Content management still stable

Alan Pelz-Sharpe, vice-president of research for Britain-based Ovum, a technology consultancy and analyst firm, says content management vendors, while not performing “spectacularly,” have managed to keep themselves stable in today’s poor economy.

It doesn’t hurt that content management products can be used as tools to help cost-cutting decisions get made, or that content management solutions have a noticeable return on investment, Boston-based Pelz-Sharpe added.

“It’s one of those technologies that has never been sexy, but it’s important,” he said. “It delivers return on investment and it’s the kind of tool that, when combined with workflow, which it almost always is, it’s a tool for re-engineering business processes.

“In times of downturn, these companies tend to do quite well. If you’re trying to downsize or rightsize, or whatever the term is now for laying people off, that’s the kind of technology you’re looking to use.”

There is more interest in content management than ever before, Pelz-Sharpe said. In good times, people are interested in the next new thing, but when things are tougher they are looking for stability and things that underpin the business process, such as ERP, CRM and content management.

Revenues for most of the major content management companies have stayed fairly consistent during the last year or two.

Pelz-Sharpe said most of the vendors in this space are very close in terms of offerings, whether it’s Hummingbird, OpenText, FileNet or Documentum – which he pointed to as the flagship content management company.

“It’s a mature market, so the differences between Documentum and their competitors isn’t that great,” Pelz-Sharpe said.

One differentiator for Concordia University in Montreal was ease of accessibility, which for it meant strong collaboration with Adobe Acrobat and PDF formats.

Aaron Brauer, a computer applications professor at the university, helped with the school’s document management implementation.

He said when they were looking at different vendors, they needed PDF, but were also searching for the ability to pull and query documents based on information in the documents. Another point on their want list was support of rich content media. They ended up choosing Documentum’s enterprise content management platform.

“Other systems had proprietary formats and we didn’t feel that would be as practical,” Brauer said. Documentum integrates with any form of document, as well as digital assets and Web content.

Using a content management solution, the school cut down file-find time by days. Brauer said the school did have to hire an archivist to input and manage more than two and half million pieces of paper that needed to be converted to an electronic format.

“The dream is to have no paper,” he said.

Naomi Miller, director of product marketing for Pleasanton, Calif.-based Documentum, said the vast majority of what organizations need to manage is unstructured data – be it product or policy descriptions, or contracts, sales and marketing documents.

Content management allows organizations to store and deliver information. Users can search on pieces of content throughout the system, or within each document.

“We see that most of our customers pick a business problem they are trying to solve that deals with content. Then they get a handle on managing that content and identifying the process they need to manage that content, and then slowly they add more and more content to that,” she said.

Pelz-Sharpe said that Documentum is likely to have a solution for any content problem, but it comes at a cost. The average selling price of the software is between US$300,000 and US$350,000, with per seat prices of US$200 to US$600.

He said this pricing is a weakness and said one other drawback is that this solution is not an out of the box piece of software and will require services to implement.

However, the product is good , he said, and for your money you get technology that does a lot of stuff for your organization.