One of the more interesting developments in the content management space in the past few years as the industry "mainstreams" is the development of a wide variety of models for delivery of content management functionality. In addition to the traditional in-house software solutions, the market now includes a host of SaaS, open source, and cloud solutions.
Today's guest blogger comes from the cloud part of the content management continuum. Aaron Levie is the CEO and co-founder of Box.net, which he launched in 2005 with the goal of helping people to access, collaborate, and share all their content online. Based in Palo Alto, Box.net has since grown into a leading Cloud Content Management solution for almost 4 million users and companies ranging from small businesses to Fortune 100 companies. At Box, Aaron focuses on product and platform strategy, incorporating the best of traditional content management with the most effective elements of social business software.
8 things you need to know about cloud content management (CCM)
1 -- Your business is already using it.
Today's workers need a way to share and collaborate beyond the firewall, a function not easily facilitated by sophisticated ECM solutions. The workplace has exploded beyond the traditional boundaries of the office walls; individuals and departments that work with partners, vendors and even customers have had to find alternate ways to share, implementing wikis, extranets, and in many cases, cloud content management platforms. Divisions like marketing, which typically work with a number of agencies and consultants, are likely to deploy CCM at the departmental level, oftentimes without the endorsement of an IT administrator. And given the inherently viral nature with any product that's used to share beyond a closed group, CCM often spreads organically throughout an organization.
2 -- It will blow open the content management market.
While ECM solutions fulfill the complex needs of larger organizations, such as records management, e-discovery and archiving, their many functionalities are often unnecessary - and unaffordable - for many small to medium businesses. But this does not mean that SMBs - which represent over 99.7% of all US employer firms and over 50% of the workforce - are not in need of a content management solution. Being web-based, CCM platforms are scalable up and down, and come with a much lower price tag. They can provide a holistic content management solution for previously under-served smaller companies that don't have the highly structured needs of large enterprises, and are often already running much of their business with lower cost, cloud-based applications.
3 -- It will make your data accessible across devices and applications.
Today's workforce is more mobile than ever before, and companies are reevaluating the office cubicle and 9-to-5 workday model in favor of a more cost effective virtual workforce. Consequently, workers need to be able to access and engage with their crucial business content across devices and applications. With web-based content management, files are accessible on multiple devices, and open APIs make it easy to integrate CCM solutions with other web-based business applications - such as salesforce.com or Google Apps - as well as services hosted on-site, giving users the ability to access relevant content within any application.
4 -- It addresses the realities of security.
Firewalls can be cumbersome, but there's a reason for their existence. The security of business content is immensely important to any organization, and locking content down within a system is meant to keep it from getting into the wrong hands. But if workers need to share externally and their given software is too restrictive, web-based tools are only a few clicks away. Ironically, the restrictions that IT put into place to create a more secure environment are actually pushing frustrated employees to use external platforms beyond IT's visibility. With CCM, it's generally true that employees have more freedom, but they're also far more likely to use a platform that's flexible, intuitive, and integrated with other business applications, meaning they'll stay within IT's oversight.
5 -- You can afford it. Today.
Like many cloud-based services, CCM costs less. The recession was a huge driver of companies moving to the cloud, and although the economy is showing signs of improvement, the past few years have fundamentally changed the way we think about technology purchases. Cloud solutions are more cost effective on a per-user basis, go live faster, update seamlessly and frequently, and carry far less risk with implementation and execution. We've all heard stories about six-or-seven-figure technology purchases that never got off the ground or were only implemented narrowly. The on-demand nature of cloud and SaaS systems make such events nearly risk-free in terms of time and money. And cloud platforms like CCM will only get more affordable as vendors benefit from immense economies of scale as their business grows, and pass along these cost savings to the customer.
6 -- It adds value to your current ECM solution and opens opportunities for the ECM ecosystem.
While CCM can fulfill the content management and collaboration needs of small to medium-sized businesses, functions like e-discovery, records management, archiving are outside of CCM's domain. Many large companies have spent significant resources deploying ECM solutions to handle highly structured processes, and when integrated with these systems, CCM provides a highly usable and flexible platform for users, with robust analytics for IT administrators, and easy connection to other web-based and on-site platforms through an open API. This new category of content management opens up immense possibilities for the content management ecosystem, and we're already seeing the emergence of consultants who specialize in bringing cloud technologies to their clients
7 -- You'll never have to deal with a software upgrade.
Today's IT departments have to juggle the demands of workers and the realities of the expanded workplace, pushing them to rethink the amount of infrastructure they want to support versus what could be outsourced. When IT departments are no longer bogged down by maintaining servers, installing upgrades, and training users, they can focus on driving a company's ability to innovate and execute, thereby becoming more strategic and business-critical. IT innovators also recognize that if they don't provide software with the usability of consumer tools - software that empowers sharing across devices and beyond the firewall - web-savvy workers will use ad hoc applications over which IT has no control.
8 -- Your users will be happy.
Across all generations, today's knowledge workers are significantly more web savvy than ever before, but this evolution has largely been driven by consumer - not enterprise - technologies. Consumer applications like YouTube, Flickr, and Facebook are fast, intuitive, and don't require anything extra to get started. What happens when people bring these expectations into their workplace? Today's workers - and especially millennials who grew up using these consumer tools - require software that helps them get their job done with the simplicity and usability of the internet. There's a fundamental difference between giving your employees software that they want to use rather than software that they have to use.
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