The Silly Simplicity of Future ECM

My interest in ECM (enterprise content management) is purely based on the value it can deliver to the business. I think much progress has been made, but the focus is still very much on technology. I would start with your users and ask them what would make their lives easier – that would be my feature set. Some of the things business users often ask for seems impossible, but the basic theme I usually get is this: they want the system to handle the difficult, time consuming stuff and shift the complexity away from the human and put it onto the machine. To most users, this was the point of buying the system in the first place.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. A good ECM system should ask the user what to do, rather than the user telling it what to do. For example, multiple choice questions rather than user input fields all over the screen (also called wizard or expert system).
  2. A good ECM system should learn over time and predict answers. ECMs are currently pretty dumb and do not provide value above and beyond what is put into it. A good ECM would create more value in its output than was necessary to input.
  3. A good ECM system should be knowledgeable and able to answer to intelligent queries (way smarter than askjeeves). Interacting with the system should be at least as simple as interacting with a person on the phone.
  4. In a good ECM system, the interfaces that business users interact with should be as clean and simple as the interface to an iPod or Google. The usability bar has been raised.
  5. Content/Document tagging should be done on the fly by the ECM system, not by the user. Business users cannot be in the job of data entry. A good ECM will be smart enough to appropriately tag all content with minimal human intervention.
  6. The user interface should not have to be upgraded twice a year or even once a year. A good ECM system will learn and grow with the business. To business users, a good ECM will feel like we all feel about Google: it’s a part of my day and it’s not something I dread doing – because it does what I want it to do and it’s simple.

I know these are ambitious and it may take some time to get there, but these should be the goals of any future ECM strategy.

(I actually wrote this on 16 Jul 2005 but it definitely still applies today.)

3 comments On The Silly Simplicity of Future ECM

  • Dear Matthew,
    I fully agree with your approach about ECM, that is where ECM should go – its not an easy way but possible.

    What you wrote here is most important for my company, Adpunctum, and we do our best to get there with our solutions. Some things you mentioned here are in the pipe just right now. If you are interested, feel free to contact me.

  • Matthew, as old as this entry is, as valid it is in 2009. Most ECM products can’t fulfil any of these points. Our Papyrus Platform has been delivering most of those functionalities for some time now and has added item 6 in 2008.
    ad 1) The Activity Recorder or the Natural Language Rule Editor can be used to create wizards or logic decision trees.
    ad 2) The patented User-Trained Agent actually learns from user activity directly and recommends actions to the business user of the same role.
    ad 3) The Natural Language Rule Editor enables business users to define semantically correct queries and commands based on the business taxonomy.
    ad 4) With the Papyrus EYE user interface an Apple iPhone or Google like GUI is extremely easy to setup without programming. Each user role can have its own specific GUI so that it is not one size fits all.
    ad 5) The content and text classification features of Papyrus can identify recurring content types (scan, email, PDF, more …) and extract the data that will be used to identify the business context of the content. In a new feature it will actually offer business context information while a user is writing an email!
    ad 6) The radically new Papyrus EYE user interface technology enables the business to create user-friendly GUI layouts that are customizable by the business user and support skins.

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