your cloud solution, the harder it is to integrate and the perception of how hard it is to integrate which may even be more important. There's a certain draw to the cloud for those processes that are more independent of the core systems and that may be behind the firewall.

Those are the two major barriers to cloud adoption that are occurring. Again we're seeing a very positive trend in content management and collaboration all the related technologies.

What should companies look for in a cloud ECM solution?

Does the vendor have experience in the cloud?

You don't want to be the one of the first ten customers for a new SaaS offering. ECM has some very specific aspects about it that really the cloud vendor needs to understand, so that's an important requirement.

Is it really a SaaS solution?

You need to understand whether it's really a SaaS solution. There have been a lot of taking traditional content solutions and other solutions and putting them in a hosted environment. All of a sudden it is SaaS and cloud, when in fact, it doesn't have the self-deployment capabilities, nor the flexibility around deployment with multi-tenant, single-tenant, and so forth.

Is this cloud tuned for ECM?

Really you want to be sure that it's tuned to the issues around content management. If you're hosting in a broader platform concept, like an Amazon, you'll often get charges for the bandwidth that's used and in content management you have very large objects. You're zipping them around in access and so forth. You're better off with a provider who is very dedicated to content management, and understands the issues of how to price that to put it in the cloud so that it will have a good value proposition. I would start there and then you have all the other content management features and functions that are required, but that's the starting point for the cloud.