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Components of enterprise content management


Explore the goals, benefits, types, elements and best practices of enterprise content management.

Read time: 15 minutes

...updated 12//22/2023...

Enterprise content management (ECM) refers to the processes, strategies, tools, and platforms an organization uses to manage its content. The term itself includes different components like:

The definition and idea of enterprise content management continue to evolve. In 2010, it focused primarily on documents and other content. The Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) recently evolved the term into Intelligent Information Management (IIM). It accounts for the way data contained within documents can be captured, analyzed, and used for better-informed decision-making.

Today, if you search online, you’ll likely find different organizations defining ECM in different ways. Why?

The simplest answer is that today there is so much content. And so much more that we can do with it.

  • Website content supports marketing, sales, customer service, and brand initiatives. 

  • Marketing content engages online and also includes files for physical material printed, used for events (like banners), and more. 

  • Business content like invoices, sales orders, contracts, and more contain valuable information and require time and effort to manage, extract data, and file.

  • Customer service content features instructions, drivers, and other content your customers use with your product or service. 

These are only a few examples. You can certainly identify more.

To really understand enterprise content management, we need to understand:

  • Why an enterprise would need it

  • The goals

  • The benefits 

  • Its role in the content lifecycle

  • The different types of documents

  • The common elements of an enterprise content management system

  • How to choose the right one

  • How to implement a system that has so many varied components

7 goals of enterprise content management

Information and data are the lifeblood of business. Documents and, even more generally, content in all its forms exist solely to organize and communicate that information and data.

How information is found, accessed, moves, and is stored form the primary purpose for developing your enterprise content management strategy. But your goals for it should be much more focused.

Here are 7 common goals of an ECM strategy.

The benefits of enterprise content management systems

The way enterprise content management helps businesses meet their goals may sound like benefits in themselves. In reality, the benefits go much further and include:

  • Better decision-making. When employees have access to all the information and content they need when evaluating the option, they make better-informed decisions.

  • Content security. The only way to access any piece of content is via a password protected interface. Yes, this requires strong password practices, but no one will just happen upon a document like those that might be left on top of a file cabinet. Plus, if you use cloud content management, the data centers (should) use multi-layered security protocols and encryption to ensure your content remains secured.

  • Enhanced document controls. Access rights go beyond merely granting access to documents – they define what a user may do with a document. Basic levels of access would be view, edit, and admin. These controls add another level of document security while still granting access to employees to help achieve a faster response to vendors, customers, and prospects ready to buy.

  • Lower document storage costs. Without a need for physical media or storage, costs become more predictable and manageable.

  • Better use of office space. With more available office space, you have more flexibility to meet changing work environment needs such as for health, safety, and adding staff.

  • Increased productivity. Everyone spends less time looking or waiting for documents and more time getting work done. Being in a controlled and centralized system, employees can find documents and other content quickly. Many systems allow for quick searches based on key data fields in the document. Invoices, for example, could be found by invoice number, customer name or number, or other fields. Automated workflows move and share documents for review and approvals at the speed of a click. Real-time collaboration tools support meeting productivity.

  • Greater employee satisfaction. Employees stay engaged and energized when they can stay productive with the bonus of flexibility that improves the work-life balance.

  • Greater customer satisfaction. Your sales and customer service teams will be able to access the information they need to respond faster to customer requests whether they are working at the office, in the home office, or on the road.

  • More available data at your fingertips. A well-structured enterprise content management program puts all the relevant content at everyone’s fingertips, empowering informed decision-making.

  • Content lifecycle management. You’ll optimize data storage and prevent files from becoming bloated with outdated documents and content. Enterprise content management systems enable you to manage the lifecycle of every document from creation through archiving and, as appropriate, even deletion.

Types of content ECM's support

Structured content 

is the data stored in databases, enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications, customer relationship management (CRM) tools, and line of business applications.

Semi-structured content 

are those documents like invoices, HR forms, and order forms that have specific data types, although the actual documents themselves may vary in layout and design.

Unstructured content 

includes correspondence, presentations, and other media for which the data and the design are different from one document to another. 

Different types of ECM

You may see a variety of answers if you search "enterprise content management" online. The range of definitions has expanded as technology has increased the amount and type of possible enterprise content. You may see it referred to as follows:

Using enterprise content management systems to achieve your goals

Enterprise content management systems increase document security, boost productivity, and empower you to reach your organizational goals.

What to look for in an enterprise content management tool

Think strategically about the role an enterprise content management system plays in everything from business processes to change management.

Your ECM is not just about technology

Enterprise content management encompasses everything from your information and data to your mobility, governance and security policies.

Information Governance through Records Management

Records management should always be a critical component of your integrated information governance and enterprise content management strategies.

Questions about how ECM could benefit your organization?

Frequently asked questions

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