Sarbanes Oxley, HIPAA and the Patriot Act have served to compel companies to better monitor and organize their documents and record management systems. Urgency is driving new products into – what else? – “enterprise content management”.

Spending on Web-content management technologies always has been difficult to monitor. CIOs tend to think of it in discrete bites, such as portal technology, or as part of an overall CRM initiative. Indeed, with increased emphasis on self-service , many companies — whether they know it or not — depend greatly on the art and science of Web-content management.

Until recently, Web-content management was only a subsector of the amorphous area known as “content management.” However, new trends — both industry-specific and economy-agnostic — are propelling this technology to the top of many CIOs’ priority lists.

For starters, new legislative initiatives, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and the Patriot Act, have moved companies to better monitor and organize their document and record management and retrieval systems, AMR Research director Jim Murphy told

Yet the purchase decision is not an easy one to make. This technology, like many others, is following the traditional pathway of many stand-alone applications — that is, some aspects of it are becoming commoditized.

At the same time, IT juggernauts Microsoft and IBM are making a play for this space, putting further pressure on such traditional vendorsas Vignette (Nasdaq: VIGN) , FileNET, Interwoven and Documentum. For these and other reasons, prices for this technology have hit new lows. The result? A bonanza for buyers.

In one way, the purchase decision has been made easier — thanks to the traditional shift toward enterprise suite building. “One of the drivers we are seeing — in general, across the entire industry — is the de-specialization of niche aspects of content management,” Gartner research analyst Lou Latham says “to the point where this technology, as a whole, is beginning to absorb all the special labels — such as ‘Web-content management,’ ‘document management,’ ‘records management,’ and so on.”

In another words, it is the birth of yet another “enterprise” suite. Not that this is a bad thing for buying companies.

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