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. 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 enterprise document management system, Web content management, search, collaboration, records management, digital asset management (DAM), workflow management, capture and scanning. ECM is primarily aimed at managing the life-cycle of information from initial publication or creation all the way through archival and eventual disposal. ECM enterprise content management software is 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 provides a centralized platform where content can be held and disseminated in a manner that meets regulatory compliance requirements and risk management guidelines. An ECM achieves the latter two benefits by eliminating ad hoc processes that can expose an enterprise to regulatory compliance risks and other potential problems. Full-function enterprise content management solutions include features such as content taxonomies, auditing capabilities, check-in/check-out and other workflow controls and security mechanisms.
An effective ECM can streamline access and business processes, eliminate bottlenecks by reducing storage, as well as paper and mailing needs, optimize security, maintain integrity and minimize overhead. All of these can lead to increased productivity. The first step is to document all the types of content that the organization deals with, the business processes its part of and who handles the content.
ECM software can be used to identify duplicate and near-duplicate content, allowing the organization to keep a few copies of a particular piece of content instead of hundreds. The best ECM software extends the reach of traditional ECM capabilities into previously isolated applications and information silos, such as ERP, CRM, SCM and HCM, to take the shape of a content services platform. Information can now flow across the enterprise to the people and processes—when, where and in whatever context it is needed.
To understand more specific ways it could help your company, consider these three types of ECM software solutions.
Web Content Management. WCM puts control over the look and feel of a website in the hands of specific, key people. It’s used by organizations with relatively complex websites and strict brand guidelines, giving those key personnel the means to easily update, modify and publish content for the sites while adhering to the guidelines.
Collaborative Content Management. CCM enables multiple people to access and modify a single document, such as a legal document. It’s ideal for organizations that must manage projects involving multiple stakeholders. CCM makes it easy to work together while keeping track of, and updating, the most-current version of the document.
Transactional Content Management. This type of ECM document management is designed for organizations that repeatedly use varied types of content, including records, paper documents, and digital files. TCM solutions capture content from various channels, classify it, store it, create an automated workflow to ensure the right user receives the content at the right time, and even deletes documents when they’re no longer needed, all while working seamlessly with other apps and databases, ensuring all of that content is available throughout the company.
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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.
ECM document management system 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
Five ways ECM software can benefit your organization
Basic file sharing and library services. At its core, enterprise document management software begins with basic file sharing and library services managed within a networked repository. Individuals and groups with predefined access rights and permissions can access the repository and then create, read, update and delete files stored within it.
Many ECM applications support Content Management Interoperability Services, an industry standard that allows different vendors' products to interoperate; this is an essential capability within large enterprises that maintain content management tools from multiple vendors.
Content governance, compliance and records management. For many organizations, managing business documents or other content types is a critical use case for ECM. Companies subject to compliance or other industry regulations need document content management system software to capture, manage, archive and ultimately dispose of files after a predefined period.
ECM can ensure that only individuals with predefined permissions - determined by access controls - can update or view documents stored within a repository. An organization can thus manage document modification.
In addition, enterprise content management tools can log all actions, providing an organization with the capabilities to maintain an auditable record of all the changes to documents within the repository.
Business process management. Companies also use ECM to establish workflows that span departments and geographies to support extended enterprise and inter-enterprise business processes.
Most ECM software provides tools to help both technical and non-technical business users define business processes. Most applications provide audit controls to track each step of the process and analytic capabilities to help identify inefficiencies and streamline business procedures.
Content repositories linked to other enterprise applications. Some companies use electronic content management software as a repository for documents created by other enterprise applications, including CRM, ERP, HR and financial systems. These enterprise systems can seamlessly access, view or modify content managed by the ECM.
Enabling mobile and remote workforces. Content management tools often include functionality to allow remote workers to access content from mobile devices. This is an increasingly important feature for many companies.
Mobile capabilities also enable new kinds of data capture and presentation functionalities. By combining content management capabilities with other data, for example, a political canvasser can use a tablet to enter new information about a political donor without having to start from scratch, as some of that information is already stored in a content management system.