The Future of ECM Is Simplicity

BOSTON -- The iPod. Nintendo's Wii. Google. TiVo. What do these products share in common? Besides their obvious success, all are linked by a single buzzword -- simplicity. That tag was bandied about quite often in the Boston Convention and Exposition Center here this week during the 2008 conference hosted by AIIM-The Enterprise Content Management Association, especially during the keynote delivered by AIIM President John Mancini. The implementation of simplicity is key, Mancini told the audience during his industry address at the annual AIIM summit. Yet there's nothing simple about simplicity when it comes to implementing enterprise content management (ECM), he said. The industry is tricky and not quite mainstream. Although $1.9 billion is spent on IT each year, Mancini told the crowd that ECM is "just on the edge of a tidal wave...with hockey-stick growth potential." Going forward, Mancini said that the following facets are required to ensure ECM's success: responsiveness to end-user demands, the application of technology where the action is, and consistency. But how easy is it to deploy an organized, reliable, and cutting-edge ECM system? In an AIIM survey listing 13 possible points of friction in deploying ECM technologies, 41 percent of end users cited a lack of knowledge and training. A similar number said tensions were caused because of organization issues. "Making something easy is harder," said New York Times technology columnist David Pogue, another AIIM keynote presenter. Pogue, who poked fun at all-too-complex "install wizards," user-unfriendly cellphones, and "Sport Utility features" of software, sung -- literally, sung
-- the praises of products with simple interfaces, such as the iPhone. He drove home the point: "If you are good at something you try the first time, you like it. If you are still good at it by the third time, you love it." In this sense, he equated simplicity with joy. Mancini, Pogue, and additional presenter Matt Glotzbach, head of products for Google, all used the Apple iPhone to deliver their points on the power of simplicity. Glotzbach cemented the idea with a slideshow photo of his toddler-age daughter navigating the maps application on his brand new iPhone. Not all enterprise applications may be simple enough for three-year-olds to master, but Mancini ventures that there are three characteristics necessary for the simple deployment of a technology:
    1. Not every project has to start with a million-dollar study. 2. Applying technology is where the action is. 3. End users expect the solutions to work the way they work.
Although the idea of simplicity was central to the AIIM presentations, Pogue ventured that simplicity is not nearly as powerful without intelligence. Using intelligence and listening to consumer demands makes for smart and successful products. Pogue mentioned the drop-down menu listing world countries -- an all-too-common request on Internet forms. An example of intelligence is listing the United States as the first option among the countries -- when the user base is predominantly U.S.-based, that is. Using such intelligence saves users time and also increases loyalty. "I think simplicity is key -- a good tool feels like it's an extension of yourself," says Guy Creese, VP and Research Director with Burton Group, "While a bad tool feels like a kludge. In the past, users had to put up with kludge-y tools -- users won't tolerate that any more."

Related stories: Simple Is As Simple Does More CRM buyers are looking for software that's simple -- but that doesn't mean simpleminded. Are CRM Systems Too Complex for the SMB? "Getting staff to use the software" remains the biggest challenge for the small and midsize CRM user. Mission Critical: Encouraging Collaboration Breaking down boundaries between internal departments and outside partners proves vital to CRM success. Enterprise Content Management Is Growing. The market is expected to grow as enterprises seek to consolidate the vast amounts of unstructured data in word processing, spreadsheets, and other formats, according to a report. Burning Up the Paper Trail Origen Financial turns to automation to minimize a mountain of mortgage paperwork.
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