Enterprise content management (ECM) is a formalized means of organizing and storing an organization's documents, and other content, that relate to the organization's processes. The term encompasses strategies, methods, and tools used throughout the lifecycle of the content.
Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is the strategies, methods and tools used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to organizational processes. ECM covers the management of information within the entire scope of an enterprise whether that information is in the form of a paper document, an electronic file, a database print stream, or even an email.
The latest definition encompasses areas that have traditionally been addressed by records management and document management systems. It also includes the conversion of data between various digital and traditional forms, including paper and microfilm.
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 applications are delivered in three ways: on-premises software (installed on the organization’s own network), software as a service (SaaS) (Web access to information that is stored on the software manufacturer’s system), or a hybrid solution composed of both on-premises and SaaS components.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. For example, many banks have converted to storing copies of old checks within ECM systems as opposed to the older method of keeping physical checks in massive paper warehouses. Under the old system, a customer request for a copy of a check might take weeks, as the bank employees had to contact the warehouse where the right box, file, and check, would need to be located. The check would then need to be pulled, a copy made and mailed to the bank where it would finally be mailed to the customer. With an ECM system in place, the bank employee simply queries the system for the customer’s account number and the number of the requested check. When the image of the check appears on screen, the bank is able to mail it immediately to the customer, usually while the customer is still on the phone.
Enterprise content management, as a form of content management, combines the capture, search and networking of documents with digital archiving, document management and workflow. It specifically includes the special challenges involved in using and preserving a company's internal, often unstructured information, in all of its forms. Therefore, most ECM solutions focus on business-to-employee (B2E) systems.
As ECM solutions have evolved, new components have emerged. For example, as content is checked in and out, each use generates new metadata about the content, to some extent automatically; information about how and when people use the content can allow the system to gradually acquire new filtering, routing and search pathways, corporate taxonomies and semantic networks, and retention-rule decisions. Email and instant messaging feature increasingly in decision-making processes; ECM can provide access to data about these communications, which can be used[by whom?] in business decisions. Solutions can provide intranet services to employees (B2E), and can also include enterprise portals for business-to-business (B2B), business-to-government (B2G), government-to-business (G2B), or other business relationships. This category includes most former document-management groupware and workflow solutions that have not yet fully converted their architecture to ECM, but provide a Web interface. Digital asset management is a form of ECM concerned with content stored using digital technology.
Content management includes ECM, Web content management (WCM), content syndication, and media asset management. Enterprise content management is not a closed-system solution or a distinct product category. Therefore, along with Document Related Technologies or Document Lifecycle Management, ECM is just one possible catch-all term for a wide range of technologies and vendors.
The content and structure of today's outward-directed Web portal will be the platform for tomorrow's internal information system. In his article in Computerwoche, Ulrich Kampffmeyer distilled ECM to three key ideas that distinguish such solutions from Web content management:
Enterprise content management as integrative middleware
ECM is used to overcome the restrictions of former vertical applications and island architectures. The user is basically unaware of using an ECM solution. ECM offers the requisite infrastructure for the new world of Web-based IT, which is establishing itself as a kind of third platform alongside conventional host and client/server systems. Therefore, EAI (enterprise application integration) and SOA (service-oriented architecture) will play an important role in the implementation and use of ECM.
Enterprise content management components as independent services
ECM is used to manage information without regard to the source or the required use. The functionality is provided as a service that can be used from all kinds of applications. The advantage of a service concept is that for any given functionality only one general service is available, thus avoiding redundant, expensive and difficult to maintain parallel functions. Therefore, standards for interfaces connecting different services will play an important role in the implementation of ECM.
Enterprise content management as a uniform repository for all types of information
ECM is used as a content warehouse (both data warehouse and document warehouse) that combines company information in a repository with a uniform structure. Expensive redundancies and associated problems with information consistency are eliminated. All applications deliver their content to a single repository, which in turn provides needed information to all applications. Therefore, content integration and ILM (Information Lifecycle Management) will play an important role in the implementation and use of ECM.
Enterprise content management is working properly when it is effectively "invisible" to users. ECM technologies are infrastructures that support specialized applications as subordinate services.
ECM thus is a collection of infrastructure components that fit into a multi-layer model and include all document related technologies (DRT) for handling, delivering, and managing structured data and unstructured information jointly. As such, enterprise content management is one of the necessary basic components of the overarching e-business application area. ECM also sets out to manage all the information of a WCM and covers archiving needs as a universal repository.
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