Just a few short years ago, the business process management (BPM) and enterprise content management (ECM) markets were two completely separate entities. Very few providers breached both offerings, and those that did weren’t in the business of proposing comprehensive solutions to meet organisations’ efficiency, workflow and security needs.

The marketplace quickly realised, however, just how crucial BPM, ECM, cloud, capture and search are to a complete data management plan – and to each other. As these technologies have evolved, they have become more intertwined, more robust, and more consolidated, working together to help the enterprise bring order and accessibility to unstructured information.

The importance of this consolidation has been acknowledged by analyst firms including Gartner and Forrester and has already changed the way that business technology is bought, sold and utilised. So where does the industry go from here?

As someone who has been part of this technical evolution from the beginning, I have predicted some trends that may help provide some insight into how these technologies might continue to evolve:

  1.  A shift back to the platform era

Over the past several years, when corporations have searched for solutions to automate their business processes, they’ve found the best-of-breed offerings from many separate providers, then jumbled them together in an effort to create a Frankenstein’s monster version of the best overall solution. This conglomerated approach will come to an end in 2013.

Movements like these are always cyclical, and this cycle has driven the market to great amounts of consolidation over the past half-decade or so. The industry’s recent focus on cloud offerings, as well as the increasing importance of a common experience across the smartphone and tablet form factors, will push people to consider the strategic approach of selecting a platform partner that can do more than one thing for their organisation.

  1.  Minimising the impact of ECM integration

In the past, organisations purchased ECM and BPM technology in an effort to streamline their operations. However, the real value in a process and content management system is the ability to do more with what you already have – to find a platform that fits your business instead of changes it.

This can include the ominous “systems of engagement” that complete the experience of using a large monolithic ERP, or a core system with what modern end users have come to expect from an experience and usability focus. In 2013 and beyond, ECM and BPM vendors will begin to compete based on how well they can meet the needs of their prospects without impacting the customers’ systems of record.

  1.  Extending and evolving existing processes to the cloud

Not all organisations are ready to store information in the cloud, but ultimately some use of the cloud is inevitable. Organisations looking to implement ECM should find a vendor that is already prepared to address their future cloud needs. A healthcare facility, for example, should find a vendor that acknowledges the importance of both business and clinical content, and suggests complementary strategies for each. While I don’t think organisations are going to make all-or-nothing decisions about storing in a data centre or in the cloud, they should choose a platform that accommodates both.

  1.  An increased appreciation for enterprise search

One comprehensive system that manages information across the enterprise may be the ideal, but it’s not reality today and it won’t be in the future. An organisation cannot feasibly consolidate all of its business content and processes into one system. Enterprise search has been an afterthought for a lot of companies until now. This technology provides organisations with the ability to pull multiple sources together into a single view across the enterprise, delivered in the context of the systems employees already use and the content they already store.

Over the next few years, organisations will more fully recognise the power of enterprise search, understanding that it is an integral part of linking back-end systems to employees and the overall system of engagement. Ultimately, enterprise search will be the technology that unifies business processes and empowers people to make the right decisions.

  1.  An expanded definition of “business content”

According to recent Gartner Research, 25 percent of consumed content is now made up of rich media – in the form of video, audio or photos. Video conferencing, audio recordings, WebEx meetings and recordings of online product demonstrations have become ingrained in the average workweek. This means that organisations need a plan to manage all the information that falls under the outskirts of the newly-expanded business content umbrella – much of which is beyond what internal IT departments can handle.

Video is especially challenging because within a 2-hour video conference, it is borderline impossible to search for a specific sound bite of information. Technology is now available to enable data extraction from rich sources of information like video, however. This allows organisations to capture and manage all the video content they create, reuse it and make it part of their corporate record. In 2013 and beyond, we’ll see the first signs of video and audio becoming the future of unstructured content, and an increased focus on rich business content issues that can no longer be addressed with simple optical character recognition.