Revolution or Evolution — From ECM to Content Services

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Revolution or Evolution? 10 Strategies to Navigate the Shift from ECM to Content Services



The Death of ECM and Birth of Content Services. A brief blog!!!

The industry standardized on “Enterprise content management” several years ago, all the vendors embraced this concept, ISO and ANSI standards have been developed describing these technologies. Before Gartner decides to try to change the name of current technologies and the industry, they need to STOP and consider that content services is defined as something else.

It’s great that Gartner’s new analyst wants to rename our industry, but this is one of the crazier things i have seen in 30 years. To the Gartner analyst, PLEASE READ THE ISO AND ANSI standards that have been published, including those recently, before you try to confuse everyone in the industry by trying to use a term that is already used to describe how one of the components function.

Much work has been done over the past 10+ years with ALMOST EVERY VENDOR IN OUR INDUSTRY to come together to use the term ECM. Gartner’s attempt to rename our industry without cause is one of the most crazy things i have heard in years.

The only ones who are talking about changing the name of the entire industry are a few folks in Gartner who DO NOT DESIGN, ANALYZE, IMPLEMENT these technologies but rather these reports and ideas to generate consulting business.

The key point for everyone reading this: Ask your ECM vendor what has changed in the ability of use of their core technologies and then u will realize this attempted name change is all marketting and has nothing to do with any advanced in our technologies.

This is only a “Gartner term” that they are trying to float to see if they can come up with a new name for somethng that FINALLY all users have come to understand. So let’s not pull the rug out from under the users and try to change our industry / technology name UNLESS our technologies have actually changed. All the ECM vendors have been working very hard over past many years to implement Trustworthy ECM solutions, so it is important for Gartner to be accurate and consistent and pay more attention to what is actually happening in the industry rather than attempting to rename to gen up new busziness for a technology they want to reanem.


Hi – Thank you for responding to Gartner’s attempt to confuse everyone. We have been working a long time explaining what “ECM” is and how its various components along with Information Governance will benefit our organization. We have our senior management’s support for ECM and they are beginning to understand what it will take to implement. My concern is many managers, including myself, look to Gartner as a source for expert advice and with their announcement that they are “retiring” the term “ECM” it will cause unnecessary confusion.

My question is what is AIIM’s position on retiring “ECM”? Secondly, are there any actions that AIIM plans to take to try and address/clear up the confusion that this evolution to “Content Services” may cause?

Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

Here is a great description of the technologies within our industry. This is part of an ISO report. Keep in mind that ISO consists of dozens of countries, all who have their national experts participate in the development of these documents, and all documents go through a very rigorous procedure to ensure everyone all over the world are all in agreement. This consensus building is important and should be considered and compared to individual ideas. Individual ideas are important, some of these ideas take hold, over time, while most change and never quite make it into the mainstream. Here is a snipit from an ISO document that should help everyone reading this topic (from ISO DTR 22957) and also in AIIM ARP 1

Definitely agree that while it is “just terminology” at the end of the day, this is one of those cases where terminology is actually important. As well as the conceptualization and realization that goes with the terminology. It is MORE than sufficiently challenging to get management/executive recognition, acceptance and action for the importance of “ECM” in this day of massively repetitive focus on “big data” and the ever-spawning tentacles that stream from it.

For a major analyst think tank like Gartner to propose changing the terminology and how it is interpreted, in what appears to be nothing other than an attempt to align to industry buzz around “services”, seems like a solid approach to setting up for a train wreck! I certainly think AIIM, ISO, and ANSI should actively oppose this.


We’ve been down this road before over the years. It seems that every time a consulting firm wants to start marketing “fresh” new services, they simply try to change the name of what they are already doing. It took me 5 years to get the C level to understand what ECM was because they had gotten use to the term EDMS. While they are not the same thing, in the mind of management, they are. I see no reason to change the terminology of what we do, especially if it is already defined as a term for part of the ECM services in national and international standards. If the change was bringing about major service changes then there should be discussion around the proper terminology for those new services. In reading the paper, I see no major service changes, just rearranging already existing services under a “new” term.

I do believe that the ‘fundamentals’ are changing in the ECM space in multiple ways and we as a group/industry and practitioners need to assess, understand and evolve appropriately. At a technology level, the available technology, accessibility of the technology, and the dynamics of provisioning the technology/services in such a way as to solve business problems has dramatically changed from 10 years ago, and even 5 years ago. Think about Box, Amazon S3/S3 Glacier and the other services that Amazon offers, and Sharepoint where information will live and be accessed for many years. Think about emergent services such as IFTTT, Zapier and AirTable,, and Kimono. These all really didn’t exist years ago in such a way to be viable to our community. Secondly, the way people work is changing, leveraging new ways of interaction more heavily, such as Slack and Social, and business transactions occur via these mediums. Thirdly, data is more distributed than ever before: aspects of business transactions and their records and operational content can be spread across multiple distinct third and fourth party containers/vendors in the cloud and do not simply exist in one place/one data center like before. There are compliance, governance and manageability questions that are raised by all of the above and we can and should contribute to the solutions required.

If we take a head in the sand approach and insist that ECM stay constant we will miss the big picture and become irrelevant to the discussions around how information is deployed in the very near future. Yes there are standards out there: good, mature ones. How do we take the benefits of them and adopt them to the current situation? We need to be careful about being too religious about conformance to a particular standard or set of standards and practice toward outcomes instead. Standards can absolutely inform us and provide guidance, but let’s focus on achieving the outcomes that we seek.

The heterogeneous nature of the world will not go away. In fact the available tools that we have are becoming stronger and more capable. I think our focus should be on applying our expertise, leveraging the wealth of tools and being part of a broader discussion with business partners, vendors and clients, because that is the world many of them are increasingly living in.

I think these are the discussions we need to be having.


I don’t think anyone is saying that ECM is staying constant. The question is, do we need to change the term that defines this industry from this change.

One can take two approaches to the term ECM. ECM can be some point in the sand definition of a vendor feature set. Or it can be defined as the principals to “manage” “content” in the “enterprise”. Looking at this, ECM or whatever it’s called, as a set of features is wrong as its definition will always be changing. Content as a service was inevitable. It is also just as inevitable that something will follow content as a service.

We need a term that is easy for those of us that have already adopted ECM and those that are looking to manage content (a.k.a. documents *) to build a focus around.

I recently published more on this topic on Document Strategy Media.

* I’m pretty sure that many of us in this community still say “document management.”

Big Men On Content
AIIM Florida Chapter – Treasurer & Social Media Chair

I beg to differ. the foundation technologies have NOT changed, the use of the technologies has changed and methods of accessing the ESI constantly improves. Trying to relate ECM to companies that utilize these technolgoies such as Amazon, Macy’s, Woot, etc. or the cloud service providers is not being accurate, as the core ECM technologies are still being used, so where specifically do you see the foundation ECM technologies changing? Are you suggesting we no longer need records management (not document retention), or workflow, or content/library services (check in/out, revision controls, etc.), history at the document/record levels, etc. etc. ?

When u read the standards and best practices, these have been devleoped by a group of internationally recognized experts (and for ANSI documents, US Experts) and reflect the current state of our technologies and industry. You are referring to things that may or may not take hold, if they do and mature, they should be standardized, but as we all know most of these ideas come and go.
Help users understand how the foundation is critical and then they can expand as needed, otherwise you are trying to suggest that they build an upside pyramid with the pinnacle being something “new and neat”, not demonstrated to meet the needs of managing/controlling organizational records. Organizational records shouldn’t be the test data for new stuff !!!

I joined AIIM nearly 40 years ago when it was the National Microfilm Association. The shift from microfilm to electronic document management systems (EDMS) was a revolutionary change. The changes from the early “imaging systems” to EDMS systems to ECM systems have been evolutionary and that evolution continues. I never understood why EDMS was dropped in favor of ECM when there had been no appreciable changes to the technology to warrant such. Regardless, it has entered into our lexicon and is largely understood by our C level managers who authorize the purchase and use of the systems. I’d be hard pressed to explain how content services are significantly different from content management and any attempt would likely only confuse C level managers.

There are numerous organizations today that offer information governance support and more are popping up every day. ECM systems are the single best tools for managing electronic documents and a pillar of any serious information governance initiative. We risk much if we jettison the term without clearly articulating who we are.

Old Dominion Electric Cooperative

I agree with my esteemed colleague I to joined when it was the Microfilm Association and In addition to ECM microfilm still has a role tp play for long term preservation.

TRAC Records Inc.

Hi, It is very apparent things are changing with respect to how and where information for business transactions is being collected, generated and stored. Certainly core ECM technologies are still present and relevant, but they are part of the picture, not the entire picture. One can point to SharePoint and it’s proliferation, either in your own data centers or in Microsoft’s, or another 3rd party, and the links that other solutions may have or not have to it. is another clear example. Not only can you develop on the platform directly, you can go to their app exchange and download other connectors that integrate from other providers. My point here is that operational and business activities can and are spread across multiple platforms. Additionally, it is easier than ever before for a business user, unbeknownst to a records manager, enterprise architect or other person who has stake in the information’s location and meaning, to take out a credit card and register and use these services, whether or not they comply or not with a corporate policy. In their mind, they are trying to get work done, or build revenue, or solve a client problem and the tool or solution they choose can do it more efficiently and with less cost and time then turning to central IT. This is the reality that we live in (or a lot of organizations do). These are not fads. Just look at where the revenues are in the software business today and this should indicate to you where the money and investment is and is going.

I am not making an argument against repositories, workflow or other technologies that exist. They are certainly needed and have value. However they are tools and one must use the right tool for the job. In fact, too much a focus on tooling is probably an error. Often times, solutions are ‘force fit’ into a particular technology because it is the ‘Enterprise’ tool. This can and does lead to adverse outcomes due to the inability of the tool to meet business needs, availability of resources to deploy changes and develop for it, and cost to deliver. This is not always the case, but in my career I have seen many business cases wrecked due to these problems, due to cost and timing mismatches.

I think it is a mistake to take a contrarian position and insist that people only use the ‘enterprise’ solution and insist that the engagement and delivery methodologies we deploy are immutable. The cloud has changed the dynamics of service delivery, and we as a group need to incorporate those dynamics into our discussions, our standards, and our engagement practices with organizations. This is the positive opportunity I see in these times across the spectrum of practitioners. Otherwise, prepare for decreasing leverage and ultimately irrelevance with your business partners.

The need for records management, information governance, content capture and analytics is not going away. I think these jobs are going to become much more interesting, challenging and important as we move toward the future.


Kina alex.nygren@…

The terminology used is not so important as the underlying requirements, some of which are outlined in terms of user needs and supplier requirements on page 8 of the document (which AIIM is now calling an “eBook”).

Presumably, the eight requirements outlined by Rich Medina in 2013 are still valid as well.

Likewise, it is doubtful the “Requirements for an Enterprise Document Management System” compiled by the Black Forest Group in 1995 have gone away.

Personally, I don’t particularly care for the word “content,” which I associate more with rather amorphous nature of one’s character than the documentary evidence (explicit knowledge, i.e., “records”) one’s behavior creates. However, I can live with it so long as it does not distract attention from the underlying requirements, i.e., what needs to be done (the longer-term goals and near-term objectives). The same is true of the term “content services”.

In 2020 Vision, published in 1992, Davis and Davidson said there are only four kinds of information — data, text (documents), sound, and image — and only four things we do with them: generate, process, store, and transmit.

From my perspective, the most important issue is to adhere to the admonition “first do no harm“. In the case of information management, that means refraining from actions that make it harder to do, like using systems that either ignore or poorly support the underlying requirements (e.g. by failing to implement the applicable standards).
In terms of improvement, it seems to me the greatest potential lies with beginning to use open, machine-readable document formats specified by voluntary standards development organizations. See

As the saying goes, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” It is also unfortunate when we condemn ourselves to relive the mistakes of the past… by ignoring the knowledge embedded in duly adopted voluntary consensus standards.

I’m still not clear on the difference in meaning between content services and content management in the context given in the report. To my mind, management manages services, so how is there a need for services to replace management in terminology use? As I said earlier. It causes confusion for no reason I can see.

The proposed change in terminology makes a relatively abstract label, Enterprise Content Management, more abstract. Moreover, it would constitute a demotion from the present label of ECM, which suggests that the software solutions are enterprise scale and constitute a platform. Services suggest something quietly running in the background, addressing some specific functional need. ECM suggests a comprehensive, systematically developed and configured array of technologies.


Konica Minolta USA

For those of us in organizations wherein we have hundreds of systems / applications and many service lines the concept of enterprise content management is without a doubt what we strive for. Having said that, at no time did I ever believe that this could be done with one piece of technology. I still believe that the goal is the ECM concept, not the tool. Integration is the key.

Industry changes are paramount to progress. We live and work in an ever changing climate. To succeed in this climate we have to adapt to and encourage change to improve our environment. Whatever ECM means to us now it will take on a new meaning for those that come after us.

The term Content Services has no meaning to me personally. It is too broad. Standards such as ISO will not easily be changed to suit Gartner. Gartner is making changes for the sake of change. This is not an effective means for self-promotion. They are entitled to call it what they please however, the industry is not going to change overnight to suit Gartner. Personally, I am going to continue my journey towards the concept of Enterprise Content Management. The services we use to make our decisions are not limited to Gartner. I am not going to lose sleep over their terminology. I will look to the sources that provide me with the information I need using industry terminology so there is no confusion when presenting to the executive level for approval.

eHealth Saskatchewan

Hi, I agree with Sandra Bates completely. It is not up to Gartner to re-label the ECM world.

ECM is a set of tools, people/roles and methodologies that a company will implement to satisfy content related business problems. Content Services I always thought was a software architecture term to describe how the ECM platform serves up content to other apps or systems.

It is hard enough to get non ECM people to understand ECM. It will be nearly impossible if we start to use the term Content Services. It is very hard to infer any sort of meaning from those two words.

If anything ECM may change into the more inclusive Enterprise Information Management. In fact, in some industries, Information Management is already in use.

Let’s stick with ECM.


Agile Information Management Ltd

Enterprise Information Management! I like that Hamish. Very descriptive of what we are trying to achieve.

eHealth Saskatchewan

A lot of discussions fragmented over different platforms, Hard to keep up.

To be clear on this: we don’t like the term “Content Services” as follow-up to ECM. Its too narrow, too technology driven, and missing the original vision of ECM with strategies, methods, and technologies. “Content Services” have always been part of the overall vision of ECM – but only a very small part of the infrastructure scope.
The original post of Gartner is here The Death of ECM and Birth of Content Services (where I answered as well). Our first post in German is here Gartner ersetzt ECM durch Content Services. My opinion is, Gartner was not the first to talk about “Content Services” and Gartner alone is not the company to change a complete market (although IBM, Forrester and others move as well toward “Content Services”).

EIM Enterprise Information Management was – for some time – a good idea for replacing or expanding Enterprise Content Management. There is no longer a seperation of structured information CI and unstructured information NCI – systems need to handle any kind of electronic infomation. We described this path from ECM to EIM in early 2009 [EN] From ECM Enterprise Content Management to EIM Enterprise Information Management | Ulrich Kampffmeyer | Marrakech 2009. But as well our current definitiion [EN] Enterprise Information Management (EIM) | Ulrich Kampffmeyer | 2013 is not suited to deliver a new vision, a new banner for the industry and the user community to rally.

In our post “OK, ECM is dead, but …” in the AIIM community //Deutschland, Österreich & Schweiz [German] we promoted again the idea to speak of Information Management only, as the overall umbrella. So we proposed as well to rename AIIM into Association for Intelligent Information Management :).

My hope is, that a this years AIIM conference these issues, wether to continue with ECM, to move to Content Services, to expand ECM to Enterprise Information Management – or any other – are discussed and lead to a clear new vision for us all.

PROJECT CONSULT Unternehmensberatung

I too, would agree with Sandra. I certainly hear and see EIM being used more often today. More vendors are using the term on their websites, too.

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