The digital wave has set new standards for the world and it will do the same for ECM. ECM’s user requirements, information approach, business cases, sponsors, architecture and even the existence of the term “ECM” is challenged[i]. This post takes a look ahead at the future of ECM, from a client-centric perspective.

Digital revolution

Digital is changing people and organizations. Not only in terms of the technological opportunities, but also how it is fundamentally changing the way people think about technology and its role in their lives. It’s no longer people who adapt to technology – rather, technology adapts to us[i].

Almost all Digital Revolutions are connected with ECM. For example, intelligent automation is now enabling organization of data and workflows in a way humans could have never imagined. Developments in artificial intelligence will continue to irrevocably change the human interaction with information, as many examples of IBM’s Watsons technology are already displaying. And unstructured data needs to cross boundaries: digital leading companies are creating digital ecosystems, creating open standards and API’s, enabling them to leverage it in a way that brings most value to them.

Another important trend is appification. While one of ECM’s biggest challenges is user adoption[ii], people are willing to install apps, customize them and use them because they work for them. In most cases people are impartial to where their information resides and how it’s managed. But they tend to care greatly about how it can be customized for their use. Innovation of collaboration tools is driven by this principle. Tools like Slack, Trello and Workplace are supplying information anywhere, anytime in a collaboration- and user-centric fashion. The ongoing blurring of boundaries of one’s professional and personal life also demands information to be always available on a device people use at home.

 On the other hand, information security is paramount to most people and thus, information security is now driving business cases more than ever. Hilary Clinton’s suitability for becoming president was not challenged because her employee productivity was low (which is one of the old school ECM business case drivers), but because of her security protocol.

Last, the nature of unstructured content will change. Facebook is predicting video will be the main way to share information[iii], and organizations will follow as the workforce exists out of the people who are following this trend in their private lives.

Challenges for <insert new term for ECM>

So how does the Digital Revolution impact ECM? It seems that what is viewed as traditional ECM work is becoming less relevant. Even the term ‘ECM’ is being rendered obsolete by market leaders.

The main challenge faced by organizations is the spread of information on different information silos[iv]. After file shares, organizations installed ECM solutions but the file share was conserved. After that organizations implemented ECM suits, but separate solutions were not always removed. Recently organizations are moving more and more to collaboration solutions and will move to the cloud. An organization wide overview of all unstructured data repositories is often more scary than comforting.

Next to this, there is information governance. For many organizations this was already a challenge in the “old” way of working and as new collaboration apps, channels and networks are connecting to the organization, governance is more complicated than ever. In addition, compliance rules and regulation are increasing with FRCP and GDPR, as well as the expectation of users that companies safeguard their information. 

With the ongoing growth of content and platforms, organizations find it challenging to proof the value of information. They cannot find it, and when they’ve found it, there is often no method to classify it as valuable. Let alone they are able to proof its value by tracking how it is leveraged for the client, or quantifying the value for a business case.

An interesting trend to consider the growth of temporary information.[v]. Snapchat is the ultimate user example, but there are clear examples within organizations where information is created for single use. This means more information to search through and more invaluable information.

Last but not least is ECM user adoption. This is no news to whoever reads this but important to note looking at the new possibilities that puts the user in the center of solutions. The good news is that the Digital Revolution is not only disrupting ECM, but is bringing solutions along.

We need to follow this guy

HipsterSo now, what to do? We need to follow this guy. This guy gets up in the morning and while he is sitting on the toilet maintaining his WhatsApp, he gets a notification via his employers mobile app. He opens it and sees he needs to pull together a complete legal overview of an important client, and opens a Spotify-like app. Here he browses through ERP and Salesforce data as well as all client related documents from SharePoint, the company’s file share and Open Text records management. He kisses his hipster girlfriend goodbye and Ubers to the train, where he continues working on his IPad and sends a draft version to a colleague who is already behind her laptop (decorated with cool stickers) at work. Arriving at work they pull everything on an interactive whiteboard where they make last-minute changes with their boss. Why do we need to follow him? It’s the client journey! Translating this into what an organization needs to do to make this happen touches upon the key trends and technological opportunities for information management.

This employee has a vendor agnostic app spanning over multiple repositories. The information displayed is metadata based. This metadata was added by automated intelligent classification, and content analytics informed the app on to show the most valuable documents first for the type of legal search he performed. The app combined structured and unstructured data into a usable form, transportable to other devices. The app kept track of which data he used, so in a next search that data is more likely to be displayed. He did not have to retrieve the information from systems he did not choose to work with, he used a personalized customizable app that brings this information to him. And the cloud made all these transactions fast, live and secure. Information Management played an over layering role, integrating the history and present of how unstructured data is managed. And this guy has friends. Friends who have other client journeys. Someone who is a consumer and wants to use his right to see all the information a company is storing on this person. Or someone who is an insurance customer and wants to know if his damage is covered.

This is what ECM needs to be about. It is what the consumer of today is expecting. It is what the employees of the future will expect. It’s not scary, it’s just a new way of putting our information management skills to work. The modern information management consultant will not ask how to improve the current system, but what role it plays in the puzzle of adding value for the client.

About the Author:

Hans van HooffHans van Hooff is Manager within Accenture Digital. He enjoys working on digital transformation and innovative information management projects for his clients. He can be contacted at


[i] AIIM, Content Management 2020, John Mancini

[i] Accenture, Technology Vision 2017, Technology for People (

[ii] AIIM, Information Management State of the Industry 2016

[iv] Forrester 2016 ECM Online Global Survey

[v]  Gartner, Content Management for the Digital Era: Rethinking Strategies Beyond 2016