As content technology solutions continue their evolution toward infrastructure components, it begs an answer to the question, “define ECM suite.” There’s certainly no single definitive answer among vendors. However, there are clear trends in terms of the transformation of what were once specialized capabilities into those now considered commodity items. This is not uncommon in software evolution, as Bill Trippe pointed out in a February 2004 Gilbane Report, reminding us that even spell-checking used to be a separate application in days gone by.

Clearly, version control and check in/check out functionality moved to the commodity level long ago in the content technologies market. More recently (and more interesting) functionality shifts in the ECM suite market include email integration, identity and role management, search, and management of broader content types such as rich media and fixed assets. One needs only to review recent suite upgrades by vendors such as Stellent and Hummingbird for confirmation of this evolution.

Organizations making a suite purchase should be aware of these trends; they will surely effect the viability of short and long-term implementation strategies for both IT and business units. Awareness of vendor heritage is also important:

  • Did the suite evolve from a vendor with specialization a content technology solutions such as WCM, DAM, or DM?
  • Did the suite evolve from a platform player now moving into content technology specializations?
  • Did the suite evolve due to aquisition or in-house expansion of specialized solutions?

While not making any claim to “which is better,” I would strongly advise buyers to be aware of vendor heritage, understand the breadth of commodity functionality, and evaluate the depth of expertise in “checklist” evaluation items such as technical support, professional services, and developer resources.