Enterprise content management (ECM) has been helping companies digitize, control, and automate their unstructured information like packing slips and invoices, resumes, tax documents, emails, and meeting notes.
An ECM system will capture, read, and index information to increase its understandability; give staff the ability to edit or annotate information; and provide comprehensive workflow tools and automation to ensure the right information ends up in the right hands in a timely manner.
Within this system, documents can be created, managed, processed, and archived securely and according to compliance regulations.
88% of office workers say they need a dependable, unified data search platform that would help them do their jobs better.
They can be available to all staff, whether mobile or in-house, and all document access, changes, and movements are recorded for better organization and forensics.
All communication—including that with customers, suppliers, and subcontractors—is intelligently managed and can be easily retrieved for better workflows and continual process improvement.
Why Enterprise Content Management (ECM) Is Critical
Modern businesses are more focused than ever on digital processes and deploying the kind of digital transformation that drives success.
An onslaught of technological advances, including cloud technology, mobile capabilities, machine learning, and automation are spurring changes and creating opportunities.
New forms of content are on the rise as social media platforms, audio, and video create more unstructured data for businesses to deal with, in addition to mountains of data that businesses have to deal with from customers and work processes.
By 2020, the global amount of data created daily will reach 44 trillion gigabytes and most of this data will be unstructured
An ECM helps businesses cope with these swift and prolific changes by providing ways to organize information in a manner that optimizes performance and minimizes error.
Additionally, escalating fraud and cyberattacks means data governance and compliance with regulations are more critical than ever.
An ECM allows for effective management of data and—importantly—integration with current business analytics to protect information from loss.
Finally, in an increasingly competitive market, businesses must leverage the power of productivity to keep their advantage.
81% of employees cite the need for mobile access to company documents
An ECM provides a secure and logically organized way to archive critical information so it is available to streamline workflows and increase efficiency with your data.
Breaking it Down: All About ECM
At their simplest, ECMs are multifunctional systems used to catalog and store unstructured information for business purposes.
However, there’s a lot that goes into their makeup, function, and benefits that should be clearly understood in order to discern the true value they bring to the processes, productivity, and profitability of a business.
The Components of Enterprise Content Management
There are five basic components of enterprise content management: capture, management, storage, preservation, and delivery.
To capture both digital and print information, an ECM must have both scanning and optical character recognition (OCR) capabilities.
Some may even employ handprint recognition technology (HCR), a form of intelligent character recognition (ICR) that allows hand printed text to be easily interpreted and captured.
This helps automate data entry tasks to reduce human error and allow for the tracking of large volumes of data.
Management tools will vary according to the requirements of each business. Typically, they include:
Other tools can include web content management or document management tools.
There are three basic elements to storage solutions in an ECM:
First; there is a repository to collect files.
Second; a library tool that picks up files that have gone through the capture and manage sequence.
Finally; the hardware—such as servers, cloud-based storage, optical disks, and more—that holds files and software for retrieval.
As opposed to the short-term repository of the storage component, preservation provides long-term storage or archiving of critical files.
There are many media choices that can provide appropriate archival, however it’s important to ensure media types are compatible with evolving technologies for long-term usage.
To be able to shift content to appropriate users throughout your system, you’ll require middleware that helps move information from application to application.
The delivery process can include distribution of media for access by end users through websites, social media, intranet, or even printed documents.
Security is critical at this part of the process so that unauthorized edits and access are prohibited as data is moved from place to place.
How ECM Works
The basic ECM process has all five ECM components working in tandem to organize and disseminate crucial business process information throughout the lifecycle of the data. In short:
- Data is captured
- Information is published internally or on a company website
- Information is automatically and securely archived
- Old, outdated, or unused information is periodically deleted to save space
To begin using ECM, businesses typically identify each type of content used within the organization and assign them to a business process and even particular staff members.
Then, ECM software targets duplicate content to reduce storage redundancies and then organizes the information in a central repository along with metadata that allows it to be accessed quickly and efficiently by the people who need it.
These approved users can use full-text searches to locate necessary content that they can then read, edit, or print.
Users can also use keywords or phrases to search for documents, reducing retrieval time and increasing productivity.
These simple but powerful tools allow departments—or entire businesses—to:
- Reduce dependency on paper
- Streamline workflows
- Reduce risk
- Increase productivity
- Provide exceptional customer service
Easy access to critical information helps businesses make better decisions, complete projects faster, and collaborate effortlessly for increased efficiency.
How ECM Benefits Your Business
Because an enterprise content management system provides a unified platform for the dissemination, storage, and management of data, it can help businesses handle data in a way that meets security and compliance requirements for exceptional risk management.
Other benefits include:
- Auditing capabilities including check-in/check-out and workflow oversight
- Streamlined access and reduced information bottlenecks through version control
- Reduced storage, paper, and mailing needs for minimized overhead costs
- Optimized security
- Reduced costs—and the potential for error—through the automation of manual processes
- Improved customer services through real-time visibility
An ECM’s access to complex tools brings robust functionality to business processes.
For example, data mining becomes simpler and more accurate through the use of tools provided by the ECM system that allow parameters and search ranges to be pinpointed for faster and more accurate searches.
Moving forward, ECM systems continue to evolve and change as they target the needs of businesses that are seeking increased agility, integration, and competitive advantage in a rapidly changing world.
As the digital pace increases, ECMs continue to add features and incorporate evolving technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence to maximize effectiveness.
And businesses—large and small—are reaping the benefits of these systems to position themselves more solidly in the marketplace.
- An enterprise content management system will capture, read, and index information; give staff the ability to edit or annotate; and provide comprehensive workflow tools and automation.
- There are five basic components of an ECM: capture, management, storage, preservation, and delivery.
- An ECM can help businesses handle data in a way that meets security and compliance requirements for exceptional risk management.
- Other benefits include auditing capabilities, streamlined access and reduced information, reduced storage, paper, and mailing needs for minimized overhead costs, optimized security, reduced long-term expenditures
A digital transformation strategy is crucial for a modern business. MSPs provide the tools and expertise to help guide a transformation, whether it’s implementing cloud services or a raft of new technology. To find out more about how an MSP can help, download our eBook, “Does Your Business Need a Managed IT Service Provider?”