What is content management?

Let’s explore content management

Content management is a term often used by IT professionals to describe the key capabilities needed to “manage unstructured content”.  Let’s take these two concepts apart — “manage” and “unstructured content” — and explore why content management has become a nearly $11 billion market.1


  • “Managing” content: When IT professionals describe the need to manage content, they refer to the requirements around controlling how content is edited, accessed, organized, retained, and disposed. This came to be a critical need identified in the late 1990s, when solving core back-office automation challenges — like accounts payable, invoice processing, contracts management, and HR administration — required managing information-related processes while controlling legal and compliance risk.2  It was critical to ensure the right information stayed in the right hands so that it was easily auditable and compliant with regulations. This need correlated with the rise of enterprise content management (ECM) systems in the late 1990s, where on-premises systems were used to help manage content around key processes.
  • “Unstructured content”: Most people think of unstructured content as PDFs, presentations, and documents (essentially, anything that doesn’t fit into columns and rows). With the rise of video and audio — from call center recordings to web conferencing video — the volume of unstructured data has reached unmanageable levels. According to projections from IDC, 80% of worldwide data will be unstructured by 2025.

Content management This growing volume of unstructured content presents challenges for businesses. As pointed out in Solutions Review, “It can’t easily be stored in a database, and it has attributes that make it a challenge to search for, edit, and analyze, especially on the fly. Those factors (and many more) are part of the reason why this is such an important topic. If your organization is struggling to manage its unstructured data now, that problem is going to get worse over time.”


The rise of cloud content management (and the death of ECM)

To understand the evolution of content management, you need to understand what problems it has historically solved, and how the underlying needs have evolved. 


With the rise of mobile, cloud, and consumer technologies, on-premises legacy ECM solutions began to break down as the model for managing content (see Figure 1). By 2015, over 60% of organizations with mature ECM environments reported serious challenges with usability, mobility, rogue shadow IT solutions, and a continued reliance on the dreaded file share for everyday work.3 According to Gartner Research Director Michael Woodbridge, “Business buyers want quick wins and actual solutions to business problems now, not platforms that will deliver a compromised solution in six months time.” 


SaaS-driven solutions and the desire for modern, flexible, and engaging tools began to redefine content management. Workers wanted to collaborate productively using any device, anywhere. Security risks associated with digital transformation required support for data protection. Ever-expanding regulations forced organizations to be proactive, requiring them to find ways to ensure compliance and tighten control over all unstructured content. Meanwhile, multiple sources of data — from SaaS applications to custom-built applications — required IT to rethink how to integrate across their fragmented infrastructure in a flexible and scalable way. 


legacy vs cloud contnent management


These requirements helped give rise to cloud content management (CCM) solutions, which then set off two transformational shifts in the content management landscape:


  1. Content management is replacing heavy, complex back-office processes with more modern, user-centric scenarios. Because CCM is cloud-based, user-friendly, and easily integrates with other systems, it can connect and empower team productivity, external collaboration, and process efficiency. CCM has the ability to drive change in people's work styles and processes, allowing users to grant security rights and activate measures that ensure compliance, while also helping teams meet business objectives.  
  2. Organizations that never had access to content management before have access now. Thanks to the cost efficiencies of cloud, ease of deployment, and rapid user adoption, businesses can afford a CCM solution that otherwise would have been too costly or complex. CCM has created opportunities to democratize content management — something that was previously impossible.

It’s for these reasons that leading analyst firms like IDC, Gartner, and Forrester have recognized the importance of CCM and have created new analyst reports highlighting how critical CCM is in driving change and efficiency in how people work together.


5 benefits of moving to a CCM solution

Companies that implement the full capabilities of CCM can reap real, measurable benefits: They reduce costs, increase quality of output via agile processes, and shorten time-to-market — all while strengthening their security posture. But what are the key drivers for purchasing a CCM solution? Below are the top five reasons people adopt CCM:


  1. Tackle content sprawl. With integration-friendly architectures, CCM solutions make it possible to integrate with all other productivity and process-specific applications across the business. In this way, CCM acts as a secure hub for the massive and fast-growing library of unstructured content throughout the whole organization, without requiring users to move content to and from different systems just to use it in business processes. Explore how to connect your entire organization to future-proof your tech stack in our ebook, Powering Your Organization with a Best-of-Breed Productivity Stack.
  2. Increase security and data protection. Protecting sensitive information is more important than ever, and CCM takes advantage of all the benefits of innovation in security. With a toolset that includes data encryption, policy models, AI-based controls to prevent data leakage, and access control, centralized data protection in the cloud is easier than ever. Learn more in our ebook, How to Secure Content in the Cloud.
  3. Improve digital initiatives. Our ebook 5 Considerations for Choosing a Collaboration Platform explores how crucial it is to pick the right content management platform for business today. It can mean the difference between an agile, efficient, and fully informed workplace and one held back by high costs and user apathy. With a focus on modern, engaging experiences, cloud-based content platforms allow users to access, edit, and collaborate on content from anywhere, creating empowered and efficient teams.
  4. Streamline collaborative and outward-facing processes. While legacy ECM systems have often included document workflow, the workflow wasn’t well integrated into the ad-hoc, collaborative experience that modern workplaces require. With CCM, businesses have the best of both worlds: a workspace for teams and individuals that includes built-in workflow automation.
  5. Support compliance and data residency requirements. Data governance — including file access control, document retention, and data residency — are the pillars of content management. With content management in the cloud, businesses are able to get information governance, compliance, and privacy while supporting new ways of working. Designed for scalability and agility, CCM supports the full range of industry and geography-specific regulations with a modern, engaging UI. 


Top use cases for content management platforms

Organizations leverage content management platforms in different ways, depending on their business needs, the complexity of their processes, and their level of sophistication. Here are just a few examples of how some companies are benefiting from CCM:


  • Secure, extended collaboration:  Businesses enable teams to collaborate, allowing internal users to extend collaboration to people outside the organization. This may involve working in a single workspace, across joint folders, or in a collaborative document editing tool — all with appropriate data protection and access control. A special case of this is law enforcement collaboration. The Met Police has identified multiple use cases for CCM, such as providing a central online location for CCTV footage, which makes it easier to search and share valuable evidence without the need to travel to local authorities or manage physical media such as DVDs and USBs.
  • Process automation: Companies process content and related information to support business operations, such as onboarding and claims processing. By migrating manual processes to digital, they gain control and increase efficiency. A case in point is the digital contract approval process. For ChargePoint, 70% of content sharing involves unstructured content. Naturally, a platform that gives employees a way to collaborate, design, and control their processes is critical to them. A first attempt resulted in frustration: The legal team had put in place a contract management system, but were ready to pull the plug after just nine months because the system was too hard to use. Seeing how easy it was to create and use workflows on Box — including the use of eSignature through partner integrations — they were eager to change.
  • Customized content experiences: Organizations enable partners to develop custom content services applications through a software development kit (SDK) and developer toolkit. This opens up collaboration and processes to people outside the firewall. An example of this type of use case is a custom client portal. For Morgan Stanley, that means launching an encrypted document-sharing portal for clients. According to Sal Cucchiara, Chief Information Officer for Wealth Management at Morgan Stanley, “Clients [can] collaborate with their Financial Advisers seamlessly while adhering to the highest standards of data privacy, protection, and security. […] Protecting our clients’ assets and personal information is our top concern, and this is our latest investment in safety and security at scale.”
  • Records management: An increasing number of organizations use content management platforms to help with information governance, especially when the preservation and protection of digital records is required. This kind of solution includes a secure repository along with features, such as document retention, that help ensure regulatory compliance. An example of this type of use case is centralizing IP.  With the move to CCM, AstraZeneca brought all of its crucial IP and other information to one centralized location in the cloud. Box sits at the center of a best-of-breed ecosystem that includes Salesforce, Office 365, and DocuSign. A team of more than 8,000 global reps can now access sales assets from iPads in the field, and compliance with critical industry regulations like HIPAA is now a guarantee. With IT in house and essential integrations connected, content processes are twice as streamlined at half the cost.


Key capabilities of content management platforms

Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Content Collaboration Platforms lists the following key features of content management platforms:

Core user capabilities:

  • File synchronization across devices, desktop apps, and web browser clients.
  • File search and sharing with people and applications, inside or outside the organization.
  • Modern user interfaces with optimized user-interaction features, such as "drag and drop" for files and opening files in mobile apps.
  • File creation, editing, annotation, and note-taking for user productivity — natively and through integration with third-party apps such as Slack, Microsoft Office 365, and Google Docs.
  • Workspaces for teams or projects, with collaborative content authoring, change tracking, file comments, conversations, and file versioning — generally, functionality that can replace traditional network drives and file shares.

Security and compliance capabilities:

  • Security and data protection on devices, cloud services, repositories, or servers. This includes password protection, data wiping, encryption, data loss prevention (DLP), and digital rights management (DRM).
  • Data governance, including file access control, retention policies, metadata classification, e-discovery, and data residency. Compliance with GDPR and other regulations. 
  • Administration and management, including integration with standard enterprise identity, access management, and authentication protocols; policy and rule management, with centralized management tools; and performance-reporting dashboard with visualization.  

Integration capabilities:

  • APIs for accessing content in the CCP repository or mapped data space, and prebuilt connectors to commonly used productivity and business applications or systems.


Popular content management platforms

Leading industry analyst firms like Gartner, Forrester, and IDC have all deprecated the term enterprise content management, as ECM no longer reflects the changing market dynamics or business needs brought on by cloud, mobile, and consumer technologies. 


For these reasons, analysts have created related categories from which to evaluate content management vendors:


The consistent CCM leaders across the categories include vendors like Box and Microsoft. Other vendors that show up across these reports include IBM, Alfresco, Hyland, Google, and OpenText. 


Why Box is the leading CCM vendor

Box is a powerful content management platform. It emphasizes the user experience while providing built-in security and compliance — all on an integrated, open platform. While Box is recognized for focusing on seamless collaboration, frictionless security, and integrations with over 1,400 applications, the value provided to customers makes Box truly stand out. Whether it’s integrating with critical backend systems to streamline processes, reducing costs by eliminating file shares, or reducing risk by providing a unified view of all your important data — Box provides measurable benefits. 

why boxIn fact, Box is only one of four vendors to have earned the distinction of Best Content Services Platforms of 2020, as reviewed by customers, published by Gartner. Here's a snapshot of just one of the nearly 250 reviews:

"Box has been a solid content services platform. Their product is both simple and powerful, and their ability to help us expand our usage with proven ROI has been a key factor in our increasing usage.”

— VP of Technology Delivery at a transportation company


Today’s leading organizations use CCM to simplify how they work. In fact, Box is trusted by 68% of the Fortune 500. Check out the latest reports from Gartner, Forrester, and IDC to learn more about the CCM capabilities that earned Box the triple crown.4  


1  https://blog.box.com/leader-forrester-new-wave-saas-cloud-content-platforms

2  https://www.box.com/content-management/why-ecm-is-ready-for-the-cloud

3  https://www.box.com/content-management/why-ecm-is-ready-for-the-cloud

4  Three different analyst firms (Gartner, Forrester, and IDC), each with a unique perspective on content management, have consistently named Box a Leader.  

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