Content is at the heart of every business and industry today. In life sciences, it's the clinical trial results that make a difference in people's lives. In financial services, it's a home loan application protected by regulatory requirements. In the public sector, it's a permit for a new city park.
It's all incredibly valuable, and it's all content. When Allstate builds a mobile app so customers can autonomously submit claims at the scene of an accident, those customers are creating content. When International Rescue Committee staff land at a crisis location and contact the intranet in the cloud for critical information, they're accessing content. There isn't an industry today that doesn't rely on some sort of content, which is why content management has become such an important strategy in all kinds of organizations — from businesses to nonprofits to government entities.
As you can imagine, all of this content can be tricky to manage — but It also has a lot of potential. Companies have many tools and strategies to ensure their content is organized, valuable, and compliant. Let's look closer at content management as a whole, why it's so important, and how you can simplify it.
What is content management?
Content management is the process of organizing, consolidating, and collecting information in its various forms, such as documents, multimedia files, and design files. Nearly anything you can save on your computer is considered content. The process of managing this content occurs through a variety of programs, including content management systems and content creation tools. There are many different roles involved in content management, such as:
- Creating the content in the first place, which can occur digitally or involve the digitization of physical mediums
- Editing and publishing content for various distribution channels, such as a blog or social media platform
- Retaining content and auditing changes according to regulatory requirements
- Organizing content into sensible, straightforward systems that can be easily searched
- Updating and managing permissions and user roles to ensure authorized access only
- Incorporating content into common business workflows for easier, more efficient use
- Modifying content as needed and retaining previous versions
- Presenting content in the right way and ensuring modifications don't show up to the consumer, such as broken HTML tags
Enterprise content management platforms are especially important in highly regulated industries, such as healthcare and finance. Often, these organizations need extensive transparency and traceability to abide by their respective regulatory agencies' guidelines. Other businesses that benefit from strong content resource management are those in manufacturing and research, where clear guides and instructions are critical to worker safety and product control, and editorial businesses, which rely on the repository of data that makes up the business model.
Organizing this content involves analyzing content by type and using tagging schemes such as XML and HTML to attach certain characteristics to the files.
Structured vs. unstructured content
IT professionals often use the term content management 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.
Unstructured content typically refers to content that doesn't fit into neat columns and rows. This might include PDFs, presentations, and documents, along with video and audio, which have exploded in use thanks to things like call center recordings and web conferencing video. The volume of unstructured data has already reached unmanageable levels, and the IDC predicts that 80% of worldwide data will be unstructured by 2025.
Content management became a critical need identified in the late 1990s. Solving core automation challenges for the back office, such as accounts payable, contracts management, invoice processing, and HR administration, called for managing information-related processes, while also controlling legal and compliance risk. 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.
The growing volume of unstructured content presents challenges for businesses, especially when multiple disparate systems are being used to deliver the content. As pointed out in Solutions Review, unstructured content can't be easily stored in a database and has attributes that add to the difficulty of searching for, editing, and analyzing it. These factors and others make the management of unstructured content an especially important concern. The author of that Solutions Review article points out that if your organization struggles to manage unstructured content now, the problem will worsen in the future.
Types of content management platforms
Traditional content management tools include web content management (WCM) systems, enterprise content management (ECM), digital asset management (DAM), and records management (RM). Many companies use a mix of these data types, and you'll find cloud content management (CCM) platforms, such as Box, that incorporate aspects of all these systems for a comprehensive platform that's appropriate for many business needs.
Content management platforms cover a range of areas:
- Web content management addresses the intricacies of creating content for the web and other digital channels
- Enterprise content management is designed more for the needs of larger corporations working with files not intended for consumers, like reports and memos, that call for access controls and collaboration
- Digital asset management tools are good for design-centric businesses working with multimedia assets like images, video, and audio
- Records-management platforms can assist with regulatory requirements and data collection with a focus on access control and retention needs
The rise of cloud content management
To understand the evolution of content management, we need to look at 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. By 2015, many organizations with mature ECM environments had serious challenges with usability, mobility, rogue shadow IT solutions, and continued reliance on the dreaded file share for everyday work. Gartner Research Director Michael Woodbridge explains that business buyers don't want a platform that creates a compromised solution in six months — they want fast, real solutions to their problems immediately.
With these needs,software as a service (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. Distributed teams and digital acceleration presented a need for companies to move to more secure, collaborative, and productive ways of working. 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 data sources — from SaaS applications to custom-built applications — required IT to rethink how to integrate across their fragmented infrastructure in a flexible and scalable way.
Important content management shifts
These requirements helped give rise to cloud content management (CCM) solutions, which then set off two transformational shifts in the content management landscape:
Cloud 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.
Organizations that never had access to content management before have access now. Thanks to the cost efficiencies of the 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.
For these reasons, leading analyst firms like IDC, Gartner, and Forrester have recognized the importance of CCM, with 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— as you can see in the Forrester total economic impact of Box analysis. They reduce costs, increase quality of output via agile processes, and shorten time-to-market — all while strengthening 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 e-book "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, artificial intelligence (AI)-based controls to prevent data leakage and access control, centralized data protection in the cloud is easier than ever.
Remember that the data in a CCM is held in a professionally managed data center, with experts working 24/7 to keep information secure and accessible when you need it.
Learn more in our e-book "How to secure your business with the Content Cloud".
3. Improve digital initiatives
Our e-book "5 considerations for choosing a collaboration platform" explores how crucial it is to pick the right content management platform for business today. This choice 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.
You can find a range of digital tools that work alongside and add value to your content. For instance, you can collect electronic signatures to eliminate faxing or scanning and use a variety of integrations to create seamless, efficient workflows. Digital content management platforms also allow for easy collaboration among employees, regardless of location. These content management tools can turn your content collection from a simple repository to a valuable, business-boosting asset.
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. Strong integration and collaborative tools can improve user-friendliness, employee satisfaction, and efficiency.
5. Support compliance and data residency requirements
Data governance — including file access control, document retention, and data residency — are the pillars of content management and massive concerns for organizations involved in highly regulated industries. With content management in the cloud, businesses can 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 user interface.
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 closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage, making 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.
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 a 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 meant launching an encrypted document-sharing portal for clients. According to Sal Cucchiara, Chief Information Officer for Wealth Management at Morgan Stanley, clients and financial advisors can seamlessly collaborate while maintaining the highest data privacy standards, security, and protection. He says that protecting clients' personal information and assets is their top concern, and the portal was their latest investment in providing security and safety at scale.
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, Microsoft 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 the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (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, Microsoft365, 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, including data wiping, password protection, encryption, digital rights management (DRM), and data loss prevention (DLP)
- Data governance, such as file access control, retention policies, metadata classification, e-discovery, and data residency, as well as compliance with General Data Protection Regulation (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
- Application programming interfaces (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:
- Forrester has created Cloud Content Platforms — Multi-tenant SaaS
- Gartner has created both the Magic Quadrant for Content Collaboration Platforms and the Magic Quadrant for Content Services Platforms
- IDC has created MarketScape: Worldwide SaaS and Cloud-enabled Content Applications
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 the leading cloud content management platform, known as the Content Cloud. It emphasizes the user experience while providing enterprise-grade built-in security and compliance — all on a cloud-native, integrated, open platform. While Box is recognized for focusing on seamless collaboration, frictionless security, and integrations with over 1,500 applications, the value provided to customers makes Box truly stand out.
Box helps organizations manage the entire content lifecycle in one place with native authoring, commenting, sharing, process automation, and e-signature, along with a 100% focus on content. 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.
In 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's] 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 67% of the Fortune 500 to keep their most important business content secure, compliant, and available whenever and wherever it's needed. Check out the latest reports from Gartner, Forrester, and IDC to learn more about the CCM capabilities that earned Box the triple crown.