Coming of age of ECMs

Enterprise content management systems are replacing the plain vanilla document management of yore.

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Internal content, i.e. content that an enterprise generates daily, is the “boring” side of content. Businesses, whatever may be their size, generate volumes of data by way of documents like Word files, Excel sheets, presentations, images and videos; even customer feedback, across functions, forms, formats and channels.

Before the dawn of the World Wide Web, things were easier. Departments physically filed documents, sent them across to other departments when required, or deposited them in a central library, and individuals tasked with their safe-keeping such as a librarian would handle their filing and their retrieval based on library science.

Then, with the digitization of data, it got complicated. Digital files, folders, images and other paraphernalia, structured and unstructured, started to pour into every enterprise, making their retrieval and their use a challenge. This is why and how the enterprise content management (ECM) platform came into being - invention is the mother of necessity, after all.

The growth of the ECM was directly linked to the expansion of Information Technology (IT). Till recently, ECM was an IT function in a company. But now things are changing. Today, an ECM is linked to a customer relationship management (CRM) software and similar software for instantaneous and well-informed decision-making throughout the enterprise.

One factor driving this change is the fact that more and more employees are working remotely. This leads to the creation of unsupervised content with almost nil sense of ownership. GDrive and Excel sheets are fine but to a point. But enterprises have started to realize the necessity of getting all the documentation across business functions such as HR, Sales and Marketing consolidated for not only better functioning but also informed decisions, hence the need for an ECM.

Here’s a scenario: A content freelancer in New York working for a Bangalore company emails a slideshow on the positives of biometrics to the content manager located in Atlanta. The latter, in turn, sends in over email with his own notes to the web master, requesting him to upload it. Once published, a lead watches this slideshow and gets in touch with the marketing VP in London for additional information. The latter now has no clue who is behind the original piece of content or why someone in the enterprise had felt the need to develop that slideshow. He perhaps does not even have permission to access the slideshow to begin with.


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ECMs put enterprise content to work. That’s the major positive as compared to the filing systems of the old world. For example, with the possibility of moving streaming data to the cloud, businesses can get analysis of its data done to look for signals.

In addition to moving to the cloud, there are two other developments in the world of ECMs that are about to make it more robust and dynamic.

The first is what’s called robotic process automation (RPA), and the other is the inclusion of rich media in ECMs.

RPAs can be explained very simply: these are bots that replace humans for doing tedious tasks as defined by business rules. RPAs do not require much coding, and can be installed on anyone’s PC or laptop. A task an RPA can tackle could be the filing of all pie charts from every division in a central repository. It’s automation, basically.

Today’s digital data is not relegated to only words or some infographics. It is also video, podcasts, 3D imagery, streaming media, and so on. Cloud-based storage infrastructure is slowly ensuring that ECMs start supporting such rich media.

ECMs are taking up a central role in the world of business. At their center is content, which, after all, is the key for the initiation of any process. Content providers and managers who develop or handle enterprise content can perhaps look forward to a more organized way of doing things.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay