What to look for in an enterprise content management tool

by Teresa Meek

To get enterprise content management (ECM) right, you first need to think strategically about how information flows through your organization, and the role it plays in everything from business processes to security to change management.

Then, you need to choose a tool that will not only get the right stuff to the right people at the right time, but will also enable them to work more efficiently — all while maintaining a robust security program and keeping your organization in compliance at all times.

Yes, it’s a tall order.

Every business has its particular needs. But here are some of the basics that everyone should know about ECM, and how to choose the right tool to implement it.

What is ECM, anyway?

Enterprise content management is the systematic organization and deployment of a company’s information — its documents and files for executives, workers and customers. It encompasses records management, content taxonomies, workflow controls and security. ECM has five basic functions:

1. Capturing information entered into a system.

2. Managing information so that people who need it can find it easily (and so people who don’t need it can’t gain access).

3. Storing information in a location that’s appropriate for your business.

4. Archiving information for long-term storage and possible future use.

5. Delivering information to the right people at the right time.

What you need

Here are some of the must-have features you should look for in a robust ECM tool:

SaaS system

Having an ECM document management system is especially helpful for paper-intensive businesses. You should be looking for a system that moves documents to the cloud in a software as a service (SaaS) platform. That gives you one central location from which your company can store, retrieve, manage and share information, according to rules that you set.

Storing information in the cloud enables both workers and customers to send and receive information on the go, an essential feature in today’s 24/7 business environment. It will also help you reduce spending on paper and overnight shipping fees.


A strong ECM system gives employees the ability to work on documents together and edit them, while seamlessly managing version control in the background.

Employees — and in some cases, customers or vendors — should be able to access the documents they need anytime, anywhere, using any kind of device. A 24/7 ECM makes teams more efficient, leading to faster decision-making. That translates to swifter product development and better customer service.

Ease of use

Your ECM needs to have a user-friendly interface so that workers won’t get discouraged and substitute their own “Shadow IT” instead. Documents should be organized by type, and users should be able to find them through search, not just by using the index.


A good ECM tool needs to integrate smoothly with your existing framework for documents, including PCs, tablets, and apps for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices, as well as all printers you use.

Security and compliance

Your ECM should provide enterprise-level security, and give you the ability to store and transfer information to meet compliance regulations for your field. It should retain enough information to provide an acceptable audit trail.

Disaster readiness/archiving

Your business probably has a disaster plan for its physical location. You need one for your documents, too. Your ECM should provide off-site electronic document storage that you can always access in the event of an emergency.

The storage location can also archive information that is no longer being used. This is usually made up of the data and records that you are required to keep, or may need to retrieve someday. Keeping rarely-used material there will save space on your in-house systems and take information management worries off your mind, so you can concentrate on your business instead.

Is your enterprise ready to take control of its information?

Getting started is easy when you know where to begin. We can help.

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Teresa Meek is a Seattle-based writer with 15 years of experience in journalism. She has covered business, technology, health and culture, and has written for The Miami Herald, Newsday, The Baltimore Sun and The Seattle Times. She has also worked with a number of corporate clients, including Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, JPMorgan Chase and Microsoft.