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ECM - Enterprise Content Management

ECM - Enterprise Content Management

Enterprise content management (ECM) extends the concept of content management by adding a time line for each content item and possibly enforcing processes for the creation, approval and distribution of them. Systems that implement ECM generally provide a secure repository for managed items, be they analog or digital, that indexes them. They also include one or more methods for importing content to bring new items under management and several presentation methods to make items available for use.

While it is possible that content in an ECM is protected by DRM it is not required.

The key feature of ECM that distinguishes it from "simple" content management is that an ECM is at least cognizant of the processes and procedures of the enterprise it is created for, and as such is particular to it.

ECM as an umbrella term covers document management, Web content management, search, collaboration, records management, digital asset management (DAM), workflow management, capture and scanning. ECM is primarily aimed[by whom?] at managing the life-cycle of information from initial publication or creation all the way through archival and eventual disposal. ECM applications are delivered in four ways:

  • on-premises software (installed on an organization's own network)
  • software as a service (SaaS) (Web access to information that is stored on a software manufacturer's system)
  • a hybrid composed of both on-premises and SaaS components
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) (which refers to online services that abstract the user from the details of infrastructure like physical computing resources, location, data partitioning, scaling, security, backup etc.)

ECM aims to make the management of corporate information easier through simplifying storage, security, version control, process routing, and retention.[citation needed] The benefits to an organization include improved efficiency, better control, and reduced costs. For example, many banks have converted to storing copies of old cheques within ECM systems (ECMSs) as opposed to the older method of keeping physical cheques in massive paper warehouses. Under the old system, a customer request for a copy of a cheque might take weeks, as the bank employees had to contact the warehouse where the right box, file, and cheque, would need to be located. The cheque would then need to be pulled, a copy made and mailed to the bank where it would finally be mailed to the customer. With a suitable ECM system in place, the bank employee might simply query the system for the customer’s account number and the number of the requested cheque. When the image of the cheque appears on-screen, the bank can mail a copy immediately to the customer, usually while the customer is still on the phone.

Enterprise content management, as a form of content management, combines the capture, search and networking of documents with digital archiving, document management and workflow. It specifically includes the special challenges involved in using and preserving a company's internal, often unstructured information, in all of its forms. Therefore, most ECM solutions focus on business-to-employee (B2E) systems.

As ECM solutions have evolved, new components have emerged. For example, as content is checked in and out, each use generates new metadata about the content, to some extent automatically; information about how and when people use the content can allow the system to gradually acquire new filtering, routing and search pathways, corporate taxonomies and semantic networks, and retention-rule decisions. Email and instant messaging feature increasingly in decision-making processes; ECM can provide access to data about these communications, which can be used in business decisions.

Solutions can provide intranet services to employees (B2E), and can also include enterprise portals for business-to-business (B2B), business-to-government (B2G), government-to-business (G2B), or other business relationships. This category includes most former document-management groupware and workflow solutions that have not yet fully converted their architecture to ECM, but provide a Web interface. Digital asset management is a form of ECM concerned with content stored using digital technology.

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F.A.Q about ECM - Enterprise Content Management

What is Enterprise Content Management (ECM)?

Enterprise Content Management is the organization of structured and unstructured documents using technology and software that allows your organization to “work smarter, not harder.” As technology advanced and everything became digital, organizations needed a new way to store and access files, leading to the creation of ECM. Enterprise Content Management consists of four main points:

  • Capture: Capturing information from hardcopy documents or online forms and transferring it into the system
  • Manage: Managing the captured data in a structured format that allows quick and easy retrieval
  • Storing: Securely storing files in a central repository that can be accessed from multiple locations
  • Delivery: Implementation of business process workflows to automatically move documents from one step to the next

What are the Benefits of ECM?

There are many benefits of ECM depending on what solutions you implement, but some might not be as obvious as others. The most common benefits organizations see are:

  • Reduced Operating Costs: With everything being stored digitally online, your business will see a reduction in the cost of printing, shipping and storing paper files. Along with reduced operating costs, you’ll know you’re doing your part for the environment in making your business greener.
  • Increased Productivity: Staff members will no longer need to spend time searching for documents as they’ll be able to easily search and retrieve them instantly, leading to less downtime and staff frustration.
  • Minimize Risk: Adhering to compliance becomes much more manageable thanks to ECM. Documents will be safe and secure and allow for reporting and auditing of the information to be easier than ever.
  • Improved Workflows: Being able to see and control content within applications and automate the transfer from one staff member to the next improves the speed and organization of business processes.

The benefits don’t stop there; every organization utilizes ECM specifically to their needs and begins to see the various benefits almost immediately.

Who Uses ECM?

The most common industries that use ECM are educational institutions and law firms due to the large number of documents they have to maintain, but that doesn’t mean other industries can’t benefit from it. The International Data Corporation (IDC) is projecting a 50 times growth rate in digital content from 2010 to 2020, and managing that content will prove to be a challenge for most. If being greener is a part of your business strategy, you’re struggling with archaic workflows or you want to see some of the benefits listed above, ECM is for you.

How Does ECM Help with Compliance?

With the recent rise of cyberattacks comes more regulation, and adhering to compliance is critical to business. Organizations are doing more audits each year, internally and externally, and having all records available in an organized and secure location eases the burden of often daunting audits. With an ECM solution, records can be archived automatically according to industry standards, ensuring auditors have secure, remote access to all business-critical documents.

How Difficult is it to Implement an ECM System?

Implementing any enterprise system is not an easy task, and ECM isn’t an exception. Once you’ve made the decision on a vendor and are ready to begin the process, it’s important to take it one step at a time. Plan the implementation from start to finish, noting any potential obstacles or barriers that might make it difficult and how you plan to move past these. Communicate with everyone involved about the goals and expectations so everyone is on the same page. During the implementation period, test it frequently and early to avoid having to reverse hours of work if an error occurs. While it can seem difficult at first, a good ECM provider will be there to help every step of the way, and should continue after.

With the amount of digital content growing year after year, managing data will become more difficult and burdensome. If you think your business could benefit from ECM, contact an expert at Gordon Flesch Company for a free consultation to learn how an Enterprise Content Management system can improve your business.