Monday, October 13, 2008

Where is ECM at Educause 2008?

Educause is just a few weeks away and even with all of the bad economic news it would seem that little can stop the popularity of this event. It’s been sold out for months and sponsors like Blackboard and Xythos have been busy preparing to make the most of it both on and off of the show floor. While the higher education community certainly isn’t immune to economic downturns it is somewhat comforting to know that it won’t disappear overnight as the investment banking industry seems to have done.

However, we are experiencing increased requests from institutions about how to reduce administrative costs and better streamline business operations in response to tighter operating budgets. From undergraduate admissions processing to alumni relations there are still a lot of paper documents passing through colleges and universities and, as a result there remains plenty of opportunity to automate these processes and reduce waste.

Enterprise content management (ECM) technologies would appear to be a natural fit to address these campus-wide challenges. Yet, when I look at the list of content management vendors planning to exhibit at Educause I see just a few familiar names such as Oracle, Paperthin, Perceptive Software and SunGard. While Oracle’s Stellent based applications are true ECM solutions, I suspect the primary reason that both SunGard and Oracle attend is to promote their dominant ERP and student information system applications, vs. content management. That basically leaves a couple dedicated web content management suppliers, and Xythos representing the ECM industry to higher education institutions this year.

Of course, Google and Microsoft will each have a big presence at Educause and I suspect both will feature plenty of document collaboration solutions, including Microsoft’s ubiquitous SharePoint. But what explains the absence of traditional ECM leaders like EMC/Documentum, Filenet and OpenText? Are they simply ceding the market to smaller competitors while they focus on healthcare and financial services? Perhaps the academic market is considered unable to afford enterprise quality content management solutions? Maybe the institutions themselves haven’t focused enough attention on the business side of education and the technology needed to help them become more efficient.

I suspect a combination of the above factors contributed to this situation. Coincidentally, most institutions have already become familiar with managing electronic content through their adoption of learning management systems (LMS) such as Blackboard, and WebCT. According to ECAR (EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research), over 82% of higher education institutions have already adopted an enterprise standard LMS. Once content management technology has succeeded improving the core mission of these institutions, it would seem reasonable to expect that it be considered for related business processes. So, perhaps we’re close to a tipping point in the adoption of ECM for managing the business side of higher education.

While success selling to academic computing departments doesn’t guaranty the same in administrative computing, I suspect leading LMS vendors like Blackboard could have an advantage. If solutions from Xythos can appeal to IT administrators in medical research institutions or government agencies, what’s to stop campus admissions or athletics departments from being next? After all, ECM can deliver a wide range of cost saving benefits across distributed campus environments. In tough economic times it would seem to make sense to take advantage of technologies like these to reduce operating costs and keep constituents satisfied

1 comment:

Adam said...

The Enterprise Content Management (ECM) Systems Administrator is responsible for the ongoing vision, design, implementation and support of the institution’s ECM technology architecture. The administrator helps define and execute the ECM strategy through regular interaction with clients. The ability to understand and augment business processes is imperative to the success of this position.


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