I have spent nearly two decades selling, designing and delivering complex electronic document management and workflow solutions using third party software.  In 2010 I led a group that was developing a new content management solution from the ground up. It was exciting and fun to be using all that knowledge and experience to design something new and different, yet keeping true to best practices and fundamentals.  Initially the software was designed to be implemented as an on-premise solution but we began porting the technology to support a cloud strategy in early 2011.  As the hours of research and development mounted I gained a unique perspective on the many approaches to cloud computing for document storage and collaboration.  I relied on internal team members to focus on the core development activities while I continued to lay out key areas that would differentiate the product.

My guiding design principle was simplicity.  “Give the user everything the need and nothing they don’t”

At this years Info360 event in Washington DC I heard Aaron Levie echo some of these same perspectives in his keynote addresses.  I spoke with Spencer Chen from Huddle and heard some of what they are doing differently from Box.  Although a review of the websites make it clear that they both see SharePoint as their main competitor.  What they all have in common is a fundamental belief that paper is irrelevant so they don’t really address the capture aspects that are important to any real world deployment of ECM technology.

Jeff Shuey, whom I respect a great deal recently posted a blog after the Microsoft WPC11 event that shows this bias in a bold quote from Steve Ballmer.  The difference in the approach I was taking came from my experience implementing Legacy ECM solutions for accounts payable, human resources, medical records, waybills, etc.  There are just some basic facts of document management, records management and compliance that cannot be ignored or dismissed.  Granted some of what the enterprise thinks they need and what they really need are often very different.  But that should be managed as a function of solution sales,  professional consulting and project management.  To simply dismiss these functions or requirements leaves the solution incomplete and more importantly leaves real revenue on the table.

There are a variety of software offerings that are gaining momentum in the Cloud space.  They each differ slightly in their functional approach and cost.  Some like Box and Huddle are focused on simplicity using a file sharing approach to make collaboration easy and affordable.  Others like SpringCM and FileBound are taking a more holistic approach and incorporating more traditional document management capture, storage, auditing, workflow and search functions.

Key components to consider:

Advanced features to consider:

Costs are all over the board some services are focused on giving you free storage while others are using a more traditional method of selling the software either in a monthly fee or annual contract.  I have only touched on 4 of the players in this market.  There are dozens more in niche industries like Medical, Real Estate, Transportation, and Legal that may be relatively unknown to some ECM professionals.  To say the least there is no shortage of options and I am certain more will be popping up in the near future.

If you have used any of the 4 products highlighted we would like to hear from you in the comment section.

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