Mid Term report:Content Management Key to Dot.com Profitability; While the Days of Web-Phoria May Have Gone, Content Management Has Become the Name of the Game. GARY BURNETT Examines One Belfast Based Company Whose Software Product Is Helping Firms to Get Their In-House Systems in Order

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WITH all the headlines in the business press about the state of the technology industry - plummeting stock prices, staff lay-offs, over- stocked inventories and declining sales - you'd be forgiven for thinking that e-business was nothing but a short-lived burst of mis-placed enthusiasm.

Yet interestingly, industry-watchers IDC in June reported that ``the economic slowdown does not appear to be affecting e-business spending by customers''.

In fact, they suggest that companies will invest $5tr by 2005 to improve their e-business systems, and that over the same period, the number of websites will double, eCommerce traded volumes will increase ten-fold, and spending on web applications will increase four-fold.

So it appears that now that the dot-com hype has finally disappeared along with the unrealistic expectations for new paradigms for doing business and suchlike, real businesses will continue to invest in, and get real return from, new technology. Sure, the economic slowdown on both sides of the Atlantic is depressing demand for technology at present, but there can be no doubt that e-business is here to stay and that computer technology will continue to be an important enabler of business in the years to come.

The days of the web-phoria are long gone, but according to the Meta Group, the areas companies should be looking at for new technology are ``efficiencies, cost savings and minimising the number of vendors''. For this one of the things they need is ``an enterprise content management framework that automates the production and exchange of content across all formats, that can be re-used and scaled to meet global e-business needs.''

What the Meta Group is talking about are the sort of systems that enable companies to manage properly the whole range of business content that exists across their enterprise - emails, Word documents, scanned images, faxes, sound files, building plans, mainframe print-outs and so on - and can make all of this available in a web environment either in a comprehensive company intranet, or to the wider world on the Internet.

Most organisations have failed, to date, to get a handle on all this valuable business content, and so there is enormous potential, both from a cost-saving point of view and a productivity and business development point of view, to see a considerable return from an investment in this sort of technology.

This has been recognised by a variety of respected industry analysts, including Ovum, IDC and the Yankee Group, all of whom suggest that this area of Content Management is set to grow over the new few years at around 35 per cent per annum and will be worth over $4bn by 2004.

All of which augers well for Northern Ireland's newest technology venture, Meridio, launched at the end of June in an pounds 11.3m investment. The company will provide 165 jobs locally over the next three years and has been backed by IDB with pounds 1. …