Learning About ECM
What is Enterprise Content Management?
Enterprise content management (ECM) is the control of an organization's documents and data including their lifecycle – how and when documents are created, reviewed, published, utilized, retained and destroyed.
Who needs ECM?
At one time, content management was a concern primarily of large organizations as a result of the sheer volume of documents, data and images they needed to manage. Now, due to compliance requirements and geographically dispersed employees, most organizations need to gain better control over their document lifecycles. Choosing the appropriate content management software requires understanding an organization's goals, culture, technological capabilities, and, of course, budget.
An organization typically maintains some documents within traditional paper filing systems, while other documents are electronically stored – neither is easily accessible. Sometimes employees need to conduct time-consuming searches to locate and retrieve documents to complete a business transaction or make a business decision. ECM software provides enormous productivity gains by allowing staff to capture, store and retrieve paper and electronic documents and data into one system. Information is readily accessible and centrally located. This also means employees no longer have to spend time routing documents from desk to desk, or trying to locate a misplaced file. There is instant access to information, promoting an efficient use of an organization's resources.
Things to consider when evaluating ECM solutions
When evaluating and designing a content management system, organizations need to consider two things relevant to the solution's flexibility:
- Can it support rigid workflows around document and other record creation, retention and destruction, ensuring that legal obligations are met?
- Can it support a more loosely structured environment that will support collaboration?
A content management system stores documents, but even more importantly, it provides easy access to documents, whether it's through a search mechanism, or a document browser interface. Content management software will support the easy mapping of an organization's standard document types and information about the documents (metadata) into a repository.
The software also provides a powerful, but easy to use mechanism to control who can access which documents, whether they have permission to edit documents, and whether the documents may be emailed out of the repository. The software solution will also provide access to documents though familiar interfaces, either Web-based or from within common office productivity applications.