One of my most accessed posts last year was: “The Death of ECM and Birth of Content Services“. That article took a look back at the way content related technologies had been marketed and implemented over the last decade (and longer!). It also introduced the notion of “content services” as an evolved approach. This year, I thought I would start with a post which will take a look forward and present my view on how the content services markets will develop over the next 12-24 months. In essence, I will describe a perceived “battleground” for content services technologies and vendors. I am going to do this over two posts, the first (this one!) will focus on the state of the market and investment drivers whilst the second will focus on features and areas of innovation that I expect to differentiate solutions and products in 2018.
The Content Services Markets
The content services related markets are in a healthy state indicating continued demand. The content services platform (CSP) market maintained steady growth with estimated revenues of over $6BN in 2016 and estimated growth of 8%. The content collaboration platform (CCP) market continued to grow quickly with estimated growth of over 40% in 2016 albeit with a smaller overall size of around $2.7BN.
However, both these markets are not without challenges for vendors competing within. In the CCP market, the pervasive nature of cloud office and in particular Office 365 presents competitors with challenges to differentiate themselves from the “bundled” solution that is OneDrive for Business (ODfB). This is a challenge for vendors in the CSP market also, albeit in the form of differentiation from SharePoint Online rather than ODfB.
There are also challenges to longstanding CSP vendors from newer entrants to the CSP market who provide alternate approaches to age-old problems. These approaches are marketed as being simpler to deploy, easier to use and able to offer up new opportunities in the way content is utilized. The more longstanding players in the market must continue to provide real innovation to make sure their offers remain attractive to buyers looking for a new or different approach. To use a musical metaphor, if these threats are not properly countered then such vendors can end up becoming a bit like a classic 70s rock band just as the punk scene emerges; full of clever “stuff” and complex arrangements but playing to an audience who are not sure they are relevant anymore. However, it is also true to say that newer entrants to this market must face large, deep-pocketed incumbents and installed bases reluctant to rip-and-replace significant investments
Drivers for Investment
From a buyer perspective, in 2018, digital transformation is the primary goal for many organizations and supporting this will be a key objective for vendors providing content services. Content services are central to digital transformation but digital transformation can be a very broad and somewhat vague term. I find it helpful to break down the idea into two key concepts. These concepts map out what I believe will be the battleground for content services products in 2018 and beyond.
- The Digital Workplace contains elements of strategy, program delivery and technology aimed at increasing the digital effectiveness of employees, i.e. to enable greater “digital dexterity” amongst the workforce. Content services deployed here are most effective where they are collaboration centric in nature and allow for user flexibility in how such collaboration is undertaken.
- Digital Business is a term I use to describe the need to transform the way a business fundamentally operates. This consists of reimagining existing processes and operations to utilize new technology and thereby either improving client experience, delivering efficiencies or driving growth (or all three). Content services supporting this type of transformation need to be able to execute robust business processes at scale and ensure appropriate controls and rigor are maintained whilst still providing an integrated and compelling user experience.
It is still somewhat rare to find systems that support both of these areas with equal merit. There is definite overlap but in 2018 I still expect to find vendors whose “sweet spot” is more readily aligned with one of these concepts over the other. Broadly speaking the CCP/cloud office vendors usually have a better fit for digital workplace driven initiatives whilst the more long-standing CSP vendors are often more suited to a digital business scenario. In fact, I had one CSP vendor recently present their view of the world in very similar terms to this. Such distinctions are not entirely clear-cut however and areas of overlap definitely remain. Careful evaluation and the selection of the right set of content services for any business requirement is as important as ever.
So whilst these are the broad concepts I expect to see content services vendors align to over the next few years, there are other more granular trends emerging and evolving during this time.In the (soon to be published) sequel to this post, I will take a deeper look at the areas of differentiation offered by content services vendors in the form of innovations and new features and which will be critical to clients making use of content services on their digital transformation journey.