Wednesday, February 14, 2007

ECM the next ERP?

I am convinced that in market terms ECM is the next ERP - look at it this way, when ERP came along it just seemed like a collection of mainframe processes layered by workflow. And it was, I used to say that SAP was the worlds largest workflow vendor....

But what ERP recognized was that data centric processes were repeatable, that they were often inefficient and that many manual processes could be streamlined and automated. ERP and BPR went hand in hand.

ECM and the emergence of CEVA's (content enabled vertical applications) are really no different. In its early days, ECM was really just repository management, then structured content management, then it was repository management with a bit of compliance thrown in, and now increasingly it is process centric. It was the process centricity of ERP that lifted it, and it will be the process centricity (if such a word exists) of ECM that does the same for it.

Where the difference will come is in scale, ECM will on the one hand ultimately dwarf ERP - simply in terms of data volumes (unstructured data volumes are rising at an order of magnitude higher than structured data volumes), but it will be less visible to the user - as in many respects ECM will simply take ERP and Business Apps in general to the next generation of sophistication, rather than displace them.

My research and writing for the forthcoming ECM Report makes me believe this more so by the day, for I have the priviledge of studying the players, products and the industry full time. And what I can say for sure is that peaking under the covers at IBM, Oracle and Microsoft for an old timer like me, shows me an ECM world I have not seen before. The sheer scale of the operations, the resources and the perspectives differ radically from the industry just so recently dominated by smaller and mid tier software vendors.

Who will be the winners and losers I don't know - I like many others still speculate on SAP's ultimate moves in this area. Will it be a swift and dramatic acquistion of technologies, will they try to do it themselves, or will they remain on the sidelines and miscalculate?

What is for sure is that nothing is sure, remember DEC and NetScape? Things change and the unleashing of rich unstructured content into the business will be a turning point for many...