What is Enterprise Content Management?

(Image credit: Future)

You may have already heard this axiom before, but these days it is truer than ever. Content is king, especially when it comes to marketing a product, promoting a brand, or communicating about a company and its progress in the marketplace. Without content, there is no communication. Which is one reason Enterprise Content Management (or ECM) is so important. 

The basic concept behind ECM is that content management really helps a company achieve its objectives. Since the goal is more effective communication, and due to the fact that content creation and storage is often so sporadic and haphazard at times, ECM helps maintain organization. It is an effort to capture, store, archive, secure, and produce content in a way that helps a company advance in the marketplace and improve internal efficiencies.

Without overstating the importance of ECM, it is one of the key methods a company can reach more customers, improve employee communication, and increase sales. That’s due to the fact that content is so important, whether it is part of a social media strategy, meant to help salespeople in the field, or part of an internal communications effort.

ECM is best described as it relates to the steps in the process. It’s also best to understand ECM as more than a way to manage documents. ECM is an effort to improve the efficiency of all content that employees will need to access and print. In the following explanations of the steps, keep in mind that content can be brochures, sales literature, process documentation, manuals, one-sheet flyers, business memos and documents, and everything in between.

1. Capture

In order to manage content at a company and make the most of an Enterprise Content Management system, it has to be digitized and captured. This is partly an effort related to scanning and retrieval -- locating the documents needed as part of the ECM. And it is partly an effort to analyze the needs of the business and the documents collected in the first place. 

An efficient ECM will focus on the capture and digitization of content and how it is stored right from the beginning, which means it is often a process of tagging documents, determining who needs to access them and securing them as part of the initial ingest. 

2. Store

Content that is not easy to access may as well not even exist. Employees who have to search for hours on end to find a business proposal or a company brochure when the only goal is to make a few prints for a meeting will become incredibly inefficient. 

That’s why storage is just as important as the other components of ECM, including capturing the content and printing it. With ECM, employees will know where to find just about anything when they need to print something. A well-tuned ECM strategy always involves making content accessible on a variety of devices including computers, mobile devices, tablets, and any other device.  

3. Archive

Storage of content should be well-managed and the workflow should help employees access those documents easily. However, ECM typically involves archiving the content for long-term storage in a secure environment. (That “secure” component is important in case there is a data breach and you are required to restore older documentation.) 

Archiving helps with content management because it means not every piece of content is “live” all the time and shows up in a search, yet it is still accessible if needed. Archival is also part of a content management strategy because key documents and content can be de-archived and reused as needed.

4. Store

Any discussion about managing content in a company should also include securing that content. One of the ways that hackers sometimes steal data and cause disruption for a business is by compromising the content employees produce. 

Security is part of ECM as a way to make sure the content is not freely available to anyone, so this can involve authentication, passcodes at the printer or copier itself, and restrictions about usage by person or department. Security is also a major part of ECM because your company will want employees to be able to access content from anywhere and from any device yet in a safe and protected manner.  

5. Production

Enterprise Content Management is geared from the beginning to help employees produce the content, typically in hard copy on a printer or copier (but also as a PDF or in some other digital format). 

This part of ECM is all about managing who can print, where they can print, which devices are available, and even the replenishment of those devices with paper and ink. Production is a key part of ECM in terms of ease of access, removing complexity, and making sure the entire business process is as smooth as possible from start to finish.  

6. Analytics

ECM also involves analyzing whether you are managing content effectively. This can involve looking at how often printers and copiers are used in your company, but it’s often much more advanced. 

Analytics might help you determine which content is printed most often, how it is printed, and who is doing the printing. You and make better decisions about supplies - say, if most employees are printing in black and white at a certain size. And, analytics helps with one final area of ECM as a way to determine if your print services are efficient: the costs. 

7. Costs

ECM is also an exercise in cost control - and you might say it is primarily an exercise in cost control. That’s because well-maintained content management also controls costs. Employees spend less time looking for a document, they print only what they need, and companies don’t have to worry about security concerns (or the costly investigation related to a data breach). 

This means the entire workflow - from ingesting content, to storing it, to printing it - is fluid and efficient. Ultimately, cost may not be the only major concern, but it should be a driving force for why you should use ECM. 

John Brandon


John Brandon has covered gadgets and cars for the past 12 years having published over 12,000 articles and tested nearly 8,000 products. He's nothing if not prolific. Before starting his writing career, he led an Information Design practice at a large consumer electronics retailer in the US. His hobbies include deep sea exploration, complaining about the weather, and engineering a vast multiverse conspiracy.