What are Content Services in 2023? Applications & Benefits

Let‘s face it – every organization today is drowning in digital content. Documents, emails, presentations, invoices, you name it. Important information gets scattered across disconnected systems and siloed repositories. It becomes a huge challenge to manage it all at scale and make content easily accessible so people can do their jobs.

This is where content services come in. Keep reading as I explain what exactly content services are, how they work, real-world use cases, and the many benefits they offer organizations.

Defining Content Services

Content services provide an integrated set of services, powered by cloud technologies, to capture, organize, process, store, analyze, and deliver digital content across the enterprise. They consolidate key capabilities onto a single platform available wherever users are.

As Gartner defines it, content services “offer interoperable components for enterprise-class content management that can be assembled Lego-style into complete solutions."1

Here are some of the core services and capabilities typically included:2

  • Content lifecycle management – apply retention policies, record declarations, preservation rules automatically
  • Document management – check-in/check-out, version control, collaboration
  • Records management – official record declaration, legal holds, disposition
  • Capture and imaging – scan paper, OCR, ingest various formats
  • Case management – manage exceptions, reviews, approvals
  • Workflow – route content and tasks through business processes
  • Search and insight – metadata-based search, auto-classification, analytics
  • Storage services – preserve, migrate, optimize content in archives
  • Security – IAM, encryption, redaction, auditing

Historically these functions were siloed across disparate legacy systems like on-prem ECM, document management, digital asset management, and records management.

Content services consolidate them into modular services that can be configured, extended, and deployed flexibly. This leapfrogs the limitations of legacy ECM.

The Content Chaos Conundrum

Organizations have a massive content sprawl problem. On average, knowledge workers spend over 2 hours per day searching for information across siloed systems and can‘t find the documents they need 30% of the time.3

Meanwhile, the volume of digital content is exploding:

  • Email continues to dominate with over 300 billion emails sent/received daily4
  • There will be over 250 zettabytes of data worldwide by 20225
  • Unstructured data like Office docs, PDFs, images is growing 61% annually6
  • 80% of data today is unstructured7

At the same time, companies operate in hybrid cloud environments combining on-premises systems with cloud content repositories across apps like Office 365, Box, Dropbox, Salesforce, and more.

Managing and deriving value from such vast, fragmented content at scale poses immense challenges. Employees waste countless hours searching, recreating lost items, juggling file versions, and duplicating information trapped in silos.

Why Enterprise Content Management Fails

Traditional ECM suites helped but were never designed for today‘s dynamic digital workplace:

  • Legacy ECMs lack flexibility to adapt as needs evolve
  • They don‘t easily support external collaboration or mobile users
  • Integration with other apps and systems is difficult and expensive
  • They are on-prem focused and aren‘t cloud-native
  • Search is limited since it‘s directory-based rather than metadata-driven
  • User experience is clunky compared to modern tools
  • IT overhead for customizations and integrations is high

According to Forrester, 75% of ECM platforms provide unsatisfactory user experiences.8 They fail to support how people actually work today.

The Rise of Content Services

To truly harness enterprise content, what‘s required is an intelligent information layer that connects users with the content they need. Content services deliver this.

Think of content services as ECM 2.0 – next-gen content platforms built cloud-first that leverage APIs and microservices. They provide an abstraction layer above any repository or app where content lives.

This agility lets organizations break down silos and optimize content usage. Content becomes freed from specific applications. Services make it consumable anywhere via consistent APIs.

Content Services Architecture

Content services consolidate capabilities into modular, composable services. (Source: M-Files)

According to Gartner, more composable, cloud-based content services will replace monolithic ECM suites over the next 5+ years as the market shifts to meet evolving user expectations.9

Diving Into the Platform Architecture

Content services utilize a flexible architecture of distributed services. Let‘s look under the hood at some key components:

Ingestion Services – Smartly classify incoming content from any system via auto-tagging. Multi-format conversion options.

Repository – Central content store organized by metadata rather than folder paths, for advanced lifecycle management.

Processing Services – Extract text, apply OCR, convert file formats, transform content as needed.

Access Services – Identity and access management, contextual security, dynamic permissioning. Desktop and mobile experiences.

Lifecycle Services – Automate records management, retention schedules, expiration, disposition.

Collaboration Services – Enable secure content sharing, concurrent editing, discussions.

Search & Insights – Unified index and search across repositories. Metadata tagging, analytics, recommendations.

Distribution Services – Multi-channel content publishing, internal/external. Contextual delivery.

Administration – IT configures services, monitors operations, manages configurations.

Integration Services – 100s of connectors, APIs, bots. Embed content in applications.

Development Services – Low/no code environment for custom services, if needed.

This service-oriented architecture allows flexible deployment options – public cloud, private cloud, on-premises, or hybrid – without users caring where content is stored.

Breaking Down Key Differences from ECM

While content services leverage ECM capabilities, they diverge in important ways:

Cloud-native first – Content services are designed for the cloud to support distributed teams. ECM is traditionally on-prem focused.

API-enabled – Content services readily integrate via APIs and microservices. ECMs often have proprietary interfaces.

Flexible deployment – Content services don‘t dictate where repositories reside. ECMs managed dedicated content stores.

Mobile and external access – Content services support mobile workers and outside partners. ECMs centered on internal use.

Living user profiles – Content services build contextual user profiles for personalized content. ECM has static user roles.

Open metadata model – Content services are designed metadata-first for findability. ECMs organize via folder hierarchies.

Automated workflows – Content services emphasize automated workflow/lifecycles. ECM workflow often requires custom coding.

User experience – Content services focus on ease of use with transparent UX. ECMs can have cumbersome interfaces.

Total cost of ownership – Content services stress lower administration costs. ECMs often require extensive IT resources.

Risk aversion – ECM users often resist upgrades to avoid disruption. Content services are more flexible.

While there is overlap, content services solutions represent a modernized approach purpose-built for today‘s digital workplace and external collaboration needs.

Real-World Applications Across Industries

Content chaos and fragmentation are universal challenges. Content services apply across many common scenarios:

Manufacturing – centralize product design files, warranties, service manuals for easy technician access

Higher Education – manage student/alumni records; digitize curriculum content

Government – modernize constituent services; enable telework; automate FOIA requests

Healthcare – consolidate patient records across facilities; accelerate medical review workflows

Insurance – simplify claims processing; secure client personal data; speed policy lookups

Professional Services – streamline proposal development; provide 360 client view; enable remote collaboration

Retail – share marketing assets; enable new product rollout; optimize supplier interactions

Finance – securely manage client records; automate customer onboarding; facilitate audits

Any scenario where users need to access, collaborate on, and trust shared digital content is an opportunity for content services.

Quantifying the Benefits

While needs vary, research shows organizations gain both hard and soft benefits from content services adoption:

  • 65% report increased productivity – via enhanced document access and collaboration10
  • 57% cite lower operating costs – through consolidating systems11
  • 52% note reduced compliance risks – by improving records management12
  • 24% faster case completion – via optimized workflows13
  • 62% improved customer service – through better information access14
  • 45% faster time to market – by streamlining new product development15
  • 55% express greater trust in content – via version control, security, and governance16

Better leveraging institutional knowledge, cutting waste, and working seamlessly across silos leads to measurable ROI.

Forrester found that over 3 years, content services solutions deliver:17

  • 209% return on investment
  • 7 month breakeven point
  • $4.2 million net present value per organization

Building the Business Case

Every organization‘s needs and ROI drivers differ. But themes that often resonate when proposing a business case include:

Cost reduction – Consolidate redundant legacy systems. Lower administrative and IT overhead.

Risk mitigation – Improve compliance, transparency, data protection. Reduce threats.

Business continuity – Centralize documents and records securely in the cloud. Facilitate remote work.

Agility – Digitize manual processes faster. Accelerate workflows.

Innovation – Free content from silos. Expose via APIs for analytics, RPA, and apps.

Productivity – Eliminate fruitless searching. Streamline collaboration.

Growth – Onboard new employees faster. Speed time to market. Enhance customer service.

Profitability – Do more with fewer resources. Realize hard dollar savings.

When compiling your business case, focus on your organization‘s pain points and goals. The more you quantify tangible outcomes and ROI, the better.

Getting Started

Transitioning to content services is a journey, not a one-off project. Take an iterative, user-centric approach:

Audit – Catalog current content systems and assess business issues. Interview stakeholders.

Prioritize – Identify key pain points to address upfront that will show quick wins.

Start small – Prove value with a targeted pilot focused on concrete use cases before scaling up.

Manage change – Get user buy-in. Provide training and support to drive adoption.

Measure – Define metrics aligned to business goals. Track progress toward targets.

Optimize – Get continuous feedback. Expand services incrementally to add value.

Reaching out to an expert content services provider can help accelerate and de-risk your path forward.

Key Takeaways

  • Content services consolidate core content management capabilities into modular, cloud-based services
  • They provide an intelligent layer to manage digital assets across fragmented systems
  • Content services solve pressing challenges with sprawling, siloed enterprise content
  • They represent the evolution of ECM for the digital workplace and hybrid cloud
  • Leading use cases span scenarios where stakeholders need to collaborate on documents
  • Organizations see major productivity, cost reduction, risk management, and agility benefits
  • Take an iterative, business-driven approach to launching a content services initiative

As work becomes more digital, distributed, and collaborative, getting control over enterprise content is a competitive necessity. Content services provide the connective tissue.

Hope this overview gives you a better understanding of how content services can transform content chaos into a strategic asset at your organization. To dig deeper, reach out to leading providers today!

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