Just What Is Enterprise Content Management?
Many esoteric descriptions have been applied to Enterprise Content Management. Some have suggested Enterprise Knowledge Management as a better term for the work completed. While knowledge management might be an ideal to strive for, it’s not yet a reality on the ground.
ECM is concerned with using information for managing the businesses of the enterprise better. This becomes a big issue when your business expands to a global enterprise (or just a large enterprise with several businesses).
How Does ECM Work?
ECM uses data warehouses where all data is copied, including unstructured data, and maintained under a uniform structure. Data warehouses are designed to speed up querying and analyzing, so that it can be mined for relevant information by asking properly designed queries.
Enterprise Content Management is a set of technologies and strategies that support Capture and Management of enterprise content to aid Collaborative Working, and include facilities for Storage and Preservation of the content till it can be removed safely.
The enterprise content consists not only of text data, but also audio and video files, and other digital assets. It can be paper-based or electronic, and where electronic, it can be created by different applications using different standards.
The content can also be generated at numerous points across the enterprise.
ECM uses various tools and technologies to capture the varied content and send it to a uniformly structured common repository such as a data warehouse. Paper documents are scanned and converted into digital format.
The manage component combines all the functionalities to ensure that the content becomes useful for business processes. Unless proper policies and procedures are planned in advance and implemented on the ground, even under an ECM environment different departments can continue to create non-uniform structures.
It’s uniform structures and relevant metadata that make all content “findable” when queried in different ways. Improving findability and presenting information in ways that facilitate action are key objectives of the manage function.
Discussion forums, such as whiteboards that allow supporting presentations with relevant documents, aid teams to contribute to projects. Enterprise Content Management Software contains facilities to make such discussions possible even when vast distances separate the participants. Participants can also contribute at different times depending on their convenience.
Workflows can involve moving documents from person to person before final approval and publishing. Under ECM, these need not involve physical movement of paper documents. Instead, these can take, or be converted into, a digital format and follow a predefined path to approval/publication.
Storage and Preservation
Content needs to be stored in a way that allows it to be queried by authorized persons. At the same time, unauthorized persons should not be allowed to see it. This is typically achieved by implementing a scheme of access rights and permissions.
Additionally, content in many different formats need to be accommodated by ECM. Text documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings and other images, and video and audio files are examples. Different applications might use different standards to create the content. All these need to be made findable and retrievable, using a standard interface.
There is also the need for policies and practices, supported by appropriate technologies, to ensure safety (and recoverability in case of loss through some disaster) and security of the content.
Finally, policies and procedures must be in place to identify and remove content to archival storage or from the system itself.
Enterprise content management systems seek to use appropriate strategies and technologies to make non-uniform and/or unstructured content, generated all across the enterprise, available for managing business processes. It manages the full lifecycle of information from capture through access-restricted storage, collaborative and individual working and sufficiently long preservation to final removal.