The spawning of a new construction boom

Continuing the theme of the Future of ECM … trend #3 …

The majority of the development and configuration work that is done when implementing ECM solutions is traditionally done with a specific ECM product in mind. With the introduction of the Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS) standard , I believe that this status quo will completely turn on its head within five years.

Although there will always be a need to have people who are specialised in the configuration of a specific ECM product and who know that product really well, I believe that the biggest proportion of development work going forwards will involve work that is independent of the underlying ECM product (where the ECM is a “black-box”). There is a whole new construction boom on the horizon that involves the assembly of ECM solutions, largely broken down into four areas:

  • ECM “Apps” – Analogous to iPhone apps, these represent a library of generic, pre-built components that provide a specific piece of content management functionality that will work with any CMIS-enabled ECM product. They will enable large aspects of an overall ECM solution to be assembled from building blocks, cherry picked to either extend/improve on existing functionality provided by the ECM product or indeed provide new functionality. Some of the ECM and social computing vendors have already made advances in this area, notably Alfresco Forge ( and Jive who intend to launch a Jive Apps Market in Q1 2011. Going forwards, I believe that a general “Apps” market for ECM will evolve, driven by developer communities and independent of individual products;
  • Accelerators – Perhaps as a specific form of ECM “App”,I anticipate the development of accelerators/adapters for enterprise line of business systems in order to enable them to take advantage of the organisation’s underlying CMIS-compliant ECM system – see my blog Making the “E” in ECM actually mean something. For example, the accelerators could provide the line of business application with records management capability by integrating the business application with the ECM to provide either in-place records management of data/documents (i.e. leaving them within the business application but relinquishing control of their future life-cycle to the ECM system) or moving/archiving them for storage within the ECM system. Another example might be to enable information stored within CMIS-compliant ECM repositories (such as legal contracts for a customer) to be accessible within the business application without leaving the business application user interface;
  • User Interface – In the majority of cases, the user interface application that comes out-of-the-box with the specific ECM product is the user interface (perhaps skinned to give some personalised corporate look & feel) that organisations use to access their content. Looking forwards, I anticipate the introduction of a range of more compelling, sophisticated and highly intuitive interfaces, developed by third parties to work with any CMIS-compliant ECM – see my blog The seduction of the species. This will enable organisations to capitalise on user interface applications that they feel are best suited to their organisation, rather than being constrained to the user interface application that comes with their ECM system. There are some third parties that have started to address this opportunity such as Generis (;
  • Composite Content Applications – There will be a surge in the number of vertically or horizontally focused applications that deal with a specific business process requirement (Gartner calls these Composite Content Applications), developed to run completely independent of the underlying ECM. The development of such applications could be simplified by leveraging the OpenCMIS client libraries ( in combination with the ECM Apps, Accelerators and User Interfaces (as discussed in the points above), to push/pull information to/from a variety of CMIS-enabled repositories, reflecting different permuations of use cases.

Some of the key implications of these trends on how future ECM solutions will be implemented are:

  • The approach naturally lends itself for deployment into the cloud;
  • It will enable ECM solutions to be built and deployed far more quickly as utilising pre-built components that can be assembled to provide a tighter fit to requirements out-of-the-box;
  • It will promote ECM at a wider strategic level across the organisation, as the ECM system will be leveraged by a greater number of line of business systems.

I would love to hear other people’s views of the impact that CMIS will have in the ECM marketplace.

4 thoughts on “The spawning of a new construction boom

  1. I agree with your sentiment that the vendor-provided UI will become increasingly less important. With the development of ‘gadget’ standards like CMIS, the ability increases for users / businesses to create their own interfaces which take advantage of black-box ECM services. As a result, vendors have to concentrate on providing support for open (and more importantly, adopted) standards and delivering examples of multiple ways to access their ECM platforms as a service to multiple applications, users and channels.

  2. Thanks for your comment Tom. I think that new standards like CMIS will really help accelerate the adoption of ECM across enterprises. Exciting times ahead in our industry.

  3. I think the point about Accelerators is key – and in particular, whether with CMIS or not, that clients can leverage the “E” – for example, all the metadata that is captured automatically or manually in one system may be used to drive another system. That is a whole area of potential business benefit from leveraging existing information.

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