Enterprise content management (ECM) systems aren’t historically known to be ‘user-friendly.’ Legacy ECM leaders have struggled for years with unintuitive and primitive user interfaces and complex architecture, a residual perhaps of their time. ECM certainly wasn’t founded with ease-of-use in mind; user engagement simply wasn’t a priority in comparison with the complex engineering needs of content management. All of this has been compounded, too, by the simply absurd cost of traditional ECM systems.

Today, the modern era of IT is demanding a rapid transformation of technology from archaic and complex to streamlined and accessible – and we in the ECM industry are not immune. User engagement has become an immediate priority for any kind of technology, and a compelling user experience (UX) can be the difference between a sale and a loss. Buyers and analysts alike are keen to see improvement in this area, with mobility, user experience design, and accessibility pegged as critical elements to factor into an ECM strategy.

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What is user experience?

A part of the problem for vendors trying to crack the UX code is that they don’t fully understand what goes into the user experience. When we talk about UX, we’re not simply referring to a technology’s user interface (UI). The UX encompasses all aspects of an end-users interaction with the technology and the company. That means things like visual design, information architecture, content structure, interaction channels, and services all play important roles in creating a great UX.

But the UX is about more than just people – it’s about things. The Internet of Things (IoT) and consumerization trends are consistently throwing wrenches into the UX equation. Cross-platform design challenges are increasing as more objects are acquiring connectivity and computing power. Mobility and ‘instant access’ capabilities are continuously raising user expectations. Paired with the growing needs of the 24-hour, “always-on” enterprise (in addition to an increasingly global workforce), designing a comprehensive yet streamlined UX seems like a lofty (or virtually impossible) goal.

Can ECM vendors really match the consumerization of IT?

ECM is never going to be a one-click operation, caveat emptor. But that doesn’t mean that we as vendors should surrender to the complexity of the traditional ECM system. The evolution of IT has shown most of us by now that ignoring industry trends can be a fatal error, and rightfully so.

The reality is that these trends are gaining traction not simply because they’re easy, but because ease-of-use results in higher productivity. Movement towards mobility and cloud-based sync and share isn’t arbitrary. Mobility helps facilitate anytime, anywhere access to content, enabling users to be productive away from their main workstation. With the increasing focus on intelligent content curation as well as capabilities like secure file sync and share, users are able to collaborate and share information on a level previously unseen.

If you stop to think about it, you’ll realize that the driving force of these trends is the need to better connect people with content.  As ECM providers, we are in a unique position to take advantage of this and reinvent the way that users interact with enterprise information. Our industry is seeing enormous shifts away from the restricted and rudimentary approach to ECM strategy; certain vendors are bringing the flexibility of cloud to a previously stalwart infrastructure. Yet industry conversations today indicate that UX continues to be a sore spot for many new ECM adoptions.

The Systemware UX

With 30 years in the industry, our team here at Systemware has seen its fair share of UX sticky wickets: siloed repositories, content dumping grounds, zero visibility, UIs designed with no regard for logic, etc. Every pain point we’ve come across in our time has helped us to better understand how to deliver a superior experience for our users.

Where this is best seen in our solutions is the individualization of the user experience depending on role. The IT architect or administrator’s experience is different from the end-user or the business department head. This ECM Individualized approach allows easier access to the right information in the right context, minimizing disruption and boosting productivity.

From infrastructure and information accessibility to implementation, training, and staffing, we prioritize individualization in support of efficiency. Interoperability, flexibility, and scalability are key components of our enterprise content network (ECN), understanding that these are critical factors that can help customers match the pace of the modern business ecosystem.

UX is a key piece of the strategic puzzle the ECM industry, and it will undoubtedly continue to grow more complex as we see our industry evolve. We know that with new trends will come new user needs, and when those times arise, we won’t be shying away from the challenge – we’ll be leading the charge.