Ignore Online Content Technologies at Your Peril

By Andi Mann

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Like IM before it, the rise of content creation and delivery mechanisms that are solely dependent on network connectivity—what EMA is calling Online Content Technology, or OCT—is being overlooked by mainstream ECM strategies and solutions.

Of course, there are excellent solutions for Web publishing and e-mail, but OCT is vastly more than that, as it includes unmanaged (or at best under-managed) content mechanisms such as:

  • Chat and instant messaging (IM) applications (e.g. AIM, Windows Messenger) and web logs (blogs).
  • Downloadable audio and video recordings (podcasts) and streaming media.
  • Collaborative Web-based community-created content (e.g., Wikis).
  • Real-time content notification and delivery technologies like RSS (Really Simple Syndication), Atom, or BitTorrent.
  • Internet-connected smart-phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), WebTV, and other appliances.
  • Internet delivery of voice, audio, and video, including Voice-Over-IP (VOIP) and similar technologies.
  • Dynamic or interactive Web-based content delivery using asynchronous Java and XML (AJAX) or Adobe Macromedia Flash.
  • Online content creation and storage applications like Google Docs, G-Drive, and Microsoft Live applications.
  • Online communications and conferencing services like Skype, WebEx, GMail, GTalk, Microsoft Office Live Meeting, or Citrix GoToMeeting.
  • While there is some overlap, OCT should not be confused with Web 2.0’ an over-used, imprecise and, therefore, poorly understood marketing term coined by a media and publishing company), "Enterprise 2.0" (an even less well defined but equally unattainable and spurious concept), or even "social software" (collaborative services that facilitate bi-directional communication and interaction between groups and individuals).

    Unlike anything "2.0", OCT is real and definitive. Unlike social software, OCT is not only about bi-directional communication and interaction, but about any network-based content creation and delivery mechanism; not just about bottom-up content processes driven by individuals and communities, but also about top-down processes driven by an enterprise.

    Regardless of semantics, EMA’s research makes it clear deployment of OCT in the enterprise is increasing rapidly. As employees become more attached and exposed to these technologies in their roles as consumers and users they are increasingly bringing their experiences into their workplace, and using OCT for business purposes.

    Certainly, e-mail and Web publishing have led the online content revolution, and EMA sees them rated among the top five for most important ECM discipline, most important content type, and most important content delivery method.

    In particular, delivery of content via e-mail already surpasses print and deliver by a factor of almost two-to-one. However, EMA’s research has found that the next wave of OCT will be instant messaging, blogs, Wikis, and syndication.

    Well over half of all enterprises are using these technologies today. This is set to double or even triple over the next 12 months, with enterprise usage growing for:

  • IM or chat applications – by around 10% (from 35% to 46%);
  • Wikis – by almost double (from 11% to 21%);
  • RSS/Atom – by more than double (from 9% to 20%); and
  • Blogging – by almost triple (from 8% to 21%).
  • Alarmingly, while it is actually deployed in almost two thirds of enterprises, OCT is officially deployed in only one third of enterprises. Indeed, around 40% of enterprise OCT deployments are unofficial (and presumably unapproved), and less than 20% of enterprises are properly managing this content.

    EMA’s research shows this gap continues to grow, and that use of OCT will expand dramatically, whether or not it is officially sanctioned. Yet traditional ECM tools and content management strategies mostly continue to ignore these new technologies.

    This inability to control or manage the information generated and delivered by OCT exposes enterprises to significant risks, including privacy, intellectual property, audit, and compliance exposures.

    From EMA’s research, it is clear there is a dramatic shift in the way people are creating, using, and delivering content, and it is becoming clear OCT is becoming a major part of the enterprise content landscape. From webpages and e-mails to instant messaging and Wikis, this evolution is happening faster than anyone would have predicted; not just in the consumer world, but within businesses as well.

    EMA has documented several fascinating case studies on new techniques for corporate communications, customer relationship management, management reporting, e-business productivity, and more. The untapped potential for additional productivity, cost reduction, and competitive advantage using OCT is extraordinary, and EMA firmly believes that enterprises must take advantage of these technologies.

    On the other hand, businesses not taking advantage of these technologies face major problems. Sticking with traditional content management disciplines will, by omission, ignore the growth of OCT. This will lead to major issues in protecting privacy and intellectual property, and will increasingly bypass existing management processes. Having no ability to capture, manage, and control this content will cause high-risk audit and compliance issues.

    Unfortunately, very few businesses are aware of this change, what it means to them, or how to prepare for the evolution of OCT.

    Enterprises need to take stock of their content management strategies, and figure out how these strategies can be developed to accommodate OCT. They need to adjust their expectations, and in many cases their processes, so that they can benefit from these technologies, and not simply be crushed by their inescapable momentum.

    They also need to take a very close look at their ECM tools, and figure out if they will be suitable for managing the evolution of OCT. Chances are they will not be suitable, in part or in whole, so enterprises need to start planning for a completely new set of OCT management requirements.

    Andi Mann is a senior analyst with the analyst and consulting firm Enterprise Management Associates.