Enterprise content management (ECM) is a set of defined processes that allow a corporation, agency or organization to obtain, organize, store and deliver information crucial to its operation in the most effective manner possible.
A primary goal of ECM is to eliminate ad hoc processes that can expose an organization to regulatory compliance risks and other potential problems. Full-function ECM systems include features such as document and records management, content taxonomies, auditing capabilities, check-in/check-out and other workflow controls and security mechanisms.
According to the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), ECM can be broken down into five major components called capture, manage, store, preserve and deliver. The purpose of each component can be briefly defined as follows:
- Capture: Create, obtain and organize information.
- Manage: Process, modify and employ information.
- Store: Temporarily back up frequently changing information in the short term.
- Preserve: Back up infrequently changing information in the medium and long term.
- Deliver: Provide clients and end users with requested information.
An effective ECM can streamline access, eliminate bottlenecks, optimize security, maintain integrity and minimize overhead. The first step is to document all the types of content that the organization deals with, the business processes it's part of and who handles it. ECM software tools can be used to identify duplicate and near-duplicate content, allowing the organization to keep a few copies of a particular piece of content instead of hundreds.
ECM has become increasingly important and complex in recent years for a number of reasons. Financial fraud and data breaches -- and regulations designed to prevent them -- have made effective information governance essential not only for compliance reasons, but also to help protect the organization's reputation. Enterprises also need to manage content effectively for integration with business intelligence/business analytics (BI/BA) applications that help them to use the available information to guide business decisions.