Image by: NiseriN, ©2017 Getty Images

Gartner announced earlier this year that enterprise content management (ECM) was dead and that the industry’s focus should shift toward content services instead. While this caused some intense debate, most still agree that ECM technology is a service—not a business solution. This change became more evident in Gartner's 2017 "Magic Quadrant for Content Services Platforms."

More Than a Name Change

With a couple of its latest reports, we’ve started to see the definition of content services platforms emerge from Gartner. They define a content services platform as:

A set of services and microservices, embodied either as an integrated product suite or as separate applications that share common APIs and repositories, to exploit diverse content types and to serve multiple constituencies and numerous use cases across an organization.

In the Magic Quadrant for Content Services Platforms, Gartner evaluates individual vendors on their content services capabilities and categorizes these companies as either classic content management systems or services-led content platforms.

The Magic Quadrant identifies four vendors as services-led content platforms, including Alfresco, Box, M-Files, and Nuxeo. The report also notes that Everteam is making moves toward this category as well. The key to this change are features like microservices and multiple repository integrations. More specifically, Alfresco supports in-place records management with content in other repositories. M-Files Intelligent Metadata Layer indexes content from other repositories. Nuxeo has announced its ability to access content in multiple other repositories as well as migrate that content. Everteam is supporting records management in Documentum and FileNet.

Gartner also identifies classic content management systems in their report, including Hyland, Laserfiche, Newgen Software, and SER Group.

The evolution to content services is evident in the Quadrants themselves: Nuxeo has debuted in the Visionary quadrant; Box’s inclusion places it as a Visionary; and Alfresco, a Challenger, and M-Files, another Visionary, move closer to the Leader category. All of these vendors are in a position to challenge the Leaders in the 2018 report.

Both Hyland and OpenText remained in the Leader quadrant for 2017. Microsoft moved into the Leader quadrant with SharePoint positioning as a foundation for content services. IBM moved from the Leader quadrant to Challenger due to leadership changes.

Change Is in the Air

When Gartner released the "Hype Cycle for the Digital Workplace, 2017" in July, it included content services platforms as a technology that was reaching the “Peak of Inflated Expectations.” It placed the technology as five to 10 years out. This wasn’t intended to mean that we wouldn’t see content services for five years, but that it would be commonplace by then.

Vendors that are still focusing on classic content management systems should realize that the change is happening—with or without them. As content services platforms start allowing for a mix of best-of-breed microservices that work with content in any source, silos will come to an end. Those platforms that don’t operate with others will quickly find their customers migrating out of their silos and into platforms that do.

Marko Sillanpaa is co-founder of the blog Big Men On Content and the founder of BMO Consulting. He has been working in ECM for over 18 years for vendors like Documentum, EMC, Hyland, and SDL Trados and systems integrators like CSC and Accenture. Follow him on Twitter @MSillanpaaBMOC.