At the end of January, I posted my views on the “battleground” for content services in 2018 here. In this first post, I outlined the two high-level concepts I see vendors looking to tackle as organizations strive to achieve “digital transformation”.
In this (slightly delayed, sorry!) follow up I will look a little more deeply at the areas of innovation that are emerging in content services solutions. The market for content services platforms is reasonably mature and comprised of many established vendors with large and (at first glance) often indistinguishable feature sets. Therefore seeking innovation and how it can be utilized in your organization to drive change is particularly important.
During the course of interactions with client and vendors alike over the last few (hectic, hence the delay!) months, I believe I have identified three functionality themes which are key areas of innovation and investment in content services products. What is particularly interesting here, is that these themes are being tackled in very different ways by vendors leading to real choice and differentiation in a market that has often been perceived to be lacking in variety.
- Intelligence: Intelligence powered content services are an area of considerable growth. They are enabled by advances in AI-related technology, in particular, machine learning and natural language processing.
- Today, “intelligence” is most commonly used in one of two ways:The automated classification of information. The technology available now spans from the tagging of rich media to the semantic analysis of business content and association with rich metadata models. The depth of insight and how that insight is utilized in follow-on processes (e.g. risk analysis, information governance etc), will be how capabilities are differentiated going forward.
- Productivity Enhancement. Embedded intelligence aimed at increasing user productivity with features such as recommending related content for action and people to collaborate with.
This is an area that is developing rapidly and we will undoubtedly see new ideas emerge and the areas above start to become standard features albeit with varying levels of maturity. It is best to focus on the use cases that such intelligence is required for in order to determine if the product vendor is taking a direction that aligns with your vision and business objectives.
- Integration and Federation: The need for integration and the services which provide it are not new. The ease with which an integration “upwards” into of business applications can be implemented and the resultant user experience is however evolving. Integrations are becoming easier than ever to configure and the user experience more seamless and consumerized. It is also of ever more importance in a modern content services eco-system, where content sources are invariably heavily distributed, to integrate “downwards” into distributed content sources. This can be for a variety of reasons including the provision of common functional services, information governance, and common information access. Solution maturity and investment roadmaps here vary hugely between vendors.
- .Joined up Collaboration: Enabling effective collaboration is important to digital workplace initiatives and products have been available to do just that for some time. However, to support effective digital business transformation, collaboration needs to be “joined up” with the rest of the information lifecycle so that content which starts in an “ideation” phase can be connected to its output state and any subsequent phases which involve direct interaction and collaboration with customers and partners. This joining up of collaboration silos is a dynamic area with a range of vendor solutions (some available now and others planned) that are very different and will require significant investigation by potential buyers to determine if the new ays of working provided will be a good fit for their business initiatives.
These are are the main functionality themes I see as the major areas of investment for the upcoming 18 months, however, it is by no means an exhaustive list of innovations emerging from content services vendors. In addition to these functional aspects, two other “non-functional” areas will continue to be greatly differentiating. These areas are certainly not new but remain a hugely significant factor in any product evaluation, and as such a major area of investment for all vendors.
- User Experience: Without doubt one of the biggest differentiators for products in the content services market, and from an implementation perspective the one that is likely to have the biggest impact on adoption. Quality of user experience can differ greatly and some products are often better aligned to certain business processes or industry verticals than others.User experience is however subjective and there is no simple way to specify and grade usability in a purely quantitative sense. Therefore direct evaluation of real-world scenarios (via targeted demos and POCs), by key business stakeholders, is always the most effective approach.
- Speed to value: This is the speed at which products can go from instigation to the delivery of real business value. The constraining factor here is the configuration of the product to meet business requirements and there can be many approaches to how this is done. Approaches include high-productivity rapid application development tools (often described as low code), dedicated content services applications and micro-service APIs and SDKs. It falls to clients to evaluate which is the best approach for the requirements and the culture within an organization.
In summary content services technology is evolving rapidly, driven by technology advancements and the need to meet the business demand for digital transformation. It has never been easier to deploy and implement truly game-changing technology and despite a recent spate of acquisitions and market consolidation, the choice has never been greater. It can be daunting to run product selection activities as the market evolves so quickly, however, a focus on the business outcomes and how vendor innovations can support them will be the most likely route to success. Look out for Gartner research during the year to assist on this journey.