What Are Content Services?
Content Services intelligently and efficiently capture information, and send it to the right person, department, or process using digital channels, usually through the cloud. Because Content Services are based in the cloud, they ensure your business meets changing compliance regulations while remaining cost effective and scalable. They provide a broad set of capabilities for managing content to meet specific business needs characterized by a modular, results-driven approach. Leading research and analyst company Gartner coined the term in 2017, defining it as "a set of services and micro services, embodied either as an integrated product suite or as separate applications that share common APIs [automated programming interfaces] and repositories, to exploit diverse content types and to serve multiple constituencies and numerous use cases across an organization."
The term replaces enterprise content management (ECM), which industry leaders found inadequate to describe developing market dynamics and organizational needs. Content services augment the ECM ideology, broadening the focus to encompass information access, collaboration, and sharing.
New Way to Navigate New Challenges
Business processes don’t exist in isolation; they contribute to a complex value chain. Their performance can be measured by how efficiently content moves across processes, departments, and organizations. Taking in and incorporating raw data into business applications effectively is a major hurdle in the race to intelligent automation. Traditional ECM solutions, emphasizing document-intensive processes, cannot accommodate new, pressing challenges of data utilization. Content services aim to mitigate the threat of information chaos and meet the ever-evolving demands of content management.
With an escalating shift toward the cloud, content services are playing an increasingly integral role in the digital business and workplace. However, this doesn't call for a total upheaval of ECM systems. Content services are a more strategic approach that fits content to business objectives. With this perspective, organizational needs and goals, (rather than IT mandates) drive content management.
Facets of Content Services
Content services is an umbrella term for an intertwining of platforms, applications, and components that manage content.
Content Services Platforms
Content services platforms expand on ECM solutions. Where ECM comprises a monolithic, single repository, these platforms have a primary repository and link with other repositories to facilitate enterprise-wide information access, governance, and life cycle management.
Content Services Applications
Content services applications supply solutions for specific uses across the enterprise. Content-enabled applications also involve vertically focused applications such as those for engineering, accounting, human resources, or life insurance underwriting. Content services applications have a more focused grouping of content-related services than ECM platforms do. Examples include:
- Contract management
- Vendor invoice management
- Case and claims management
- Employee information management
Content Services Components
Content services components are utility-based services that extend the functionality of existing applications. They are typically used by APIs rather than the end user. Examples include:
- Document capture
- Invoice Processing
- Managing Employee Records
- External file-sharing utilities
- Language translation
- Automated bookmarks
The term ECM is still in use, but the concept has evolved into content services that allow companies to integrate new capabilities into their current ECM solutions for improving automation, information sharing, and other vital functions. Content services technology lets organizations build on the immense knowledge and capital investment already available. It merely offers a different approach to handling information.
Benefits of Content Services
Content services allow companies to optimize the value of the data and content available to them. Instead of segregating content in a separate repository that is difficult to access, content services do more to connect people, content, and processes across organizations and with customers, business partners, and suppliers.
Key advantages include:
Empowerment of Knowledge Workers
Content services applications allow the right users to obtain and work with the content they need. Platforms allow for no- or low-code development of plug-ins. This enables enhancement of the user experience without changes to the primary content repository. Users have access to dynamic content brought into the context of the applications they use. Equipped with personalized information, employees can work more efficiently and focus on profit-building tasks.
Content services are web-based, so they're easily deployable and scalable. Users can access them on any device from any location. Content service platforms enable users to mesh new content services with existing ECM systems to create unique hybrid content services.
Enhanced Information Access and Sharing
Automated and intelligent indexing and categorization potential let users better manage any content from creation to removal. Wherever content is housed, it can be quickly and effortlessly searched and retrieved. Content services platforms help you automate and control the flow of content within and across departments, external partners, and customers to satisfy your particular business needs.
Reinforced Information Governance and Compliance
Content services platforms can provide a single, reliable source of integrated records management, version control, and search capabilities over business data, whether it's stored within the platform or in other repositories such as ERPs, accounting systems, SharePoint and Salesforce. Creating a single origin for any piece of content helps ensure that all content activity adheres to internal, external, and governmental procedures and policies.
Organizations often have information stored in several different archives. While ECM would require identifying, capturing, and centralizing the data, a content services platform keeps content where it originated while allowing easy access and proper governance. A cloud-agnostic platform can support private, public, and hybrid cloud storage. With greater control of all content spread throughout the organization, knowledge workers and leaders can apply advanced analytics to sharpen decision-making.
What to Look for in Content Services Technologies
The content services market continues to give increasing importance to the cloud, intelligence, user experience, and configurability. It's important to research beyond marketing verbiage and look at differentiating aspects. Some major distinctions have to do with commercial terms, underlying structures, supported features, and release cycles. Gartner advises leaders responsible for procuring content service technologies to:
- Research details on parity between cloud features and on-premises sets, as well as access to product upgrades
- Verify that the vendor's AI architecture fits with the organization's AI implementation strategy
- At the least, ask for demonstrations that clearly show how the services play in certain business scenarios
How to Use Information vs. Where to Store It
Essentially, ECM offers a centralized methodology to accomplish operational goals. Content services draw from multiple tools and strategies to enhance efficiency. For instance, ECM focuses on how to convert paper documents into digital information for dissemination. Content services focus more on who needs that information, dissecting the data so that end users get exactly and only what they need to execute tasks and meet objectives.
Business needs have grown and changed drastically from the days of ECM repositories. Expectations of knowledge workers and employers, the supply chain, customers, and compliance authorities call for greater flexibility with information access and delivery. ECM's fundamentals of access, aggregation, and governance continue to underpin successful information management, but content services provide increasingly efficient and effective solutions for end users.