Characteristics of Next Generation Content Management Systems (EDMS.Next)

By: Brian J. Stewart

As described in the first article in this series, Evolution of Enterprise Content Management, enterprise content management is changing. Enterprise content management needs to shift from solution driven implementations to an enterprise information architecture strategy. This means shifting from system design to enterprise information architecture design. Specifically, it means designing systems for data fluidity and connectedness with other systems and processes.

Failure to shift the mindset and content management strategy will continue to lead to data inconsistencies, data redundancy, information locked in content silos, and fragile enterprise application integrations.

The focus of this article, in the Evolution of Enterprise Content Management series, is on identifying the key characteristics of next generational enterprise document management or EDMS.Next as coined in the first article in this series. The five key characteristics of EDMS.Next solutions are:

Characteristic 1: Improved data flow
Characteristic 2: Improved data consistency
Characteristic 3: Enhanced data accessibility and discoverability
Characteristic 4: Added platform independence for content authoring and consumption
Characteristic 5: Increased integration outside organizational boundaries

Let’s look at these characteristics in more depth.

Characteristic #1: Improved data flow

Information is seldom contained to a single system or business process, rather it is often repurposed by reentering data into systems in downstream business processes. The paradigm shifts for EDMS.Next is the evolution of use cases from solution-centric content creation and consumption to enterprise-level resulting in data fluidity.

There are several design patterns and strategies that will be explored in depth in future articles in this series, however at the core, EDMS.Next focuses design on automating entire business processes through all systems. It focuses on designing solutions to enable enterprise application integration.

Specifically, for EDMS.Next, it is foremost the ability to extract metadata and content from systems in a standardized manner, regardless of the underlying content storage platform. Standardized data extraction services enable metadata and content to propagate or flow to systems in downstream business processes without costly custom system integrations that are all too common in most organizations.

The next important step for EDMS.Next is to leverage industry standards for web services and standardized data extraction services to automate the content creation and metadata propagation to downstream business processes rather than relying on manual user input.

There are many real and tangible benefits of improved data flow. Most importantly, the key benefit is the elimination of manual duplicate data entry. Secondly, improved data flow leads to data accuracy. Thirdly, improved data flow leads to more efficient business processes through increased productivity. Lastly and more strategically, it leads to reallocation of business and technical resources to more value added activities within the organization.

Characteristic #2: Improved data consistency

The second important characteristic of EDMS.Next solutions is data consistency across enterprise systems. Data consistency means that the systems use not only common data dictionaries for selection lists but also a common consistent data model for document taxonomies.

The primary goal of effective Master Data Management (MDM) strategy is common data dictionaries or master data. Master data often includes industry standard data lists, as well as organizational specific data lists. Examples of industry standard data lists include language and country and region names and codes. Examples of organizational specific data lists include products, site and facility locations, and active ingredients.

However, it is important to recognize that MDM is only part of the solution for ensuring data consistency across enterprise systems. The second and equally important aspect of data consistency is the schema or data model. This is achieved through an effective Enterprise Taxonomy Management (ETM) strategy. Effective organizational taxonomy design includes standardization and publication of entity definition, but also consistent nomenclature.

The benefits of data consistency are lower costs through centralized data management, decreased system integration costs, improved quality and data accuracy. Ultimately this leads to higher productivity and improved regulatory compliance.

Characteristic #3: Enhanced data accessibility and discoverability

The third characteristic of EDMS.Next solutions is enhanced data accessibility and discoverability. Improving the ability to find and access information, regardless of application boundaries, increases productivity, streamlines business processes, and improves data quality. It enables organizations to better leverage information.

There are several ways organizations can improve information accessibility and discoverability, however, the most important way is through enterprise search. Although, the effectiveness of enterprise search is not simply implementing full-text search or property driven search. True enterprise search is built on consistent taxonomies and master data, effective classification and organization of information, standardized interfaces, and open systems and frameworks.

Although effective enterprise search is critical, enterprises must also recognize information accessibility is more critical than enterprise search. Tremendous potential exists with “big data” solutions around their content and metadata. This can lead to opportunities for process improvement, insights, and corrective actions. It’s about measuring and improving business processes beyond simple traditional workflow metrics in content repositories. It’s about making information accessible with a few clicks rather than logging into multiple content repositories to find the information a user needs to make a decision or answer an inquiry.

Lastly, information accessibility and discoverability is greatly enhanced through enterprise information catalogs which are created as part of the Enterprise Taxonomy Management strategy. Organizations should create a centralized catalog to manage taxonomies at the enterprise level. The repository should contain descriptions of data entities and properties or attributes.  The centralized repository should be current and searchable, as well as aligned to the MDM strategy and industry standards which will enable organizations to better map data through business processes.

Characteristic #4: Added platform independence for content authoring and consumption

Traditional EDMS implementations are tied to specific web browser versions and users often experience incompatibilities when accessing the system using different web browsers or devices. Thus extensive testing is required before rolling out new browser versions, and many times user experience is degraded by rendering issues.

In contrast, EDMS.Next solutions are built upon open web standards and work across different web browsers and platforms. This means embracing industry web standards such as HTML5 and CSS3.

It also means quickly moving off legacy browsers and keeping pace with technological innovations with web technologies. Organizations can avoid lagging web innovations by fully embracing automated web application testing to certify new browser versions with applications more quickly. Traditionally, organizations generally look to automated testing for performance testing, however significant technological innovations in automated testing can save organizations tremendous time, effort, and money.

Lastly, EDMS.Next is about enabling content consumption and creation regardless of web browser or device. Organizations need to support mobility through smartphones and tablets, as well as  consumerization and bring-your-own-devices. Employees are increasingly working remotely and traveling. Enterprise content repositories need to be accessible to any user at any time using any device.

 Characteristic #5: Increased integration and access outside organizational boundaries

Data is increasingly created or consumed across organizational boundaries. This is often challenging with traditional EDMS implementations, as these solutions aren’t designed to support external authentication and access.

First and foremost, application servers need to be considerably more secure to prevent unauthorized access and hacking. Second, the security model often needs to be revamped to enable external users to access or create only the information to which they need without comprising sensitive information. Third, network and firewall rules need to be adjusted to provide external access. Fourth, system maintenance windows and application support structures need to accommodate external and often global users.

In contrast, EDMS.Next solutions are designed and built from the ground up with external integration and external access. This means infrastructure is hardened to prevent data breaches and hacking, as well as leveraging industry standards for authentication and access. It also means designing a flexibility document security model for a broad spectrum of user roles which are both internal and external.

Lastly, it also means supporting industry standards for content management. For example, in life sciences, it means consortium involvement and leveraging industry standards such as the DIA Reference Model.


EDMS.Next is about moving beyond content repositories and application boundaries to improve data flow, data consistency, information accessibility, user platform independence, and access outside of organizational boundaries. The benefits for organizations that adopt EDMS.Next are endless, but the cost of ignoring these characteristics and trends will undoubtedly result in significant competitive disadvantage.

Additional Sources

  1. Evolution of Enterprise Content Management