Blog post

Questions and answers about Content Services – an Obituary

By Hanns Koehler-Kruener | April 11, 2017 | 6 Comments

Digital Workplace Program

On the 3rd of April Gartner’s content team published a second note in a series that describe Gartner’s changed position and evolution from ECM as a name for a technology market to a more nuanced – and certainly more complete – coverage on Content Services.

The article “The Death of ECM” by my colleague Mike Woodbridge certainly put the cat amongst the pigeons in December. Since then here have been many articles, written by people whose opinions I greatly respect, about how Gartner got it wrong, or right, or partially right, or why content services is the wrong name to replace ECM. I enjoyed reading the more balanced articles greatly and chuckled with some of the more vitriolic contributions and a commentary.

As a bit of background, between 2006 and 2012 when I joined Gartner I literally put 100s if not thousands of people through the AIIM ECM course. It was and is my life ever since my interest switched from the hardware to the software side of content technology in the 1990s. So this is a hard for me, Mike, and  my colleagues with a combined more than 100 years of experience in ECM in its various guises, to say “ECM is Dead, All Hail ECM!”. But it was time!

Over the last 3 years Gartner has noticed increasing changes in the way our clients talk and think about ECM. A flourishing market with about 6% annual growth, 5-7 billion value, and one of the few enterprise software markets not heavily hit by the 2009 recession. With the impact of Social, Mobile, Cloud and Analytics affecting the expectations for unstructured content management and usage, we started on an evolution of how we should talk about the content market. It started with Easy Content Management, a concept of bringing consumerization into boring and sometimes unusable interfaces in a good number of ECM systems. We progressed to Smart Content to show the impact of analytics on our market. With the emergence of Enterprise File Sync and Share (was EFSS), a term and market Gartner coined, and clients using it as a low level (but usable) content repository and manager, a further evolution of how we speak about ECM needed to take place.

A wider framework taking into consideration different markets changing, growing together, but also splitting off needed to be considered. We also needed to consider  evolving client buying behaviours across industries, geographic locations, as well as the vendor offerings, that in some cases went broad and suite oriented, while in other cases went narrow and vertical, building content services for specific applications and markets.


Content Services Framework
Model for Content Services

The result of this investigation is the Content Services framework that allows for more integrated discussion and classification of technical solutions across all the options that exist in today’s evolving content delivery environment.

I’d like to answer a few questions that I see brought up in other blog posts:

  1. What about strategy? : ECM always meant strategy, methods and tools. Content Services talks about the tools and software, so yes it is technology focused. It is supposed to be! The need for strategy remains, but let’s not call it the same as the technology. Let’s call it what it is, an Information and Content Strategy which includes the wider concerns beyond unstructured Content.
  1. Have the challenges for clients disappeared? Of course not. Organizations still have the same challenges with “unstructured” content as they had 2, 5, 10 or 20 years ago. They now just have it in more diverse solutions than ever before, with more opportunity for exploiting content of all types, structured, unstructured, file-based or other.
  1. Will this affect the 2017 ECM MQ? Absolutely! We will publish a new MQ called Content Services Platforms later in the year. It is the evolution of the ECM MQ.
  1. Are we done? No, we are not. This market and our client’s needs and demands remain in flux. My colleagues and I will continue to respond to these challenges, and in some cases preempt those needs. Delivering research on adjoining and overlapping software markets like Web Content Management, Digital Experience Platforms and Content Collaboration Platforms (formerly EFSS).

Content Services is not a revolution as some have called it, but a long overdue and continuous evolution!


The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

Leave a Comment


  • Jed says:

    Hi Hanns.

    A well thought out and well reasoned response to the comments, and criticism of Mikes original post, and Gartners direction and position on this.

    I can honestly find nothing here to challenge, so no personal disrespect to Mike, but perhaps it was all in the tone and language of his original post ?

  • Marko says:

    Thank you Hanns,

    I think the separation of tools from strategy is key. Much of the concern I have heard has been based on feeling that the strategy has changed. And as you said, “the need for strategy remains.” The tools, or technology, that is changing.

    It’s understanding that while strategy remains today, because the tools are changing the methods we use must evolves as well. Which may in turn adjust strategy as well.

    It leaves me to wonder if we, the industry, had these same discussions when Electronic Document Management became Enterprise Content Management.

    • Hanns Koehler-Kruener says:

      Hi Marko,

      as always, good comments and I look forwards to your blogpost, which I am sure you will post.

      I agree with you, the separation of Strategy and technology is key for me (for us) as well. A content strategy is also part of a greater vision and strategy, which means we cannot look at it in isolation. I look forwards to more discussions about this in the future. What this space, more to follow !

      Take care

  • Peter says:

    Hi Hanns,

    ECM is dead – a bold Statement 🙂

    As a niche player in the ECM space I never cared much about the _name_ ECM, although I/we do use it.
    It is just one of the dozens of acronyms that the IT Industry uses but no client understands or ever uses 🙂 (possibly a slight exaggeration…)
    The only clients/prospects that ask for ECM (or any other acronym) are the ones who aren’t really looking for a solution to a particular problem, but just “think” they need something that they heard about.

    It’s like when you buy a car … 4wd, off road, quattro,… and all sorts of other acronyms for a car. I don’t care what it’s called, I just want to put max. power into the distribution of information in my company.

    So ECM is dead — means (thanks to Gartner) that we will once again start to talk about ECM (the acronym)…

    The complete series:
    ECM (a late 1990s movie)
    ECM is Dead (2016)
    ECM – The Resurrection (coming 2018)

    I’m also 20 years in the business, so I’ve seen a lot of “movies” and acronyms…

    Thanks for your answers in this blog post (Special no 4)

  • Shumon says:

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