There are those inside and out the enterprise content management (ECM) space who would argue that the whole category is a figment of some marketer's imagination. There never has been a real end-to-end approach to managing content in the enterprise. Instead, there's a series of departmental applications running on any number of the application infrastructures that are never integrated with anything.
One of the bigger proponents of this point of view is Dan Carmel, CEO of SpringCM, an enterprise-class content management system offered as a cloud service. Carmel acknowledges that there is likely to be more competition in an ECM cloud space that his company pioneered, but he says when you look at the entire category, it's really a roll-up of a lot of individual applications built on top of offerings such as Microsoft SharePoint, EMC Documentum, IBM Notes and a host of other departmental systems. The number of companies effectively integrating these systems into a holistic enterprise framework could probably be counted on one hand. So ultimately, what we have with ECM is a software category that doesn't really exist, and if it did, it would be an oxymoron.
Companies, however, will be turning in droves to the cloud to run these applications because the internal IT department is tired of trying to support large numbers of overly complex applications. Similarly, users are tired of having to wait for IT to get around to setting up their next SharePoint or Lotus Notes application. None of this has been lost on Microsoft, IBM and a host of others that are moving these platforms into the cloud.
How all this competition in the cloud will actually shake out remains anybody's guess. But it seems that down the road somewhere, we stand a better chance of ultimately integrating these applications across a common set of federated cloud computing services once we get some appropriate standards than we'll ever get trying to stitch together hundreds of complex departmental applications running on local servers that nobody has the time or desire to really manage.