A year ago, when 2003 was just getting under way and the ubiquitous
technology prediction stories were being published, you were unlikely to
find one that predicted big things for content management. By the time
2003’s year-in-review stories were published, things had changed.
This year, the content management market figures to be worth as much as $10
billion. And far from software that helps simplify Web site updates, content
management has come to include applications for back-office information
management, collaboration, records management, and the management of digital
A confluence of events in 2003 brought content management a great deal of
attention. The applications continued to evolve and add functionality. The
adoption of Web services and XML, which make handling content more
efficient, continued. New rules and federal regulations requiring content
handling and storage of documents made content management applications
critical to many organizations. And long-awaited consolidation began in
earnest, not only among companies within the content management market, but
with more traditional software heavyweights as well.
As content management moved from the Web to intranets to document management
functions, the sector’s offerings and its role in the organizations that
employ it have evolved. By integrating with existing systems or by choosing
a content management application with all the parts (known as enterprise
content management in some circles), users can locate, collaborate on,
create, and edit documents that in years past were tucked in file cabinets
or passed around with sticky notes.
Whether or not adding all of these features will be a wise move in the long
run remains to be seen; most organizations already have tools for content
creation (such as Microsoft Office) and collaboration (such as instant
messaging). Nevertheless, the trend in content management heading into 2004
is to provide a lot of functionality in one box.
Web services and XML
The emergence of Web services and standards such as XML helped lead content
management to the forefront of the software market in 2003. By enabling
content to be stored in an application-neutral form, content that was once
for use only on the Web, for example, can now be re-used, re-formatted and
recycled for print materials, internal Word documents and PDFs.
Beyond re-using content within an organization, XML enables organizations to
ease integration with suppliers and customers.
Astoria Software in San Mateo, Calif., uses XML in its content management and structured document management applications. Astoria specializes in the highly technical
aerospace and defense industries where the re-use of technical content often
comes into play. The flight manual for a 747, for example, is longer than
the plane itself. The manufacturer, Boeing, provides a dataset that draws on
data from all the subcontractors. Each airline then customizes the manual
for its fleet. Within a few months, the FAA can make Boeing re-issue the
manual to reflect a change.
Using XML, Astoria’s products have the component-level management of the
structured and unstructured content that make such a scenario a little less
of a project.
“It’s useful for anything big and complex with multiple
revision cycles,” said Astoria Software CEO Tom Steding.
But XML is making progress in less technical areas as well. Amherst,
N.H.-based Ektron has been at the forefront of using XML in Web content
“We really feel strongly that when you are writing content,
whether it be for the Web or print, that you should be able to use that
content anywhere,” said Jeffrey Neumann, Ektron’s director of product
marketing. “You can really re-use that information not only on that Web
site, but anywhere.”
Ektron released a new version of its eWebEditPro + XML content editor that
enables users without the technical knowledge and understanding of XML to
develop the schemas using a simple interface. Microsoft’s InfoPath serves a
similar purpose in the new Microsoft Office released in 2003. Bringing XML
to the masses will only continue its adoption by content management vendors.
The accounting scandals that made headlines the last couple of years were
hardly good news if you worked for Enron, but the timing couldn’t have
been better for the content management industry. Regulations like
Sarbanes-Oxley made keeping track of content, whether financial statements
or e-mails, the law. Suddenly people paid a lot more attention to content
audit trails and version control.
Many content management vendors already had applications or modules for
record management, which allowed records to be stored for a set amount of
time then deleted. The adoption of laws governing financial statements
opened a whole new market for content management, and industry experts say
most organizations that need to be in compliance are just beginning to
understand the works that lies ahead.
Organizations that need to keep track of their paperwork aren’t the only
ones that took notice of content management in 2003. More traditional
software companies scooped up content management vendors as consolidation in
the crowded sector got underway. The biggest news of 2003 was EMC’s purchase
of Documentum, one of the biggest names in storage buying perhaps the
biggest in content management. Documentum figures to be part of what EMC
calls “information lifecycle management.”
There was also plenty of consolidation among the smaller players, many of
which scooped up niche players to complement their offerings. Open Text
acquired Web content management player Gauss Interprise and IXOS, which
specialized in content management and archiving. Interwoven added
collaboration and workflow features with its purchase of iManage.
Most analysts expect the consolidation to continue in 2004. Even as the
major players in the market continue to bring together the disparate parts
of an enterprise content management system, they too recognize that not
everyone will survive. When announcing his company’s IXOS acquisition, Open
Text CEO Tom Jenkins, a major buyer in the past year, said he expects the
ranks of content management vendors to boil down to two or three leaders
worth $2 billion to $3 billion each.
Jenkins’ prediction may come to fruition, but there are a number of wild
cards that could influence the future of the content management market.
Open-source content management applications have gained a loyal following
for inexpensive, quick implementations for specific projects and for
intranets. If nothing else, the open source offerings could force vendors to
componentize their applications, breaking them into separate modules, which
some have already done. Open-source apps will also add downward price
pressure, especially on the low-end content management offerings.
The evolution of Microsoft’s Office package, which in its newest incarnation
bundled in the collaboration and document management of SharePoint and XML,
also deserves watching. While rarely mentioned in the same circle as the
pure-play content management vendors, Microsoft is hard to count out.
Most of those who follow the content management market agree the events of
2003 will play a big role in deciding where the market goes from here. But
in some ways that direction is no more clear than it was a year ago.