ECM Collaboration & Consumerization of IT – Thoughts and ramblings

Four of us are out at the Alfresco Developer conference in San Diego this week.  Look for a write-up on DevCon later this week.  This post will present a number of thoughts gleaned from multiple discussions over drinks with other Alfresco partners regarding collaboration and ECM.

Consumer Driven Document Collaboration – it really started with email attachments.

While the mounted network drive often gets a ton of attention from us ECM types, email attachments were really the first true document  collaboration application.  What are some of the characteristics that made it successful for collaboration?

  • Quick to rollout
  • Ease of Use – Consumer focused
  • Inter and Intra-company
  • Use from anywhere – variety of devices (home, office…)
  • Ability to work remotely – unconnected

While we often see stats about how email traffic is declining (compared to social traffic), it would be interesting to consider how much email is being sent with document attachments.

Email Attachments – not going anywhere

We had an interesting discussion with a law firm CIO last week regarding document collaboration.  Impressively, the organization was very focused on technology.  For example, all the lawyers have Macs, something we don’t often see at many of our ECM customers.  One area we thought might be of interest to the CIO was a collaborative extranet – particularly given the need to collaborate with multiple law firms and clients.  As it turns out, while the CIO’s firm was very innovative in being one of the first in their industry to offer an extranet solution, the CIO expressed concern regarding the long-term adoption of the extranet approach.   Interesting points included:

  1. Limited extranet adoption by everyone.  It takes everyone using the system for it to work correctly.  If one lawyer is just sending email rather than using the site, others start dropping out.
  2. Which extranet?  Ours, theirs, neutral?  There are multiple choices for different applications.
  3. Email works well when I am not on the network (train, remote).
  4. The solution would need to alert me when I have something to do.

For the CIO, while he had pushed for many years to leverage a variety of ECM collaborative solutions,  they really just discovered that email was enough and focused in email archiving within the ECM solution.

Consumer Collaboration

Consumerism of IT really focuses on how trends from home are rapidly appearing in the work environment.   As it relates to collaboration, one of the main drivers of success is the ability of the user to quickly set up a collaborative environment without any IT support.   Think of the many devices or software solutions that can be leveraged for collaboration right now in many organizations without any IT involvement:

  • Flash drives
  • SharePoint (depending on how it is set up)
  • Dropbox
  • Google Docs
  • And others

We have mentioned it before but “one repository to rule them all” where collaboration and structured content exist on only one repository is probably not realistic.  Users will continue to deploy different collaborative solutions based on:

  1. the user’s short term needs
  2. the user’s familiarity with tools from work or home for collaboration
  3. users would like to make their own choice and will rebel against IT mandates
  4. users have limited tolerance for “additional steps” – metadata, check-in/out, taxonomy, security when they would just like to quickly share their document.

If IT wants  to drive a single collaboration solution by shutting down alternatives, it will be unsuccessful.  How successful was telling folks not to send email attachments but use ECM instead?

Understanding  Consumer Collaboration Users

To really understand the effect of consumerism of IT on collaboration, we need to understand the different users:

Old Time User

Wants simplicity

Needs to get stuff done quickly/easily

Does not want training or have too many clicks

“Just send it to me in an email”

New or iUser 

Desire to be on the latest and greatest

I got this new app I played with at home

Speed of new tool adoption = Speed of old tool abandonment – “I liked SharePoint        yesterday – let’s start using iCloud today!! – “Can we use this until I find a new shiny  tool?”

What does it mean for IT and ECM Goals?

Regarding ECM collaboration, we would recommend that IT needs to understand both types of users and that:

  1. Old methods such as email attachments and shared drives can be reduced but are not going away
  2. New tools and new methods for collaboration are going to constantly arrive (SharePoint,, iCloud…)
  3. IT can’t always influence how and which collaboration tools get used
  4. A user with a credit card/mobile phone/web browser can (and will) sign up for a new collaborative tool without any involvement from IT
  5. IT needs to manage certain documents and provide governance and structure but won’t be able to manage all documents with one tool.

IT needs to understand that a successful ECM solution involves controlling all structured content.  IT should look to provide the capability to migrate unstructured content into the structured ECM repository as the content evolves from collaboration to a record that needs to be maintained.

If you have any thoughts or comments,  please share below:

2 thoughts on “ECM Collaboration & Consumerization of IT – Thoughts and ramblings

  1. […] Collaboration and Consumerization – We posted about this recently, but collaboration now is a series of cloud based offerings chosen by users, not a one-size fits all solution from an ECM vendor.  Regardless of what Oracle or Documentum offer, we would expect this trend to continue and collaboration to quickly evolve with additional solutions (Google Docs, Dropbox, iCloud…) all that come with lower cost of ownership than enterprise solutions. […]

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