I have been reading many articles around the web that attempt to predict the future. I guess it is just human nature trying to predict what is coming in order to be prepared. Just last week, one of my friends made a day trip to see a fortune teller (No ECM news there). I’m an engineer, and I believe that the only way to know where you are going, is by knowing where you are and where you want to go (wish list). I would give my take on ECM future by looking at how people are using the existing technology and their wish list according to my personal experience.
Looking at the present we can see that people are using the existing technology to store and manage documents (records) that have been traditionally managed on paper. For example company memos seem to have been replaced by emails, and portals/wikis had replaced internal publications (magazines). Looking at what people want, it is easy to see that every user or super user want the same thing: “an easy way to do everything”.
So if everyone wants the same thing, how do companies decide which solution suits them best? As I see it, this is a battle between users, that want an easy way to access their content, and administrators (”super users”), that want an easy way to manage data (user’s content). At the end, companies adopt one software over another depending on who is paying for it. So I would make the first thing in my wish list a true content management system that people like to use.
Brand New Approach on the Horizon
Google recently launched Google Wave. Wave is a brilliant approach to content management as we know it. I’m currently evaluating this protocol, and I hope it gets adopted by all ECM companies (added to my wish list). Traditional OO design looks at a process and then creates a digital equivalent. For example, traditional mail is written and then sent through the postal service to its destination; in the same way email is written and send to the recipient, creating a copy of the document in both senders’ and recipient’s mail server. Even worse, when an internal email is sent to 10 people, the same copy is stored in the email server 11 times (1 for the sender’s outbox and 10 for recipients’ inboxes). Additionally, many recipients will also download a copy to their local machine, because that is what many email clients do. If a conversation/discussion get started (ex. company budget), the email will start growing in size and the amount of space used in the email server will grow exponentially (and this happens every day!!). If your company is using a records management (RM) tool to store these records, you might encounter the dilemma of retaining these emails in the repository.
Google Wave treats emails, as well as any other digital communication, using a structure that creates a unique copy on a central repository. Recipients (participants) are added to the email (wave) by giving them write access to the wave. This approach is possible in the present because of the current network’s characteristics. This approach improves the use of resources and the ability to apply security, retention and etc (super users paradise). Additionally, from the user’s point of view, it not only lets you send emails, as we know them, but also, it would make tasks like adding the document to the records management system as easy as adding a participant (wave-robot) to the wave.
In other words, the wave would make everyone’s life easier; but I have to admit that I don’t believe we will be seeing this technology adopted by enterprises very soon because of the implicit changes in the traditional hardware/software infrastructure. What do you think? What would you like to see in the future as part of ECM?