What is Enterprise Content Management (ECM)? The Complete Guide

The complete guide covering enterprise content management definition, elements, and the benefits of having an enterprise content management in a company.

Enterprise content management agenda

What is Enterprise Content Management?

Enterprise content management is the combination of strategies, methods, and tools used to allow organizations to capture, manage, organize, preserve, store, and deliver vital information to the right people at the right time through the right channels.

The enterprise content management definition was first introduced back in early 2000 by the AIIM to address the challenges faced due to the rise of different variety of data, the surging volume of information within organizations, and the preservation of all organizations’ data in all of its forms.

ECM is an umbrella term that covers document, records, and workflow management, collaboration, web content management, DAM, imaging, and archiving.

Enterprise Content Management Modules
Image Credit: Gartner

The right system encompasses all of the platform’s capabilities allowing organizations to digitally manage their information in a centralized repository to better support their processes and business goals by ensuring that information is easily accessible, and as useful as possible at any point throughout the information lifecycle.

Adopting an ECM system should be coupled with an organization wide and well-defined information management strategies to effectively improve operational efficiencies, reduce cost, and adhere to different regulatory requirements.

Back in 2017, Gartner announced that ECM is to be replaced by Content Services, a strategic concept that covers three aspects, namely CS applications, Platforms and Components. However, ECM will continue to be the core of information management.

Enterprise Content Management Components

AIIM defines the 5 elements of enterprise content management as follows:

Capture: The strategies and tools to import documents (paper or electronic) into the digital repository for storage, reuse, and distribution.

Managing organization’s data begins with the process of importing all the information into a secure digital repository to fuel applications and processes using a variety of methods such as:

  • Automated, high volume scanning (Multi-function device, Mobile cameras) and automatic extraction of metadata from scanned documents.
  • Document Imaging (Tiff, JPEG, PDF, GIF).
  • E-forms / Web forms.
  • Forms Processing: Capture of paper forms through scanning or using electronic forms.
  • Recognition using world-class OCR.
  • Typed, Handwriting Recognition.
  • Indexing & Classification.
  • Bar Code.
  • Integration with MS Office, Email (including attachments), and Office365.
  • Integration with well-known line-of-business applications used within your organization.

Manage: The tools and techniques for moving information across an organization.

Connects and make use of information through methods used separately or in combination such as document, records, and workflow management, collaboration, WCM.

Store: Where do you put your information and how would you find it again?

Temporary storage of frequently changing information within dynamic hierarchy structure to allow users to view or edit any document and view document metadata.

Preserve: The methods for long term archival & storage of the needed data.

Storage and backup of unchanging data for the long term typically achieved using records administration functionalities allowing organizations to comply to governmental & industrial regulations.

Deliver: How to deliver information for the right people at the right time through the proper channel?

For more information about the 5 elements of enterprise content management, check out this publication by AIIM.

Benefits Of Having An Enterprise Content Management In A Company

Increased Productivity

Productivity is directly related to the effectiveness of an organization internal processes. Document centric processes can be found in all departments across your organization such as Human Resources, Accounting and Finance, Purchasing, Research and Development, etc.

For example and according to Gartner Research, professionals spend 50% of their time searching for information, and take on an average, 18 minutes to locate each document. Imagine how much time is being wasted on the organization level just searching for information.

Reduce Storage and Operational Costs

For an average business, document volume doubles every 3 years, which equates to an annual paper increase of 22%. Going digital, organizations are able to reduce the amount of papers and physical storage space required which dramatically reduces filing time and associated costs (shipping, storage, etc.).

Minimize Risks

With the security capabilities available, organizations will be able to minimize data breach and lower the possibilities of information falling in the wrong hands by controlling document access and authority.

Compliance requirements for certain types of documents is mandatory and failing to adhere to different regulatory regulations can cost your organization huge fines and in some cases legal actions. A good system will help your organization reduce the risk of non-compliance to different regulatory requirements such as HIPPA, GDPR.

Automate Document-Driven Process

Automating repetitive low value tasks such as photocopying and delivery of paper documents will allow employees to focus on high value and more important tasks. Using BPM capabilities, organizations can automate document driven workflows which will increase workplace efficiency.

Better Decision Making

When we make use of the organization information and having it available at the right time to the right audience, better and faster decisions can be taken which will increase the ability to efficiently take advantage of important opportunities.

The benefits of having an enterprise content management in a company are endless and using such a system can help your organization achieve the above stated benefits and even more!

Check this article to get full overview about enterprise content management benefits.

Enterprise Content Management Vendors

Adopting an ECM system allows your organization to manage the complete life cycle of your information, automating business processes, and make more informed business decisions. You can download my free eBook “Top 10 Guidelines For Choosing an ECM system” to help you choose the right solution for your organization.

In addition, if your organization don’t need all the modules, you can choose separate stand-alone application for each content administration tool needed.

The major modules available are:

  • Document, Records, and Business Process Management
  • Collaboration
  • WCM
  • DAM
  • Imaging
  • Archiving

What Is The Best ECM System?

Choosing an ECM system can be an overwhelming task as nowadays the market has a big list of providers promising to be your digital transformation companion.

Unfortunately there is no “best ecm system”, it really depends on your organization’s needs, industry, and financial budget.

Lately I’ve been in search for an ECM system for one of my clients and because the process can really be challenging, I thought to share my experience. Check out How to choose an ECM system – Part 1 article.

The Future Of Enterprise Content Management

As technology evolves, new sources of data are being introduced for instance with Internet of Things (IoT), data can be collected from almost any piece of hardware connected to the internet and that will force strategies and tools to evolve and address the new challenges organizations are facing with managing their information.

An ECM system will need to leverage new technological advancements to address new demands. To name a few:

  • Automation and machine learning will provide new methods to capture, classify, and index information.
  • Blockchain technology can help in smart contracts, advanced security, and automated payment processes.
  • IoT will soon penetrate every aspect of a business and having an ECM system linked with IoT will add a great value to enterprises.





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