Analyst(s):Joe Mariano, Monica Basso, Karen A. Hobert, Michael Woodbridge
Application leaders are struggling to optimize collaboration and access, as well as protect content as it passes both in and out of different repositories. The approaches to content services used by our four Cool Vendors can streamline these processes and provide new ways to work.
Reuse, not duplication, of content is becoming common. Instead of needing to create new documents from scratch, document construction is achieved by recycling previous document elements and structures.
Thanks to the maturity of many out-of-the-box integrations and APIs, the need to move content from application to application to satisfy specific business cases is decreasing, allowing content to be born, live and die in the same repository, or move seamlessly without employee interaction over its life cycle.
As cloud-based repositories continue to grow in popularity, the amount of people who have access to any single piece of content has also grown. This ease of access can potentially expose content to new types of malicious activity.
Application leaders seeking to optimize content as part of a digital workplace program:
Develop a gap analysis of your current collaborative processes for creating content by investigating both methodological and technological perspectives.
Create a culture of reuse by considering how best to streamline the process through content services technology.
Integrate current content repositories by using out-of-the-box connectors and API sets.
Mitigate risks in your outside repositories by determining the threat levels associated with everyone that has access.
By 2019, the current ECM market will devolve into purpose-built, cloud-based content solutions and content services applications.
By 2020, 50% of major EFSS and ECM vendors will transform their existing offerings into content services platforms.
This research does not constitute an exhaustive list of vendors in any given technology area, but rather is designed to highlight interesting, new and innovative vendors, products and services. Gartner disclaims all warranties, express or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.
Enterprise content management (ECM) continues its evolution into content services as described in "Reinventing ECM: Introducing Content Services Platforms and Applications."
Gartner defines content services as: "A set of services or microservices, embodied either as an integrated product suite or as separate applications, which share common APIs and repositories, to exploit diverse content types and to server multiple constituencies and numerous use cases across an organization."
The four companies included in this Cool Vendors report have displayed innovative offerings in the realms of content creation, automation, integration and protection that can extend how content is accessed across repositories in a secure and compliant manner (see Table 1).
Provides a unified interface for collaborative document authoring, preserving all changes in a single file.
Transforms content into machine readable and reusable objects that can then be used to automatically update and create standard business documents.
Decomposes, disarms and reconstructs content to make it usable again if the content has come into contact with malicious code.
Provides content integration layers that enable an access point to a wide range of enterprise repositories.
Source: Gartner (May 2017)
Taking a hypothetical situation of creating a business case, we can show how these content services can seamlessly create, automate, access and secure content across repositories while enhancing the group collaboration and creation experience, as shown in Figure 1.
Source: Gartner (May 2017)
The four stages of this process might include:
Creation: Using ActiveWrite's unified interface, a single version of the business case is created and collaborated on to meet the business objective. Employees create content together, managing one version of the document created, and can track each contributor's changes at paragraph level. With ActiveWrite version control, document elements removed from version 2.0 can be brought back in version 4.0 if the need arises. The members of the team are able to streamline the process of creating a business case, cut back on duplicate entries, and ensure that they are working on the most up-to-date version of the document at all times.
Automation: The business case is a success and the team is now tasked with creating a number of businesses cases that use similar sections, data and clauses. Once the initial business case document is created, Quark automates the transformation of the content into machine-readable formats. Individual content elements (including text, images and other media) in any file can then be reused to automatically create new documents. Subsequent edits to a content element in one document can be refreshed in all other documents that use that element. When a new business case needs to be created, there is no need to start from scratch, or search for commonly used clauses and document elements. Content objects used in previous business case documents are automatically detected and assembled as a new business case that can be refined by the team.
Integration: The business case will need to be stored long term alongside other complimentary documents such as project plans, RFPs, contracts and meeting notes. All of these content types could reside in different content repositories, including cloud-based and on-premises storage. Through Xillio's smart integration set, content stored in different repositories can be accessed through a unified view, cutting back the need to jump from application to application and perform multiple searches and reviews to find the right (or connecting) information.
Protection: Finally, the business case may need to be reviewed by both internal and external groups. Sending the business case beyond the enterprise firewall could expose it to malicious code. Votiro will provide threat protection across multiple cloud and on-premises services and applications. This is accomplished through disarming any malicious code the content comes into contact with, and then reconstructing it in a safe and usable form that can be brought back into an application like ActiveWrite for creative and collaborative purposes. By doing so, the data is not lost, and can be used without slowing down the business process.
In many traditional scenarios, content collaboration is still carried out via email or even "disconnected" collaboration methods (such as monolithic repositories or other stand-alone solutions). These new application and services represent potential disrupters to traditional content management, collaboration and security services. With many traditional content services technologies, data is still segregated within departments, making it difficult for an organization to easily curate the best of its content and creation methods. From a security perspective, many of these service are reactive rather than proactive. Through this scenario, we can see how these technologies helps to streamline the collaborative process while still protecting the content.
Hilliard, Ohio ( http://activewrite.com )
Analysis by: Karen Hobert
Why Cool: ActiveWrite is cool because it allows granular viewing, editing and refreshing of document sections in a concurrent and collaborative document authoring interface. Like other authoring tools, ActiveWrite allows multiple concurrent users to edit a document in a single web-based editor while preserving all changes and versions in the same file. Unlike other content collaboration tools (including Google Docs and Microsoft Word Online), ActiveWrite provides granular control over the viewing, editing, branching and refreshing of document elements at a paragraph level.
ActiveWrite disrupts common document collaboration processes that involve multiple files or multiple versions of documents by using an interactive interface to access a single document. It eliminates emailing, tracking, finding and assembling of documents because every edit and every version is tracked in one online document. With ActiveWrite, the writing is isolated in one file that all authors can edit. Concurrent updates and in-line viewers give users historical views of all edits made on the different sections of the document. Document elements are managed at the paragraph level, while changes and versions of the content are saved and tracked as metadata with the original document. ActiveWrite also allows document owners to control which parts of the document can be viewed and/or edited by the different authors. That means users can only see and/or edit sections of the document that the owner has given them permission to use. This granular control also allows for branching of document sections for different target audiences (for example, a clause that is worded differently depending on the reader) and supports the automatic updating of document sections if they are modified elsewhere. Additionally, ActiveWrite optimizes document storage because it creates one file that stores all versions of the edits as metadata rather than as a different files for each edit or version.
Freeing content from its file-based constraints not only improves the content creation experience, but enhances the management, coediting and reuse of enterprise content. With a full view into all versions of a particular section of the document, authors can refresh, roll back, track or audit the document changes for a variety of business purposes. Numerous use cases and capabilities that have previously been carried out manually, and with cumbersome processes, are streamlined with ActiveWrite.
ActiveWrite is a SaaS offering built on Amazon Wed Services (AWS) storage. It can, however, optionally be deployed on-premises or using other storage methods (cloud or on-premises). An open API allows developers and technical partners to use ActiveWrite attributes in other products and applications. ActiveWrite provides analytics to view user activity and track versions for restoring, recreating and optimizing the collaboration of future documents.
Challenges: ActiveWrite is small private firm, so scaling sales and support might prove challenging. Competition from other collaborative authoring products (including Annotate.co, Google Docs, PleaseTech, Microsoft Word Online, Smashdocs, Samepage, Workshare and Xait) — as well as web content and content automation systems that offer content object management — may surpass ActiveWrite's innovation in a short time. ActiveWrite has a web-based interface that uses its own word processor, which is not as robust as Microsoft Word or others (although users can import Word files). Differentiation will be achieved through the strategic rollout of planned innovation, enhanced file importing and web editors, plus strategic business and technical partnerships.
Who Should Care:
Customers looking to support concurrent authoring of content across teams of contributors while maintaining access and management over discrete document elements and sections.
Authors of complex works that need to collaborate concurrently or asynchronously with the appropriate granular control over dependencies based on team or individual rights or roles.
Businesses that have a requirements to track, reuse and report on information use in business-related documents for preservation or auditing purposes.
Denver, Colorado ( www.quark.com )
Analysis by: Karen Hobert
Why Cool: The Quark Content Automation platform is cool because it provides an object-oriented approach to the creation, discovery and management of business content. The platform automates the standardization of content into machine-readable and reusable objects.
Once standardized, unstructured information (such as text, images, data and media) can be detected in order to assemble, manage and refresh business documents, as well as the discrete information elements within those documents. This automation not only assures the precision and accuracy of documents and information throughout the content ecosystem, it also streamlines the cumbersome and time-consuming manual processes that are needed create and keep business content up to date.
Consider the line-of-business analyst that needs to develop an annual report using common, text-based clauses (legal clauses or disclaimers, for example), charts, images and data that has been collected and saved throughout the year. Quark's content automation platform assists in the detection of reusable content elements, and the assembly of a new report using other stored content. Likewise, Quark's content automation platform can be used to generate high volumes of similar documents (such as investor reports and operating procedures) that can, without additional resources or labor, be routinely tracked and audited for regulatory compliance needs.
Quark Content Automation challenges established file-based approaches to managing and storing business content. While some products, such as customer communications management (CCM) tools, offer similar automation for customer engagement through rich media, Quark also focuses on supporting internal business processes in addition to client interactions. Automating the creation of documents with machine-readable content objects offers businesses new approaches to the life cycle of business content by providing easy identification of information elements to deliver contextualized experiences for business users based on their activity and previous work. Object-based content automation disrupts file-based content services offerings — including document managers and file sync and share offerings that are focused on the file as a whole, rather than the information elements contained within the file.
One benefit of object-based document assembly models is that, as information changes in one document, it is automatically refreshed across all documents that also use the same information. This automation is beneficial, especially when standardized document elements are modified and need to be propagated across all documents. File-based systems require time-consuming manual processes to accomplish similar tasks. This capability alone is attractive to line-of-business buyers with purpose-focused content development, creation and management requirements. Additional efficiencies and productivity benefits are gained through automated identification of information objects and the elimination of cut/copy/paste activities that typically plague document preparation.
In the last few years, Quark has expanded its content automation platform from replacing legacy content management and automation scenarios, to scalable improvement over time to deliver business content. More recently, it has begun to interface with artificial intelligence platforms like IBM Watson, which allows it to analyze large volumes of business content in order to semantically tag the content and foster improved user experiences through the detection of objects in the context of business processes.
Challenges: Authoring is limited to using certain authoring systems and file formats, specifically Quark's two authoring tools (Quark XML Author for Word, and Quark Author). Word is best for word processing jobs (like manuals, standardized documents, reports and pitch books). Plug-ins for other Microsoft Office applications (PowerPoint, Excel and Visio), APIs and data connectors extend in-line editing of objects, but may not meet the editing needs of every user in an organization.
Like Quark's roots, other well-established desktop, web and print publishing vendors — as well as CCM vendors — are offering and expanding content automation capabilities that may eclipse Quark's efforts. Differentiation will require strategic partnerships and a strong value proposition to business buyers in order to establish, grow and maintain customer interest. In the meantime, other content services vendors (content services applications and content collaboration platforms, for example) are striving to innovate. This innovation currently includes forays into content automation that may be disruptive as machine learning and artificial intelligence are embedded into platform technologies.
Quark is a small, privately held firm, so its support and sales units may be challenged to scale to demand if the market takes off.
Who Should Care:
Enterprises looking to automate the creation and refreshing of documents using a variety of managed content objects.
Any business that needs to assemble documents using standardized text clauses, images, structured data and other unstructured content that is centrally managed and automatically refreshed across documents that use the content objects.
Businesses that need to automate and simplify end-user creation of new documents that include commonly used text and media elements that can be reused and refreshed over time.
Tel Aviv, Israel ( www.votiro.com )
Analysis by Monica Basso
Why Cool: Votiro is cool because its content disarm and reconstruction technology allows organizations to prevent content-related threats, through content validation and exploit neutralization. Votiro solutions can apply an active cleansing process to all incoming files — through sharing services, email messages and web downloads — by identifying and neutralizing unknown and zero-day exploits, which cannot be detected by other technologies. This process is fast, transparent, automatic and does not require user intervention to check incoming files. Nor does it impact on their experience. Votiro's products can be deployed in the cloud, on-premises and in hybrid architectures.
Content-based targeted attacks — including the growing threat of ransomware — represent a significant risk, particularly in modern content collaboration scenarios where extended teams of people exchange content from outside to inside the organization. This technology prevents those cyberattacks by scanning and deconstructing, validating file attributes against format specifications, and blocking threats before they spread in the organization's systems. Threats embedded into documents, images and archives can be neutralized.
Votiro's content disarm and reconstruction API allows organizations to integrate this vendor's technology into any customized, content-based application, enhancing it with security and threat protection, and providing it with the ability to clean threats from incoming files.
This technology integrates with main content repositories and can be applied in a variety of use cases, particularly external collaboration scenarios. It can also complement enterprise file synchronization and sharing (EFSS) offerings that are exposed to threats such as ransomware, a malicious attack that can rapidly multiply as a result of the synchronization and sharing capabilities used by many organizations. This technology can prevent a ransomware attack, rather than trying to fix the content once the damage is done. There are few products available to fix such issues in sharing platforms like Box and Dropbox.
Note that content disarm and reconstruction is one of an emerging category of technologies known for email content security, since they can prevent attachment-type attacks, stripping or neutering active content in commonly used content and document types. Votiro goes beyond protecting email attachments, providing an advanced API that organizations can integrate into applications and content services, implementing protection from growing threats such as ransomware.
Votiro's technology can be seen as "content services components," enabling organizations to protect their content repositories and connected applications from security threats that may originate from zero-day exploits.
Votiro has an international business, with customers in multiple regions and sectors including financial, government, utilities and pharmaceutical.
Challenges: Organizations increasingly invest in content cloud services to modernize user productivity and collaboration, but often are not aware of the risks associated with undisclosed or zero-day exploits that may originate from those content services. They may also underestimate the risks of cloud-based services by assuming that cloud providers will cope with those. This may slow down adoption of technologies to prevent potential attacks until threats materialize in a real attack.
Another challenge for Votiro may be limited integration with typical enterprise content repositories that may affect the viability of its technologies.
Finally, Votiro faces competition from incumbent security vendors that may provide these technologies as part of a broader security suite. Votiro will need to continue to differentiate itself from its competitors (such as Check Point Software Technologies, Glasswall Solutions, Opswat, ReSec Technologies and Sasa Software) who could extend their own offerings to protect content beyond email.
Who Should Care:
User organizations that are looking for innovative technologies to digitalize and prevent cyberattacks in their workplace and business processes.
User organizations with content collaboration (through email or web) and EFSS deployments to digitalize their workplace should consider Votiro technologies to reduce the risks of attacks.
Organizations planning a strategy around content services should consider Votiro as a component technology to implement secure content applications and support content usage scenarios.
Hilversum, Netherlands ( www.xillio.com )
Analysis by Michael Woodbridge and Monica Basso
Why Cool: Xillio is cool because it provides technology for integration between content services platforms and a broad range of existing content repositories. Integration is built for data access, and helps prevent redundancy and inefficiency. Xillio offers an enterprise content middleware layer for data integration that is based on a single data model, enabling a single access point to content for users and applications, regardless of the underlying repository.
The integration platform is built on a modern architecture containing components such as the Spring Framework, MongoDB and Elasticsearch, and includes:
A range of connectors to many content repositories (from ECM, WCM and EFSS markets, for example). At the time of writing, there were 26 adaptors available with more on the roadmap for 2017.
A unified data model, for unstructured content, which utilizes business rules (and a domain-specific language Xillio has developed specifically for this purpose) to translate metadata and access control between disparate data models.
This combination of an extensive range of adaptors with a single data model for access to potentially all of an organization's content services provides a much-simplified ability to provide functionality and governance services across its entire content estate.
Established in 2004, Xillio initially started life as a provider of migration services for organizations looking to move between ECM repositories. Over time, it has transitioned into software development, creating tools to support this process. In the last couple of years, Xillio has switched its primary focus from services to software, building on its heritage of inter-repository communications to focus on providing real-time integration between content repositories.
In a world where organizations have a multitude of content services providers in their estate — ranging from traditional on-premises ECM suites, to public cloud storage services, to B2C digital experience platforms and more — Xillio's focus on content integration is particularly timely. The platform is primarily an integration tool rather than an end-user interface, and is therefore most-commonly either embedded into other products, or used by organizations looking to integrate multiple content sources into application development projects.
Xillio's go-to-market strategy has so far been a mixture of direct sales, reseller partners and OEMs, and it has commercial models that are aligned with each of these channels.
Challenges: Xillio is a small company (around 40 people at the time of writing) in a growing market. The potential demand in this market — where organizations are struggling to get control over multiple content repositories — is large, particularly where Xillio is embedded into more platforms via OEM agreements. As its portfolio of adaptors grows, the demands associated with the maintenance of these adaptors for current and legacy versions of the supported source system will increase substantially. Xillio must be able to scale in an agile way to meet market demands and an ever-growing support commitment.
This approach is also not entirely unique. A number of vendors (including EntropySoft and Venetica, since acquired by Salesforce and IBM respectively) have tried to provide such integration services in the past, and have not reached expected levels of market penetration. This has been for many reasons, acquisition and then subsequent lack of investment by larger vendors probably being the most significant pitfalls. The timing of Xillio's arrival in the market — when there is a trend for organizations to focus on the reality of a distributed content ecosystem rather than attempting to centralize along with the differentiating unified data model approach — may create new opportunities this company.
Who Should Care:
Application leaders responsible for distributed content estates that are looking to provide integration between content services.
Content services vendors looking to provide integration capabilities for their products as part of an OEM agreement.