IBM steps up content management play

Tougher document archiving regulations – plus increased government scrutiny of business documents – are generating new interest in an old technology: content management.

Government regulatory requirements for archiving and purging business documents have companies looking to get a handle on electronic content to make sure they’re in compliance. Other factors driving interest in content management include companies’ desire to consolidate content sources and link disparate application and database repositories. In addition, many are trying to comply with partner requests to exchange product information electronically, which requires getting their content house in order.

That’s where companies such as IBM Corp. are looking to cash in.

Big Blue this year will double its content management salesforce and increase research and development efforts by 25 per cent, said Deb Taufen, director of marketing for enterprise content management at IBM. That investment comes after a strong year for the division. In 2002, IBM’s digital content management portfolio, which is part of its DB2-anchored data management business, posted a 29 per cent revenue increase for the fourth quarter over year-ago figures, and a 26 per cent increase for the year.

“We’re seeing a lot of momentum,” Taufen said. “There’s a lot of interest from customers who have gotten control of their structured information and now want to extend that to better manage all of the content within their organization.”

And while the outlook for many software sectors remains glum, content management is attracting the attention of companies. In the most recent edition of Morgan Stanley’s ongoing CIO Survey series, 33 per cent of 225 CIOs surveyed said document and content management is a priority. It ranked third – after security (40 per cent) and employee portal (36 per cent) – in software spending priorities.

Content management is a broad term that covers many distinct technologies for organizing and publishing information, including structured information from a database and unstructured information such as audio or video files. It encompasses document management, which pertains to organizing, routing and managing typical business documents; Web content management, which tackles creating, storing and publishing Web site material; digital asset management, for storing assets other than text, such as graphics, photos and video; and records management, for electronic record-keeping oversight.

IBM – and others – are looking to capitalize on a market that grew up piecemeal, according to analysts.

In the past, companies adopted content management systems to solve a specific need. A retailer might have had technology for dealing with catalog content, and then in the rush to establish an online presence, built a new system for Web content independent of the old system said Jim Murphy, senior analyst at AMR Research Inc. Today, companies want to deal with all their content in an integrated fashion and administer fewer applications.

IBM approaches the market as a database expert, Murphy said. Its pitch is that the underlying database technology, on which IBM’s Content Manager line is built, can reconcile disparate Web content, document and digital asset management systems. “The database angle unifies all of those systems, so a company could save all kinds of assets in the same database,” he said.

IBM isn’t the only database vendor with its sights set on content management. Oracle Corp. and Microsoft Corp. also are interested and bring database and search technologies to the table, Murphy said.

The three companies are encroaching on the content management market by beefing up their database products, which can store document content, digital assets, Web content and, in some cases, XML content, Murphy said. The database vendors also have built in better search, versioning and access control features. “Those functions are no longer necessary from the content management vendors,” he said. “IBM, Microsoft and Oracle all are eating away at the bottom of the market.”

Nonetheless, Murphy said IBM is not yet viewed as a direct competitor to pure-play document management vendors such as Documentum Inc. or FileNet inc. Its offerings are still immature and best-suited for companies with a big investment in IBM or a little bit of time to wait for IBM to build out its product set, he said.

Inside IBM, developers are working to gel its content management offerings, Taufen said.

One new area for IBM is records management. In November, IBM bought Tarian Software Inc. for its records management and e-mail archive infrastructure. Tarian’s software doesn’t store content, but it applies policies and rules for capturing, retaining and disposing of information to all a company’s applications that store content.

IBM has tied the Tarian software to its Content Manager suite, Taufen said. This year, IBM will work to integrate Tarian with its Lotus line of e-mail and collaboration software, Taufen said.

The effort makes sense, analysts say. “Increasingly, records management functionality is becoming a big driver for end-user organizations,” said Karen Shegda, research director at Gartner Inc. The research firm predicts that by 2005, half of all global 2000 companies will have adopted records management technology.

IBM isn’t the only vendor to notice that trend. In December, Documentum acquired another electronic records management technology developer, TrueArc, Open Text and Hummingbird also have purchased records-management companies, Shegda said.

Also this year, IBM plans to step up its code-sharing efforts with respect to content management, Taufen said. The content management division has standardized on the WebSphere application server and is continuing efforts to port its multiple content management products to a common platform – one that makes better use of DB2, she said.

By more tightly integrating with DB2, the content management products gain advanced search capabilities, such as cross-repository search, and some security and digital rights management functionality, Shegda said.

Web services support, including Simple Object Application Protocol support, also is on tap this year, Taufen said.

IBM has its work cut out for it, analysts say. The company’s content management resources are fragmented, Shegda said. IBM Content Manager includes document imaging and document management capabilities, along with tools for handling rich media such as audio and video content.

Meanwhile, IBM’s Lotus division has collaborative document management capabilities, WebSphere MQ has workflow tools, and WebSphere Portal has a few basic Web content management features.

Together, these resources make for a broad content management suite. However, they aren’t tied together well, Shegda said. “If IBM wants to move more into the broader content management picture, they need to make their offerings more cohesive,” she said.

Also, within the content management family, there’s consolidation work to be done, Shegda said. Content Manager has a repository that handles standard documents and images, and it has Content Manager OnDemand, which is a separate repository for handling mainframe information. Merging those two into a single repository for all types of digital content, including mainframe reports, would make administration easier for users, Shegda said.

In terms of features, IBM’s content management portfolio lacks sophisticated Web content management tools. Those included in IBM’s portal offering are lightweight and not geared for high-volume use, AMR’s Murphy said. “What IBM clearly doesn’t have yet – and hasn’t made a really bold move into – is Web content management,” he said.

Meanwhile, IBM is not alone in upping its content management offerings. Other vendors with product enhancements include:

*FileNet, which just launched its redesigned FileNet P8 platform. The new platform lets customers build systems using just the modules they need. It includes modules for managing business processes, enterprise content, Web content and images.

*Vignette Corp., which started shipping its V7 family of products in January. New tools include a graphical workflow modeling tool and integration workbench designed to make it easier to build Web sites and portals.

*Venetica Corp., which unveiled a new release of its flagship suite for integrating disparate content repositories. VeniceBridge 5.0. can handle more content types and has a common in-box for disparate workflow engines, the company said.

*Progressive Information Technologies Inc., which released a new version of its Vasont content management system. New to Vasont 8.0 are multilanguage translation capabilities so that organizations can manage and edit multilingual content from a single source.

*GlobalScape Inc., which released a new Web content management system, PureCMS, targeted at small and midsize businesses.