A shortage of competition in the enterprise content management field is limiting the type of vendor innovation that makes products more appealing to customers, a Google official contended this week at the AIIM Conference & Expo in Boston.

Despite a trend in which business applications are starting to look more like consumer products, enterprise content management vendors do not face the same pressure to keep users happy as do search websites such as Google, said David Bercovich, a product marketing manager with Google's enterprise application unit.

"Unlike the content management industry where you might be two years, five years, ten years away from switching vendors, switching technology, in the search world it's a click away at any given point in time," Bercovich said. "We have to win a user's loyalty with every click."

Bercovich said he thinks consumer products such as Google, the iPod, TiVo, MySpace.com and Skype are more innovative than the latest enterprise technologies. "The innovation today is actually happening on the consumer side," he said. What is really exciting is we can apply a lot of these innovations and products into the enterprise environment."

Bercovich spoke Wednesday at the week-long conference and expo hosted by AIIM, which calls itself the "international authority on Enterprise Content Management (ECM) – the tools and technologies used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to organizational processes."

Bercovich said that Google.com is the world's largest content management system, because it gathers information, roughly categorizes it and makes it accessible via search. He also said Google can be thought of as a business application because so many people use it to find information when they are working.

But vendors and enterprises face challenges that Google does not face when developing and deploying content management systems, he acknowledged. Businesses are increasingly adopting content management solutions because of the need to comply with government regulations.

"We have no choice but to obey all the compliance regulations the government has created," Bercovich said. "Risk management is incredibly important, but I'd argue that we're not getting the full value out of content management, we're spending so much of our resources doing compliance-related initiatives. We're not enabling the kind of information sharing that would really revolutionize your business and revolutionize industries."

Bercovich touted Google Apps as meeting the "user-centric collaboration" requirements that are part of a good content management system. It's also easier to deploy than some enterprise applications that cost millions of dollars and take months or years to fully implement, he said. That "big bang" deployment model also carries a greater penalty for failure because so much time and money is invested into those large projects, he said.

Not everyone loves Google Apps, though. A Network World Lab Alliance review said a "lack of administrative control and security measures that IT execs are accustomed to make Google's hosted suite of applications unsuited for deployment beyond specialized or distributed workgroups."

Bercovich also said consumer email applications such as Gmail tend to be more user-friendly than work email programs, offering more storage and better search functionality that allows users to find important emails.

IT managers are faced with a tough task because they have to choose applications based both on the user experience and the business and technology benefits, he noted.

"That's a challenging job," he said. "I submit to you that we should spend more time in the broad IT industry looking at employee adoption, employee usage patterns and treat employees really the same way we treat consumers at Google because there aren't a lot of differences."