By David Jones, Chairman of the Board of Directors, AIIM and CEO & Founder, Instinctive Solutions
Historically, Enterprise Content Management (ECM) has aimed to deliver productivity and compliance gains for content-related processes via a single, centralized platform. This approach worked well for larger enterprises but often fell short in smaller, more agile organizations. The solution to this was the Content Services Platform (CSP) model, which evolved to focus less on centralized document storage and more on the global strategy of best managing growing volumes of content and data and rapidly changing business process needs.
While ECM intends to achieve its operational goals with a single system, Content Services Platforms (CSPs) advocate creating a robust ecosystem of smaller, integrated content services and technologies. This means looking beyond the old centralized, monolithic approach to content management towards the goal of linking and integrating a range of services and capabilities to respond to a continually changing business environment.
Similarly, the way in which end-user organizations identify which solutions to research and adopt needs to change. The traditional focus on major analyst reports such as the Gartner Magic Quadrant, Forrester New Wave, or IDC reports identifying key vendors fit for their business needs is under fire. Have these reports genuinely adapted to the changing CSP landscape? Or are they delivering assessments based on outdated criteria that may be overlooking many innovative, emerging CSP market players?
Methodologies Need to Evolve with the Marketplace
It’s fair to say that inclusion in the leading analyst reports helps massively when trying to land a product pitch or proof-of-concept demo for many CSP providers. But increasingly, as the face of content services has evolved, the market is also maturing to understand the gaps in this approach.
Many analyst reports are deliberately opaque regarding their selection criteria and are often largely based on subjective assessment. However, of more concern are those reports that also require vendors to meet arbitrary and demanding standards around revenue, operating budget, and client number thresholds before even considering them for inclusion in the report. If a vendor misses even one criterion, they can be excluded.
Setting criteria makes perfect sense — but equally, the thresholds need to make sense. The big issue is that the criteria for report qualification aren’t necessarily the same criteria that companies should be using to evaluate which technology providers to choose when building out their content services suite. Businesses should be looking instead at metrics around the quality of the product, the level of innovation, customer support, and most importantly, the appropriateness of the solution against the specific business needs.
When it comes to newly emerging technologies in categories like hyper-automation, robotic process automation (RPA), or intelligent document processing (IDP), a good portion of providers are new to the market or more focused on mid-market customers rather than multinational enterprises. So while some of these smaller, trailblazing vendors and services might be an excellent fit for many of the organizations targeted by the major analyst reports, they won’t be included in many analyst reports due to their lack of track record, revenue, and client base.
If organizations must wait until these microservices providers reach specific (and often unrealistic) revenue or customer heights before adopting them or even becoming aware of their existence, they will likely miss a huge opportunity to achieve new levels of innovation and automation compared to the early adopters of these technologies.
Today, customers and industry insiders should recognize that these arbitrary qualifiers and outdated processes undermine the credibility of these CSP reports, to the potential demise of end-user organizations missing out on newer, lesser-known, but potentially more valuable market innovators.
While establishing defined and relevant criteria for entry is crucial to any analyst report or trend grid, maintaining a methodology that looks beyond antiquated categories and arbitrary numbers is ultimately the way forward.
The CSP Landscape Has Evolved - why haven’t the reports?
The actual value of technology should not be determined by its yearly revenue or subjective thresholds but by the level of innovation and the quality of the solution or service. In the same respect, the principal analyst reports should not be the only source of truth when designing a robust CSP strategy.
In fact, by not evolving to meet the changing landscape of content services technologies and the needs of organizations to innovate and automate at an increased pace – especially in today’s remote-first context – the analyst firms aren’t holding themselves accountable to the same standards they place on the very technology vendors they evaluate.
While there may be a growing awareness that the analyst’s name is not as important as the shared insights and that some of these firms might be missing the bigger picture, organizations need to know where to seek relevant information and advice when purchasing new CSP technologies.
So, where can end-user organizations look to find the new, trailblazing content services providers and trusted advice? And which analyst firms do address the real needs of modern CSP purchasers?
Finding Good Advice
A new breed of sources is emerging to help companies evaluate the value of a product before purchasing. The battle continues for small to mid-size and emerging CSP technologies to receive the recognition they might deserve, but look closely, and you will find them in several places:
- Independent user review and vendor rating sites such as G2 Crowd, TrustRadius, and Capterra.
- Reports and awards via smaller, so-called boutique, analyst firms such as Infosource, Deep Analysis, HFS Aragon, and Quocirca.
- More dynamic, spin-off reports from the major analysts. Despite the reluctance from some of the old-guard, the major analysts do offer some airtime to smaller, more dynamic vendors. For example, Gartner’s Hot Vendor report and their Critical Capabilities report are smaller publications that, as a result, can be done much faster than the more extensive annual reports. As a result, the data and insight they deliver can be considered more accurate and timely.
For those end-user organizations that don’t want to miss out on potential hidden gems in the saturated, beach-full of sand that is the CSP market, the best option is to combine the numerous sources of information, conduct your own research, and define your own selection methodology, rather than relying strictly on big-name reports. It’s essential first to identify and assess the most important criteria for your business needs to evaluate the actual value the product can offer – be it quality of service, customer reviews, reputation, or level of innovation.
In the end, identifying the best fit for your organization is not about any given individual technology but more about how these technologies and services work together to provide the business improvements that your business needs to make.
About the Author
Chairman of the Board of Directors, AIIM
CEO & Founder, Instinctive Solutions
David Jones is a strategic marketing leader and information management expert with more than 25 years of experience in the technology space across big data, analytics, cloud, and enterprise content management. He currently holds the Chairman role with the Association for Intelligent Information Management (AIIM) Board of Directors and is a recognized speaker and influencer within the IM space.
As CEO and Founder of Instinctive Solutions, Dave is defining a new way of delivering marketing excellence for emerging technology vendors. He and his organization offer marketing services where they are needed most, the point at which technology vendors need to pivot from delivering purely tactical sales and marketing efforts to much more strategic activities.
With over 20 years of experience leading marketing initiatives in technology vendors, Dave is ideally placed to offer best practice vision and guidance while his team provides the tactical backup to execute against the newly defined strategy.