EFSS solutions have been steadily gaining the favors of individuals, and are now making their way into the corporate sphere. Is that a bad omen for the ECM industry? The answer is not so simple.
While the ECM industry has been making changes to keep up with the current trends – cloud, mobility, and IoT – an increasing number of users seem to prefer to them the simplicity of EFSS (Enterprise File Sync and Share) solutions such as SugarSync, iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive and Box.net, to cite a few. Soon enough EFSS solutions are gaining popularity among employees and we can only wonder: is it a threat to the ECM Industry?
EFSS: What is it all about?
As Gartner describes it, EFSS refers to “a range of on-premises or cloud-based capabilities that enable individuals to synchronize and share documents, photos, videos and files across multiple devices, such as smartphones, tablets and PCs. File sharing can be within the organization, as well as externally (e.g., with partners and customers) or on a mobile device as data sharing among apps. Security and collaboration support are critical capabilities of EFSS to address enterprise priorities.”
EFSS has been increasingly widespread among individuals, and now employees, because of its simplicity and ease of use. Often cited are the following benefits:
- Increase collaboration by enabling employees to not only view but also to edit and work on the same documents at the same time, internally or externally, while being notified in real-time of the changes
- No IT maintenance or software management hassle, as opposed to ECM solutions which is both resource and cost-saving
- Free or inexpensive storage, repositories, and file-sharing functionalities
- Provides quick, easy and remote access to files, without having to log through a VPN as it is required when using an ECM system
- Enhance mobility, by granting access to the employees from their own personal devices, in alignment with the BYOD trends
- Deliver content across multiple channels
With that being said, does that ring the bell of ECM’s defeat?
How does ECM compare?
Well, you should give ECM the benefits of the doubt before selling it off. Indeed, if EFSS offers functionalities and advantages in areas ECM is lacking, the same can be say once the tables are being switched around. Sure, ECM is expensive and more difficult to deploy, but it is justified by the added value of its system:
- Security: ECM systems offer a level of security highly superior to those of the EFSS solutions, through Digital Signatures, Access Control and Permissions
- Bulk Processing: need to manage and deal with large amount of files? ECM makes things easier with bulk processed content functionalities
- Document Lifecycle: manage your document from its creation until its archiving and purging, and keep track of its history
- Workflows: empower employees by allowing them to automatize daily tasks such as invoices, contracts, or new account opening
- Compliance/Audit: Keep track of your document history, automatically schedule their retention time according to regulation and stay auditable at any given time
And the winner is?
As disappointing as it might be there is actually not clear winner here. And this is probably because there is not much of a battle to being with.
These solutions are not competing against each other as much as it may seem on a first impression. Indeed, because of the difference in their offering as detailed before, EFSS might be the perfect solution for one organization but ECM would be a better fit for the next one. And the choice comes down to the customer and their specific needs and requirements. Looking for a simple, standalone and easy to use file sharing solution with little need for security? EFSS would be the right one. But if you happen to be looking for a secure, highly automated document management system, you will be better off going shopping on the side of the ECM providers.
Then it can happen that the customers fit in both categories, for different kind of content. In that case, there is nothing wrong about deploying both solutions side by side, as ECM systems are actually designed to be integrated and working seamlessly with other systems.
Some will object – “But what about companies like Box.net that are developing additional capabilities similar to those of ECM’s?” It is true that some EFSS providers are moving further in that direction, adding functionalities such as e-discovery, privacy, information governance and so on. However and interestingly enough, ECM providers are also glancing at EFSS offering and are coming up with hybrid solutions that offer the advantage of cloud storage and sharing while ensuring an on-premise grade security.
So yes, EFSS is making waves, but cloud file sharing capabilities are not exclusive to EFSS providers and are becoming increasingly widespread and a commodity. EFSS is extending its capabilities because users are asking for more, and is a stand-alone solution the same way Document management, Capture, and Workflows were once before being absorbed into ECM. All of these hints suggest that EFSS, instead of representing a threat or hurdle to ECM, is actually paving the way for ECM to an enhanced cloud computing, syncing, and sharing offer for their users.