The Shortcomings of Legacy ECM: Why “Next-Generation” ECM Suites Provide More Attractive Returns on Your Investment

Enterprise Content Management (ECM) continues to become one of the most highly-sought business applications, driven by such critical initiatives as regulatory compliance, internal governance, business efficiency optimization, and customer service level enhancements. With such a push, it is crucial for customers to understand the shortcomings of legacy ECM suites – and how next-generation ECM solutions can drive much higher success rates, enterprise-wide adoption, and high-value return on their ECM investments.

One element that has held ECM back from really delivering enterprise-wide value is quite simply cost.

Not only the cost for the software licenses themselves, but also the cost associated with implementation and installation, project management, and integration with business applications – all of these drive the traditional cost for legacy ECM to such a point that ECM is often reserved for “the special few” inside the organization.

Those often turn out to be either departments with robust budgets, or those who have a critical business need or mandated corporate strategy that justifies this cost. However, at the end of the day, cost is one of the key reasons that ECM is not on every single desktop in the organization. Modern era or “next-generation” ECM suites are taking a different approach to how they license the products along with the correlating costs – with an end result of driving ECM to every single worker desktop in the enterprise so that ECM becomes a standard part of the operational infrastructure. Lack of adherence to modern standards are just the beginning. And to add insult to injury, these systems are still commanding top-tier pricing for their old technology.

The second element where legacy ECM solutions fall short is around the complexity and cumbersome nature of the products. This is to be viewed and judged both from the information, knowledge, or process worker (end user) viewpoint, as well as from a back office administration and manageability viewpoint.

As products have been created over time, most have been developed with a strong emphasis on functionality from a software engineer or programming analyst viewpoint. This makes the products too complex for a non-sophisticated end user to learn and to feel comfortable using on a daily basis. This becomes further complicated because as the richness and functionality of the products extend, usability and manageability become more complex.

This is one area where next-generation ECM suites truly shine as they are focused on the end user ease of use. One way this is accomplished is by using Microsoft familiar user experiences (Office and Outlook) as a standard for user interface design. As you explore an ECM implementation, if the product is not intuitive and your users do not feel comfortable with it, they won’t use it. So whether you pay $100 or $1,000,000 for your ECM solution – it will not be successful.

The last element and the newest pitfall of legacy ECM suites is technology. As we all know, technology has changed dramatically over the past four or five years and it’s not looking like it will slow down anytime soon.

The problem here is that most legacy ECM suites were built upon technology platforms that originated back in the 1990s. These platforms are now quite outdated and highly disruptive when you look at introducing them into a modern technology environment.

I find it interesting how some of these legacy vendors often brag about the number of add-on modules that they have. Some legacy vendors even talk about how broad and rich their product suite is, citing the dozens or over 100 modules available in their product. I refer to this as the “Frankenstein” syndrome of the ECM industry. This means that over time, vendors have stitched on, bolted on, or put together a variety of functional modules to round out their ECM suite. While the functionality will “walk and talk” it is often that the products aren’t highly attractive to look at, especially if you peel back the layers and look at the underlying technology architecture and platform.

The other way legacy vendors try to mask their technology shortcomings is the “lipstick on the pig” trick.

In today’s modern technology era, web services and SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) are high-interest elements – if not requirements – for the savvy buyer. Since most legacy ECM vendors have not fully modernized their solutions as technology has changed, they accommodate Web Services/SOA buyer demands by creating a web services layer or wrapper over the old technology. While this will provide SOA functionality on top of the old technology platform, one has to ask — at what cost to performance, price, and ease of use?

This again is another high-value differentiator that contemporary “next-generation” ECM suites bring to their end user organizations. These new solutions have been built exclusively upon new technology standards that enable the solution to fit into your modern IT infrastructure with comfort and reliability. Above all, they provide a stronger value in their performance, manageability, and interoperability with modern Microsoft technology and architecture. Many actually can extend your current investments in Microsoft technology – SharePoint is one of them, just to name a current hot topic in the ECM space.

In summary, legacy ECM offered by household name brands in our industry may not be providing the value that modern ECM buyers seek. The educated consumer should perform ample due diligence as they are evaluating solutions so that they can make sure they are getting the right returns on their ECM investments – both today, and well into the future.

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