Enterprise content management overview: Understanding ECM systems

Enterprise content management systems today are much more than shared storage. Find out how ECM is evolving – and learn what features and functions are in demand today.

Enterprise content management (ECM) is a long-established market, but ECM technology is changing, evolving and taking on increased importance to organizations as they look to gain more value and insight from documents, emails, blogs and other types of unstructured data. In addition, government and industry regulations and new market demands are driving ECM technology development. Find out how ECM is evolving – and learn what features...

and functions are in demand today.

Table of Contents

Enterprise content management overview: Understanding ECM systems
Five ECM technology trends that can affect your ECM strategy
Disjointed eDiscovery practices exposing companies to legal risk, rising costs
ECM strategy evolves from focus on acquisition to actualization
Expert advice for enterprise content management technology purchases

Enterprise content management (ECM) has evolved significantly in the last five years. Driven by legal risks, compliance, the high value of content and new information security concerns, there is a renewed focus on the discipline of ECM.

"The content, records, and document space is morphing to become part of something much bigger than -- and very [different] from -- what it has been," said John Mancini, president of the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM).

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ECM now represents a more complex discipline, spanning people, processes and technology, Mancini said -- with full-featured platforms, integration with other business applications, and sophisticated analytics.

"At the core of this transformation is a broadening of the primary organizing principle of the content space," he said.

No longer is ECM simply about shared drives, though they are still widely deployed. Historically, with shared drives and other early approaches to ECM, the focus of content management has been simply "where" to store data. While it solved the basic problem, the need has rapidly changed to managing and using stored data. Companies also realized that there was a large amount of wasted, lost, duplicated and unprotected information on shared drives. Organizations needed the means to better analyze, manage and scrutinize the information in their ECM systems.

That's why ECM today is about much more than where content is stored; it encompasses the capture, management, storage, preservation and delivery of content. The increased adoption of ECM has created a demand for more functionality on the front end for input and on back-end delivery. On top of search, companies often want business intelligence (BI). In lieu of data entry, companies want automated data capture. For fear of lawsuits, companies are adding records management and eDiscovery. All these features are at the forefront of recent ECM conversations.

ECM Glossary
Business Intelligence (BI) is the process of obtaining value from stored content using reporting, analytics and data mining.

Business Process Management (BPM) incorporates workflow, content and logic to control the flow of data within an organization.

Document Capture is the process of merging paper content with digital, using technologies such as optical character recognition (OCR), scanning and forms processing.

eDiscovery is the process of collecting, searching and sorting electronic content for the purpose of litigation.

Knowledge Workers are line-of-business and support employees, with specific skills, who have to interpret and execute on digital information.

Records Management (RM) is the practice of maintaining records according to a retention schedule and governs the taxonomy (storage location, meta-deta and labels) of documents. Search is the process of finding content within an ECM system using known simple or complex keywords and phrases.

Web 2.0 is the management and publishing of Web-based content. Web content management started as a focus on management of internal and external website content and now has expanded into the areas of social networking and rich media.

The value proposition is also changing. In the past, adoption of the technology has often been motivated retroactively in response to some problem. In the last three years, however, companies have become more proactive about their content management practices, especially in industries where compliance risk is high. The trend has made companies more prepared and has given them new intelligence they never knew they had. Today, content management as a business process is a given. The catalyst of ECM adoption is a tool to stay ahead of competition, increase knowledge worker productivity, and prepare for the unexpected.

Likewise, the technological approaches are evolving. ECM technology has matured to the point where vendors are not pushing features – instead, organizations are demanding them. There is an upswing in vendor partnerships to add functionality, as well as mergers and acquisitions.

As the pay-per-use model becomes less of a fad and more of a necessity, ECM systems are reforming as SaaS solutions with on-demand functionality. Thin clients and open standards are an ECM vendor's path. Not only is the architecture changing, so are the types of data. The development of new content types has companies addicted to information, and they want the content stored and actualized. Social media is generating data that could create legal risk or enhance consumer understanding. Rich media content has a high value for repurposing but is often lost after first use. Companies want to harvest more information from existing content.

Today, the technology that supports ECM is not limited to purpose-built platforms but also includes technologies such as document capture, Web 2.0, business process management (BPM), records management, enterprise search, and BI. Companies want more data stored and more value from what is stored.

The rate of change requires companies to pay attention. It is not only a battle to stay competitive, it is making sure that solutions fit a need and technology is not underutilized. That's why an understanding of ECM's foundation and its individual parts is a critical aspect of the sustained success of enterprise IT infrastructure.

Chris Riley, ECM expertAbout the author: Chris Riley is a recognized industry expert in document recognition, enterprise content management (ECM) and analytics technologies. Currently, Riley is senior ECM & document capture architect at ShareSquared, Inc.; he lives and breathes technology and has built his career on helping companies buy, use and optimize advanced technologies for their business. Riley has 12-plus years of experience in this arena; during that time, he has owned three software companies and received several technology and business awards. He has degrees in business administration, computer science and mathematics, and holds certifications from the ECM trade organization AIIM as an "Enterprise Content Management Practitioner (ECMp)" and "Information, Organization and Access Practitioner (IOAp)." Riley also is a sought-after speaker and educator throughout the content gathering and delivery space. He can be reached at Chris.Riley@sharesquared.com.

Table of Contents

Enterprise content management overview: Understanding ECM systems
Five ECM technology trends that can affect your ECM strategy
Disjointed eDiscovery practices exposing companies to legal risk, rising costs
ECM strategy evolves from focus on acquisition to actualization
Expert advice for enterprise content management technology purchases


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