Enterprise Content Management Enhances Decision Making

Although organizations store information in electronic format, it is hard for them to find the exact documents they need. Many organizations overlook large, untapped reserves of enterprise content that could help them to make better decisions, because much of this content is unstructured and lies outside of databases.


Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is a set of strategies, methods, and tools to capture, manage, store, preserve and deliver content and documents to enable an organization’s business processes [1]. It entails managing a document or electronic file through its life cycle from “cradle to grave.” ECM deals with content flow, the systems and processes the content touches. ECM creates value by linking people, processes and content.

ECM helps to manage unstructured data to deliver the right information to the right people, at the right level of detail, in a timely manner. It helps organizations to manage all types of electronic content, promotes collaboration and enforces consistent business processes.

Structured and Unstructured Data

Structured data is highly ordered and has attributes that let you query its database to retrieve the desired information. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software for accounting, supply chain, human resources, maintenance work orders, and environment, health & safety (EHS) uses relational databases. ERP software, as well as home-grown Access® databases, manages structured data with fields, columns, tables, rows and indexes.

Unstructured data lies outside of databases and is in no particular order. The vast majority of enterprise information is unstructured, and most exists as free-form text in documents, spreadsheets, e-mails, Web pages (HTML and XML), and rich media (video, audio, and image files).

ECM Features and Benefits

Enterprise Content Management extends beyond document management, with the following key features:

  • Document capture-capture and image paper documents, as well as native electronic files
  • Document management-document search, check-in, check-out, version control, access control (security), delivery
  • Digital asset management-maintain rich media files (audio, video, images
  • Business Process Management/Workflow-tools to move content through the organization, i.e., routing, approval, task management, audit trails
  • Collaboration-team-based content creation and decision making, i.e., document sharing, project team support, discussion boards
  • Web content management-create, review, publish, manage Web content from an information repository
  • E-mail management-classify, store, destroy per standards 
  • Records retention and archiving-automated disposition per regulatory requirements and company policy
  • Content reporting-reports and statistics on the content itself.

ECM’s chief benefits are that it: 

1. Provides a complete user experience;

2. Empowers people and decision making;

3. Helps to control risk and cost; and

4. Fosters agility and innovation.


A number of business and information technology (IT) trends drive companies to adopt ECM systems.

Business Drivers

Governance, Risk and Compliance. Compliance and records retention per EHS, HIPPA, FDA, Sarbanes-Oxley and other programs has the attention of Board and C-level executives.

Transparency. The need for accurate, transparent information, a “single version of the truth.”

Accountability. Driving accountability for day-to-day business processes to the right level within the organization.

e-Discovery. Litigation risk and electronic discovery concerns.

Productivity. The need to increase productivity and efficiency as the quantity of data continues to grow.

Collaboration. Connecting workers to relevant content and to each other, beyond e-mail and instant messaging.

Cost. Cost savings in challenging economic times.

Continuity. Capturing enterprise knowledge considering lean staffing and an aging workforce.

Information Technology Drivers

Infrastructure. Recognition of enterprise content as part of the IT infrastructure in more and more organizations.

Integration. Integrating unstructured content with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) databases.

Business Intelligence. Linking data from disparate sources in data warehouses or data marts.

Dashboards. Graphical display of Key Performance Indicators and scorecards using information drawn from data marts.

Web 2.0. Collaboration and social networking via the Internet.

The Cloud. Software as a Service with anytime, anywhere content delivery via Web browser over public, private, or hybrid clouds.

Security. Information security and cyber-threats.


The market offers ECM software for businesses of all sizes. This software has capabilities well beyond shared directories on a file server and can integrate with ERP software.

Top IT infrastructure vendors EMC, IBM and Oracle lead the high-end ECM solutions market. Specialty ECM vendor Open Text Corporation offers a series of mid- to high-end LiveLink software solutions that integrate with SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, and other enterprise applications. Oracle also offers small-to mid-sized solutions. Microsoft leads the low-end ECM market with SharePoint 2010. SharePoint adoption has increased rapidly within the last few years, as a robust option for organizations that do not require dedicated ECM systems. Further, SharePoint can serve as a portal for a dedicated ECM system. SAP, HP, Xerox and others are niche ECM players [3].


Organizations overlook a large, untapped resource. By defining an ECM strategy and adopting ECM processes–typically augmented by enterprise-wide software–businesses can take advantage of this vast resource to get the right information to the right people, at the right time, in a secure manner.  A variety of commercial ECM software solutions is available to fit the needs of small, medium and large organizations.


[1] American Association for Image and Information Management, Making the Case for Document Management in Challenging Times, February 13, 2009, http://www.aiim.org.

[2] American Association for Image and Information Management, What is ECM?.

[3] Gartner, Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Content Management, September 23, 2008, http://www.gartner.com.

For more IT articles, visit http://www.lexicon-systems.com/itinsight.html.

Source by Jill Barson Gilbert

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