Another Key Year For ECM – And Synapps – Is Starting

Mark Winstone gets out his crystal ball to try and see what 2015 looks like delivering for both NHS and other Enterprise Content Management customers

January is a natural time of year for reflecting briefly on what 2015 looks like shaping up to be.

Here at SynApps Solutions, the answer is ‘a pretty good one!’ We are going into 2015 after a strong 12 months. In particular, 2014 was a very strong year for us in the UK healthcare market. This was due to our work in the first part of the year around our Vendor Neutral Archive (VNA), which has now evolved into our new Clinical Content Store.

Some really significant customer wins are starting to come through on this, like our project at Northampton General Hospital (http://www.synapps-solutions.com/news/northampton-general-hospital-chooses-a-synapps-vendor-neutral-archive-content-store), more of which we will be sharing with you soon and which will be the basis for very strong growth in the months ahead for us. Which is great for us, sure – but the real significance of VNA/CCS is the way it’s starting to help NHS Trusts start to work together and start properly (and securely) sharing patient data at long last.

No wonder, then, that I and the rest of the SynApps team think our 2015 healthcare ‘story’ is going to be all about expanding our footprint in the Vendor Neutral Archive space – both with our existing and new customers, starting with conversations around the entry level VNA and then the Clinical Content Store. That’s because we see enormous potential in potentially retiring legacy systems that they have and transferring the real ‘gold dust’ into the Store.

We are also very much aligned, meanwhile, with the overall NHS mission of going paperless by 2015 (http://digitalchallenge.dh.gov.uk). That drive from central government is making budget available and allowing Clinical Chief Information Officers in the NHS to finally start investing in VNA-style platform implementations as opposed to print solutions, as the market finally moves on from the National Programme (for all of its many positives, it really is time to start thinking beyond it now). Oh, and one more thing we are really excited about, the development of Open Source ECM solutions especially for those areas of the NHS that have been neglected until recently.

Let’s conclude on the public sector side of things for now with a quick set of thoughts on cloud. We are getting a lot of interest outside the NHS as regards cloud-delivered ECM. (In the NHS, there are applications such as the personal health record which do lend themselves to more of a cloud-based application, but our take on that is that security concerns will tend to push managers to more of a ‘hybrid’ approach.) But we do have to express a bit of caution about any expectations that 2015 will be a massive year for G-Cloud (or what we must all now start calling the Government Digital Marketplace (https://www.digitalmarketplace.service.gov.uk). What we are finding as a long-term G-Cloud support and supplier is that G-Cloud seems to be more for commodity items buying and not for more configurable solutions. We are very happy with the CloudStore but, as it stands at least, expect to get more business with the UK public sector via the other buying frameworks out there as they tend to be more applicable to the kind of configurable solution we as a company tend to sell.

What do I mean by configurable? G-Cloud is great for when you say, ‘I want to buy an HR personnel records management solution for x pounds per month,’ you buy it, the functionality is fixed, it does what it says on the tin. The reality is, though, certainly with enterprise content management, that pretty much every customer we work with doesn’t want that – they want their ECM to be configured to work in line with how their specific business works. So for 2015 at least, we don’t think there will be a lot of content management procurement that will go through the Marketplace.

A move to platform ECM?

Healthcare was a very important area for us already, but the growth of acceptance of our VNA approach to helping hospitals deal with patient imagery and data is putting it ever-higher in our business mix; I would say probably 40 to 50% of our activity in 2015 as a company will be in healthcare, in fact.

But that doesn’t mean that our other corporate Enterprise Content Management (ECM) work is getting de-prioritised; far from it! We are going great guns with our key partners of EMC and Alfresco in promoting content management in all sorts of markets. Our business is about providing content management solutions, with healthcare as just one face of that.

What of that market, though – the wider content management one? It’s going to be another good year for ECM, we predict. For one, it is still very much a growth market and a growing business. In terms of other drivers, 2015 will see ECM become more and more about mobile access, we think – about being able to get your content management on the go/wherever the business needs it, there is quite a push in that direction in the marketplace. We are also definitely starting to hear more from our customers about a general move towards hosted solutions and many more ‘all cloud’ solutions, too.

What’s behind that shift: businesses are much keener on platform solution these days. Or rather, whereas at one time we used to see ECM as all about one application or project, now it’s much more about creating a more sustainable, long-term environment for important information. Just before Christmas, for example, I spoke to a manufacturing company who see their 2015 mission as about getting proper control of what they call their ‘crown jewel’ documents – documents that contain the ‘secret recipes’ for the most profitable products they offer – but who are simultaneously looking at content management as a platform for their organisation over a long period of time. In terms of crystal ball gazing, I expect to have a lot of similar conversations in the next 12 months.

Well, there you have it – our view on what we expect to see for us as a company in 2015 in the health and wider ECM sectors. Can I take this opportunity to wish you all the very best in this bright New Year!