In Focus: Five Noteworthy Content Management Debuts at AIIM Expo

The variety of ECM offerings at AIIM delivers something for almost everyone.
PHILADELPHIA, May 16 -- Enterprise content management (ECM) is the focus here at the AIIM Conference & Exposition, and for the second year in a row, the ECM industry's biggest show is in the city of brotherly love, where hotel rooms are sold out and more than 25,000 are expected to attend. At least half the crowd is here for the co-located OnDemand (digital copier/print and production) show, but there's plenty here for information-management-minded system architects, IT managers and line-of-business professionals.

Microsoft's big pavilion is front-and-center at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, and the company is also commanding a lot of attention with three general-session presentations on its burgeoning enterprise content management (ECM) strategy. With the pending release of SharePoint Server 2007 -- some time this fall -- Microsoft promises to "turn ECM from a specialized discipline to one that is broadly applicable to all workers in an organization."

SharePoint will offer improved document management capabilities as well as add records management and Web content management capabilities (the latter from Microsoft Content Management Server). Once Windows Vista and Office 2007 debut early next year, there will also be tight integration with desktop tools and the operating system's Windows Workflow Foundation.

Why such an early preview for products that are months away? Microsoft is specifically courting partners here at AIIM to help it deliver industry- and application-specific solutions on top of its generic platform. The company needs independent software vendors (ISVs) and value-added resellers (VARs) to apply their domain expertise and build business solutions.

Microsoft partner Captaris recently briefed me on AIIM announcements, including a Web services layer for its Alchemy document and content management system and a Captaris Workflow 6.0 upgrade built on Visual Studio 2005 and the .Net toolbox. Microsoft compatibility is a big theme for Captaris, so, for example, you can exploit the new Web services layer to expose Alchemy through SharePoint Portals (or any other Web-based application). The Workflow upgrade "future proofs" customer processes so they'll run on the coming Windows Workflow Foundation, thereby gaining direct integration with Office 2007 desktop tools.

While Microsoft is trying to get on the ECM map, stalwarts including FileNet, EMC, Open Text and Hummingbird are all here in force. EMC/Documentum, for one, is continuing its push into document imaging. Today, the company announced an Archive Service for document images aimed at ensuring secure long-term storage and retrieval. As I reported last month, EMC has already introduced Archive Services for e-mail, reports and SAP. These are focused tools aimed at content retention, but they are clearly no substitute for records management policies and procedures that also address content deletion.

Stellent observes that users are increasingly accessing and viewing documents and other content through Web sites, portals and intranets rather than through thick-client or even Web-based document management systems. To support the trend, the company today announced an upgrade of its SiteStudio Multi-Site Management environment with a new "Site Manager" role. Site managers are typically business users who need to make additions or changes to sites but who aren't capable of (and don't want to deal with) coding and Web design. Thus, the new interface lets these power users edit and alter intranets, marketing Web sites, blogs, wikis and other sites without coding or complexity. The SiteStudio upgrade also offers deeper built-in analytics, so Web designers and/or site managers can improve navigation and site design by relying on page-click statistics and reports.

Microsoft isn't the only vendor at AIIM focused on low-cost content management. Ektron delivers Web content management and Web-based document management as part of CMS 400.Net Version 6.0, and it has added blogging, forums, polls, surveys and site analytics to boot. It only makes sense to manage blogs and wikis with the same tools that manage Web sites and documents, so Ektron has joined the growing list of management system vendors that now support these community-building tools on a single platform. CMS 400.Net starts at $8,640 for a 10-user, one-URL license with one year of maintenance included.

From what I've seen thus far at AIIM, whether it's broad (like SharePoint), deep (like Stellent Universal Content Management) or cheap (like Ektron CMS 400.Net), vendors are delivering more bang for the buck and easier to use products. We're slowly getting to the point where ECM will be easy and affordable enough for everyone.