Take Your Place In The ECM Mainstream
As a music buff, I am always torn when an underground band or artist that I faithfully follow suddenly hits it big with a single. While I’m glad the artist is finally gaining recognition through airplay on the radio and MTV, a part of me also feels dejected because now a world of fair-weather fans is in on a secret that used to be shared by a select group of loyal listeners. I believe many content management VARs face a similar conundrum as ECM (enterprise content management) technologies continue their push into the mainstream business market.
There is no arguing that ECM’s move to the mainstream is good for the industry, providing more sales opportunities for everyone involved. However, in a market where VARs and systems integrators used to be among the few that had the expertise to implement full-blown ECM solutions, they are now facing increased competition from new players outside this close-knit fraternity. For example, office equipment dealers are beginning to gain the expertise necessary to integrate ECM technologies with MFP (multifunction peripheral) devices as a way to combat dwindling copier hardware margins. VARs also will be confronted by added vendor competition as corporate giants such as Microsoft and Oracle entrench themselves in the ECM market with the release of new workflow and basic content services this year.
Now more than ever, VARs must differentiate themselves to succeed in an increasingly competitive market. Furthermore, VARs may need to target a slightly different audience than they have in the past. SMBs will be the primary growth market for ECM going forward. VARs must tap into the needs of SMBs and structure their solutions and sales techniques according to the way this audience does business. The first step in this process is to realize that SMBs are likely to deploy ECM departmentally rather than enterprise-wide. Specializing in departmental ECM solutions for specific vertical market applications (e.g. medical records management, e-government) or common business processes (e.g. accounts payable processing, human resource management) can be a good way to stand out from the pack and make more ECM sales.