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ECM Market Girds For Major Changes

The old is somehow new again. That would be an apt way to describe the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) market. The roots for the technology stretch back nearly three decades, and there have been periods when it has evolved quietly. However, recent changes in how corporations deploy applications and the entry of large, established players has shaken up the market and greatly expanded user choices.

The desire to centrally store electronic information is not new: "ECM systems in one form or another have been sold for more 30 years," noted Alan Pelz-Sharpe a principal at CMS Watch. The need for ECMs has become more pressing lately. Companies now store information in databases, documents, forms, images, and Web content. Recent government regulations have forced corporations to put procedures in place so they can track their information more consistently. ECMs can help, since they provide a central collection point and provide companies with tools to manage information more effectively.

Consequently, these tools have been gaining more attention. EMC, HP, IBM, and Oracle are some of industry heavyweights who emerged as leading ECM suppliers. These companies mainly focused on delivering premises based content management systems that were often used by large enterprises.

Founded in 1935, Grange Insurance, based in Columbus, Ohio, is a $1.3 billion insurance services provider. Through its network of independent agents, the company offers auto, home, life, business, and farm protection to businesses and individuals in more than a dozen states. The company has about 400 servers overseeing 130T bytes of disk storage and an IBM mainframe managing another 1.5T bytes of information.

In 2000, Grange was looking for an ECM to help reduce the volume of paper moving among employees. "We now use IBM's Content Manager to route claim information, pictures, police reports, and Department of Motor Vehicle reports among employee," said Rick Gruly, Staff Specialist, Imaging at Grange Insurance. Traditionally, ECM deployments have been limited to very large companies for a couple of reasons. First, prices for the products have started at the $100,000 mark and often raced past the $1 million mark. Grange estimates that it invested $4 million in its deployment.

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