I have been thinking about this quite a bit lately. For over two months now, to be exact!! So here it is, finally!
I think the traditional definitions of ECM swirling around are flawed. In this post I review some of the traditional definitions of ECM from AIIM, Gartner, and Forrester, and then propose a new “BetterECM Definition of ECM”. This new definition serves to answer the broader question of “How do we effectively manage the content across the enterprise and create a culture of information sharing?”
So let’s look at the current definitions:
Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is the technologies used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to organizational processes. ECM tools and strategies allow the management of an organization’s unstructured information, wherever that information exists.
From Gartner’s Client Issues for Enterprise Content Management, 2005
ECM has emerged after 10 years of market consolidation. Vendors from various areas have entered other markets by developing new functions, or by acquiring companies and technology from related markets. As a result, few stand-alone vendors remain in some of these markets (for example, Web content management and record management). Today, ECM encompasses the following core components:
- Document management for check-in/checkout, version control, security and library services for business documents
- Web content management for automating the webmaster bottleneck, and managing dynamic content and user interaction
- Record management for long-term archiving and the automation of retention and compliance policies, and to ensure legal or regulatory record compliance
- Document capture and document imaging for capturing and managing paper documents
- Document-centric collaboration for document sharing and supporting project teams
- Workflow for supporting business processes and routing content, assigning work tasks and states, and creating audit trails
From Forrester’s Topic Overview: Enterprise Content Management
ECM must be a strategy for: 1) how to manage all unstructured information — images, Web content, rich media assets, and corporate records; 2) how to integrate the many content repositories within an enterprise; and 3) how to put content to use — by making it contextual within business processes and user experiences.
What’s wrong with these definitions?
Well, all of the above definitions primarily focus on the technologies used to manage content across the enterprise. Forrester’s definition is getting closer to my idea of the ideal definition, but does not quite get there. It’s almost like the common definitions of ECM are based on the consolidation of the technology components that now make up the ECM suites. The do not address the necessary cultural aspects, processes, policies, and procedures which would support a culture and the practical application of effectively managing information throughout the enterprise.
I really like the Gartner definition of business process management (BPM): From the Gartner research report “Business Process Management: Preparing for the Process-Managed Organization”, they define BPM as:
BPM is a management practice that provides for governance of a process environment toward the goal of improving agility and operational performance. BPM is a structured approach employing methods, policies, metrics, management practices and software tools to manage and continuously optimize an organization’s activities and processes.
The BetterECM definition of ECM:
So, based on the less than ideal definitions of ECM so far I propose the following “BetterECM Definition of ECM”
“ECM is a management practice that provides for governance of an information management environment toward the goal of improving compliance, information reuse and sharing, and operational performance. ECM is a structured approach employing methods, policies, metrics, management practices and software tools to manage the lifecycle of information and to continuously optimize an organization’s collections of information and information management processes.”
Tell me what you think. Based on your feedback this definition may evolve.