The future of content is customer-centric

Marketing and Offering Strategy Lead, IBM

When I was a Gartner Enterprise Content Management (ECM) analyst, I answered approximately 42,300 client questions. This rough estimate is based on three factors: 9.4 years on the job, an average of 900 inquiries per year and an average of five questions per inquiry. Inquiries, by the way, are scheduled client calls that last half an hour and are often scheduled back to back. A lot more questions didn’t get logged into a system, many of which happened during daylong client sessions or at events. But the point that research analysts answer lots of questions should now be clear.

Back to the future

Oddly, you might wonder what number of questions I asked as an analyst. That number is somewhat reflected by the body of research I delivered—but on the whole qualifies as secret sauce rarely enumerated. But it’s probably best expressed as a confidence algorithm; to answer any question with confidence, you have to have asked many times more questions yourself. Fortunately, I’m curious. What is unfortunate, though, is that I have bad handwriting.’ll admit one administrative failing during my tenure. I wrote down all the questions—and my responses—in Mead Five Star wire-bound notebooks and then filed dozens of them away for further or future analysis. Then I got too busy to properly mine the contents. And, because the technology market moves so quickly, I presumed much of what mattered between 2002 and 2011 to either enterprises or vendors would have been rendered useless by a factor of time. Based on reading through the notebooks recently, I realized I was wrong.

I was looking for one word—customer. Trust that, even with the aforementioned scribbling issue, and even as the night grows long and the wine is nearly gone, I can scan page after page in a shelf full of notebooks and quickly dog-ear those containing a critical word. Or don’t contain it, which in this case was frustratingly the fact. And sometimes unexpected themes become apparent too. The people I most often talked to were IT leaders and enterprise architects. The issues they faced were vendor and product selection, technical integration or troubleshooting, and process and planning optimization. The audience for their efforts was internal. Not a single mention of customer across any of the calls made sense back in the day.

But, wow. Because I know some analysts—those still willing to talk to me—working now, I also know that the shift toward business participation in the technology conversations they host is very clear. I also know that the most common questions they’re asked relate to customer-facing, content-rich processes, where loyalty is the ultimate goal, reputations are made and lost with lightning speed and the value of their investment is obvious because it engages literally everyone. Cloud and mobile technologies, software as a service (SaaS) and apps do engage everyone. Interestingly, another alignment has happened that is driven by changing market conditions; industry analysts and technology providers are hearing the same thing.

All about the customer

At IBM, literally every conversation relates to customers, whether they are ours or they are those of our customers. I say so with certainty because I am still doing research. I’m just not answering as many questions as I ask these days. The question I would suggest you ask is the same I often ask: what recent advances in technology could make the greatest difference in building customer loyalty through better engagement? Learn more in our Newsletter, featuring research from Gartner. Also, consider what investments we’ve already made that can connect us to that future most effectively and economically. I have an answer in mind and hope you do, too. Learn how IBM Enterprise Content Management can help you access, analyze and act on business content.