Disillusioned With The Current Definition of ECM

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:

From AIIM

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.

Technorati tags: , , , , ,

ARMA Meet AIIM…

Alan Pelz-Sharpe over at doitbetter beat me to the punch.

I was planning to post about the “Joint Statement from AIIM and ARMA” I received via email from AIIM yesterday. I have thought for a long time that it made sense for AIIM and ARMA to join forces and work more closely together or even merge the two associations.

Alan makes the following observation:

Its difficult to know if its news or not – and if its important or not. For frankly no real waves will occur or industry changes emerge as a result, but it does give pause for thought.

Well, I think that the statement was released for a reason since it is timed two weeks before the annual ARMA International conference. I think AIIM is hoping that the ARMA membership will wake up and start asking hard questions about where ARMA is headed and how they plan to catapult the association forward and start embracing the advances in technology for managing electronic records.

Alan’s point that ARMA is member led and AIIM is more influenced by vendors is dead on. But, what I have observed over the last several years is that ARMA has not embraced the advances in ECM and RIM technologies and continues to approach records management from a more traditional paper based approach.

AIIM, on the other hand, has been very progressive in establishing their Electronic Records Management Certificate Program.  Also, at the last several AIIM conferences records management has been front and center both as an important topic and focus of training programs.

My recommendation, ARMA and AIIM should take the first step and join forces to consolidate the annual conferences. Many attendees have to choose between one or the other and this way they get the best of both conferences.

Radical idea? What do you think?

Technorati tags: , , ,