The nature of just what defines “CRM data” is changing. It would be nice to think that we can store EVERYTHING that has to do with your customer interactions inside a CRM system in a native fashion. But as we know, this is simply not the case. We deal with all sorts of essential documents: contracts, quotes, proposals, claim files, surveys, sales collateral, warranties, SOWs, PRDs, etc. And none of these are ideal for the neat tables and rows of a relational database.
Enter enterprise content management (ECM) tools. When connected with a CRM, they make it easier to collaborate, store and associate files with CRM records such as accounts or leads. And now, just as CRM is moving from a premise-based model to a cloud-model, the leading ECM vendors are following suit.
Alfresco is no exception. With a cloud architecture underneath its ECM offering, the company is powering innovative approaches to collaboration and content management. I had an exchange with Alfresco CEO John Powell, where he commented on some key issues around the cloud, content management and bringing it all together in your CRM system.
Has “cloud content management” fully arrived, or are we still dealing with early adopters?
We are dealing with early adopters from a corporate perspective. However companies building content centric applications are building these based on cloud delivery models.
What do you see as the prime benefits to a cloud-based ECM approach?
It provides a certified stack that eliminates on premise initial installation. It offers an on demand elastic workload, avoiding procurement of equipment solely for rare peak loads. ECM often has peak demand resource consumption associated with bulk content loads, index refresh etc.
Are there any drawbacks?
Some content for legal reasons is not suitable for cloud storage, for example financial records where current legislation does not allow these to be stored outside the customer’s nation state jurisdiction.
Does the cloud lift, or make more integration hurdles between a product like Alfresco and say a CRM tool like Sugar?
Integration is easier as these are mostly available out of the box (eg to SugarCRM) and the standard infrastructure eliminates many of the integration issues when dealing with unique on premise configurations.
Early observers of SaaS CRM pinged it as a security concern, is this more or less of an issue with the kinds of information in a CMS housed in the cloud?
There are probably many of the same issues. Alfresco provides security controls so cloud delivered content will certainly be more secure for an organization than the typical in-house unmanaged shared drive.
Content management and CRM have been strong cloud poster children, any idea what’s next to be lifted into the clouds?
The cloud makes a lot of sense for applications with peak workloads and requiring distributed access. Many e-commerce applications with seasonal or special promotions have these profiles.