Three perspectives that make the government ECM software buying decision easier – Thank you, Gartner Magic Quadrant for ECM, 2010!

NOTE: Below is my personal view of the report. The only people entitled to offer a definitive opinion about vendor placement are the authors of the report themselves. My opinion is not a substitute for speaking to the analysts directly using the inquiry time available to paid subscribers to Gartner’s advisory services.

As an IT Director, I often felt like I simply didn’t have time to read what analysts said. I had desktops to support, federal mandates to accommodate and often, less than stellar databases to keep running (usually MacGyver-style with bubble gum and a ballpoint pen spring). Add that to the perils of elections and new directors with new initiatives and I had every reason to question if reading a lengthy analyst report was worth my time.

That was then, this is now. Today, the “new normal” of IT in government is that every investment is crucial, and therefore, highly scrutinized, requiring much more preparation and research.

Luckily, just as government technology buyers have advanced their ways, so have the analysts that evaluate the various technology markets. Now, many analyst reports enable government agencies to start narrowing the field of software vendors to those with proven deployments, product roadmaps and commitment to the government market. And, that’s where the Gartner Magic Quadrant for ECM, 2010 comes in. By focusing itself for the first time this year, the Magic Quadrant has provided three foundational pieces for government agencies looking to make the leap into document management software.

  1. Analyzing technology in a way that works for government.
    It’s pretty widely acknowledged that you can’t buy one ECM solution to handle all your information management needs. The way government thinks about ECM is no different. The Gartner Magic Quadrant for ECM 2010 did this by recognizing the various buckets of ECM, including transactional content management (TCM). This provides the agencies with a much better understanding of which ECM solutions fit with solving their specific problems.
  2. More in-depth information on time and cost-saving ECM functionality.
    When government agencies make an IT purchase, they must be tools that can keep government running with reduced budget and staffing. The Magic Quadrant does a good job of honing in on these types of capabilities when it talks about TCM, which more and more includes not just traditional document management and imaging, but also business process management (BPM). And, it shows a short list of products that excel in what government must do every day – speed up processes, reduce staffing needs and cut costs.
  3. It’s not just the technology’s value today that needs to be evaluated – the long term is just as important.
    Not only do the technology tools have to match up with government’s highest priorities, but they must be proven. In most cases, this comes down to the vendor’s stability and the capabilities of the software to grow and change as government changes. Government agencies can’t afford to buy a system that only is updated by the vendor every two years, or one that goes away altogether. And by a similar token, government must look for technology tools that can answer today’s budget crisis, but still be a solution as we emerge from the current downturn. Thankfully, the report touches on these issues by discussing long term outlook for ECM products as well as vendors.

Sometimes it feels like analysts and software reviews miss the point of government, since oftentimes they focus on private sector needs and concerns. In this case, the analysts have narrowed their focus, providing the basis for sound government decisions on ECM software.

This report comes at a critical time. Not that it’s ever been an easy job, but today, government IT directors have one tough gig. They must search for and find the technology tools that can respond to today’s reduced staffs and budgets, and ultimately lay the foundation for ongoing government improvement. This makes any help seem like the greatest gift ever given. Or in this case, magic!

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