Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is a formalized means of organizing and storing an organization's documents and other content. The term encompasses strategies, methods, and tools used throughout the lifecycle of the content.
ECM is an umbrella term covering document management, 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 eventually disposal.
ECM aims to make the management of corporate information easier through simplifying storage, security, version control, process routing, and retention. The benefits to an organization include improved efficiency, better control, and reduced costs.
ECM combines five components: capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver.
Capture component involves converting information from paper documents into an electronic format through scanning. Capture is also used to collect electronic files and information into a consistent structure for management. Capture technologies also encompass the creation of metadata (index values) that describe characteristics of a document for easy location through search technology. For example, a medical chart might include the patient ID, patient name, date of visit, and procedure as index values to make it easy for medical personnel to locate the chart.
The Manage component includes document management, web content management, collaboration, documents workflow, and records management. First four components address the dynamic part of the information's lifecycle. Records management focuses on managing finalized documents in accordance with the organization's document retention policy, which in turn must comply with government mandates and industry practices.
In many cases Manage components already include the "store" components.
Store component stores information that isn't required, desired, or ready for long-term storage or preservation. Even if the Store component uses media that are suitable for long-term archiving, "Store" is still separate from "Preserve."
Preserve component involves the long-term, safe storage and backup of static, unchanging information. Preservation is typically accomplished by the records management features of an ECM system and many are designed to help companies comply with government and industry regulations.
The Deliver components of ECM present information from the Manage, Store, and Preserve components to users.
Next time: more about ECM components.