One of the problems with a lot of classes of technology is that they all too often don't solve an immediate business problem. A case in point is enterprise content management, which brings together a lot of related technologies, but hasn't been able to attain significant amounts of traction in corporate environments.
According to MindTouch CEO Aaron Fulkerson, customers don't come to work thinking about enterprise content management. Instead, they are trying to solve a business problem, for example product documentation, that happens to require most of the attributes of an ECM system.
MindTouch today released the 2010 version of its XML-based namesake platform that is specifically optimized to manage product documentation. The new release adds the ability to edit rich objects and search for data more granularly, and includes analytics tools that help customers analyze the quality of their product documentation.
Other attributes of the platform include multi-user editing, RESTful APIs, wikis and content moderation tools that embrace concepts such as crowdsourcing. The difference between MindTouch, said Fulkerson, and a general-purpose ECM tool is that MindTouch focuses primarily on product documentation, which in terms of content management is the number-one problem most businesses are trying to solve today.
The problem with ECM as we know it today, says Fulkerson, is that as a concept ECM tries to aggregate too many things simply for the sake of aggregation. In reality, most business users just want to be able to use their favorite tool of the moment and then have that information magically roll up into a platform that generates a desired output. ECM creates another repository for data without generating a meaningful business result.
While Fulkerson is arguably engaging in ECM semantics, the fact remains that businesses need a compelling reason to buy any kind of software. So you can't help but wonder if the future of ECM is going to be driven more by task-specific applications rather than grandiose visions for managing content across the entire enterprise that never seem to come to pass.