What is ECM? Your Definition and Mileage may Vary

There is a wide ranging and somewhat loose definition of what constitutes the concept and application of Enterprise Content Management (ECM). This is the first part of a series I am working on to describe ECM. This first post will focus on the highest level of what ECM is and does. The next set in the series will include a breakdown of the what I call the four core pillars of ECM – Document Capture, Document Management, Workflow, and Archive.

Dec 20 2008 025 A quick background on me:
I have spent the better part of the last 16 years working in various aspects of the ECM space. I spent time at Kofax, Microsoft, FileNet, K2, and most recently Captaris (which was
acquired by Open Text in Nov 2008). Prior to that I was a Unix VAR running my own company.

At the highest level Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is both simple and complex. While it is simple for a company to say “Sure, we have an ECM system” it is much more difficult to really design, develop, and deploy a truly “Enterprise-wide” ECM system.

Why ECM? Why now?
Well as anyone in the content management space knows Microsoft is making great strides with their SharePoint and WSS products. SharePoint is the fastest growing product in the history of Microsoft. That’s saying something. So, the answer to Why ECM? and Why Now? is MONEY. Customers can save money and partners can make money. I wrote a blog post primarily focused at partners about this the other day. A key point to note here is that Microsoft’s SharePoint is taking market share from the traditional Big 3 ECM vendors – which is why there has been and will continue to be consolidation in the ECM space.

The graphic below depicts a very simple scenario that I developed while working at Kofax and FileNet in the mid-90’s. It includes the four pillars as mentioned above, but does not assign any weighting or values to each pillar or a recommended order to start building an ECM system. The simple scenario assumes each is important. In reality the nature of your business will determine which pillar gets the lion share of the budget and which pillar or pillars are critical for risk management, compliance, and operational efficiencies.


The next part of this series will include my broader definition of what constitutes a modern ECM system and it will contrast with the simplified version shown in the graphic. By my definition a modern ECM system includes the intersection and interoperation of both systems and humans as well as technologies to help drive the solution. Technologies, such as:

  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP – Think SAP)
  • Human Resource Management (HRM)
  • Supply Chain Management (SCM)
  • Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)
  • Digital Asset Management (DAM)
  • Search and
  • Social Networking

are simple to describe yet must be robust enough to interoperate with and to provide key elements to a successful ECM solution.

Next up – A breakdown of each pillar block that makes up the ECM system then a breakdown of the ancillary components (CRM, ERP, HRM, SCM, PLM, Search, Social Networking, DAM, etc.). Each of these “ancillary” technologies can and will play a key role in the development of ECM solutions in the coming years.

I’d like to hear about what you have seen and experienced with ECM. The four pillars are just a starting point. What pillars have you seen as being the most critical to ECM success? Do you have a different set of pillars? I invite and encourage your feedback.

Your comments and feedback are greatly appreciated. Please feel free to comment on this blog, tweet about it, Retweet it and if you are so inclined send me e-mail directly.

Final Words: ECM is not a panacea. However, a well designed ECM system can help do the two things companies care about – Save Money and Make Money. Reducing Costs – especially in the current economy – is important. Increasing Profits can be a direct result of reduced costs and increased profits can also come from the effective implementation of the Four Pillars.


Chris_Ian-Banz said…
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