I am frequently asked this question: “How big is the ECM industry?”
Much as I would LOVE a simple answer, every time I am asked, I usually flash to the phrase popularized by Mark Twain, and attributed to many: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
Consider the following. (I’m especially amused by the “precision” of two decimal points in some of these estimates.)
Marketsandmarkets.com – “The ECM market size is expected to grow from USD 28.10 Billion in 2016 to USD 66.27 Billion by 2021, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 18.7% during the forecast period. The major drivers of this market include increasing need among enterprises to adopt ECM solutions to streamline business processes and ensure optimal resource usage and increased traction for risk mitigation in content management.”
“…the Cloud Enterprise Content Management (ECM) Market size is estimated to grow from USD 9.77 Billion in 2017 to USD 34.42 Billion by 2022, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 28.6% during the forecast period.”
Gartner – “The ECM market grew 1.4% in 2015 to a worldwide size of $5.4 billion. The combined share of IBM, OpenText and EMC dropped more than 6 points from 43.7% in 2013 to 37.6% in 2015, as many midsize and regional vendors out-competed their larger international rivals, growing their combined share.”
Radicati Group – “The ECM market will grow from $5.5 billion in 2014 to over $9.4 billion in 2018, this is an average annual growth of 15% over the next four years.”
Statista – “In 2015, the content management software market was valued at 14.7 billion U.S. dollars.”
So, as the past president of the association that represents ECM users and suppliers, what do I think of these?
Decades ago, when document and content management technology was more easily separated from the underlying processes it supports, AIIM used to conduct marketing sizing reports, frequently in partnership with some of the leading analyst firms.
But that’s no longer the case.
Frankly, I think the entire exercise of trying to “size” ECM as an “industry” is nonsense. There’s a narrow audience of suppliers looking to define their place in the universe to boards and investors, but the exercise is not much use to anyone else.
ECM capabilities are more important than ever, but the “ECM” component of a process is virtually indistinguishable from the process itself.
In an accounts payable process, where does “ECM” end and the application begin? How can you possibly quantify the former? How about document-intensive HR processes? Or contracts management? Or e-discovery? Or any process, for that matter? The “information” or “content” component of modern day business processes is inseparable from the process itself.
Can you measure the size of these application markets? Perhaps. Can you measure the size of the ECM capabilities that are critical to making a process function? I think not.
That’s not a bad thing. It means solutions become the focus, not technology. It means suppliers must converse with a deeper understanding of their customer’s business problems, not with fact sheets describing feeds and speeds. And as business processes and their ECM components shift to the cloud, it means business buyers of all sizes can finally utilize process automation capabilities that used to be available only to the largest organizations.