Enterprise Resource Planning Compared to ECM

Enterprise Resource Planning or ERP deals with structured data created by functional applications. Enterprise Content Management seeks to bring even unstructured data into the ambit of the enterprise’s knowledgebase. Such a knowledgebase can then be tapped for decision-support information, hopefully resulting in better quality decisions.

ERP Systems

ERP systems have multiple modules that can interact with one another. These modules deal with manufacturing, financials, supply chain, customer relations, and human relations. Each of these modules will be detailed in the next section.

There are a number of ERP vendors in the market, and some modules are considered better from some vendors while other modules are better from other vendors. This has led large organizations to choose different vendors for different modules.

This requires in-house interface-building skills to make the different modules talk to each other. Such interfaces are essential for exchange of data among systems, so that the same data need not be entered again and again in different systems.

Typical Modules in ERP Systems

The Manufacturing module supports manufacturing-related activities such as plant engineering, scheduling production and materials requirements, managing workflow and processes, quality control, and cost control.

The Supply Chain module is concerned with ensuring timely supplies of acceptable quality materials by improving inventory control and purchasing functions, supplier performance monitoring, etc.

The Customer Relations module facilitates such marketing-related activities as sales and distribution functions, commission calculations, and customer support.

The Financials module attends to the traditional accounting and cash flow management functions, including accounts receivable, accounts payable, cash flow control, and general ledger.

There are other modules for functions like Human Resources Management (including payroll), Project Management, and Data Warehousing.


ERP seeks to combine all the traditional business applications, making them exchange information among themselves. This can help not only to reduce data entry but also facilitate lean operations leading to more significant cost advantages. And lower costs translate into a competitive advantage for a business.

Enterprise Content Management—ECM—seeks to go further, seeking to create a knowledgebase of the enterprise’s business experience and content resources. ECP typically features a common content repository that accommodates all kinds of content and permits online Web access from anywhere in the world.

ECM accepts both structured and unstructured content in its data repository that has a uniform structure. The ECM content repository is separate from transactional databases and is optimized differently. The repository is optimized for query and analysis rather than transaction speed.

Under ECM systems, users can extract business knowledge by querying the content repository. All kinds of queries are facilitated through the use of metadata attached to the documents that constitute the repository’s content.

ERP can be viewed as facilitating the more ambitious aims of Enterprise Content Management by seeking to integrate all structured data.


ERP focuses on traditional transaction systems while Enterprise Content Management systems seek to create a more comprehensive knowledgebase that accommodates structured and unstructured content. The ECM content repository is optimized for querying and analysis to help users extract knowledge from the content.

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