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Enterprise content management makes the most of what you've got: Complex term, simple idea.

Enterprise Content Management, or ECM, is an umbrella term referring to integrating, optimizing and distributing content throughout an organization. The ECM ideal is to present a single integrated technology that would help companies to locate, manage, protect, and reuse many different content types. There are a lot of types out there: scanned and imported bi-tonal and color images; unstructured documents such as Word, WordPerfect, Excel and PowerPoint; PDF files; vector files for engineering drawings and geographic information systems; data streams from EDI and XML; structured data from e-forms and databases; print streams in PCL, AFP, Metacode, DJDE; video, sound files and graphics files; and web pages.

Since it encompasses so many content types and content management applications, ECM is not so much a monolithic technology as a framework encompassing content management policies and technologies. Most workable ECM systems integrate with a number of other applications and application servers and allow users to continue to use familiar interfaces while maintaining data information and customizing its presentation.

Karen Auman, director of product management for Interwoven, said, "ECM is an umbrella term; it's a term a lot of people have jumped on and there's not a lot of clarity around it." She broke ECM into three areas: "Content integration is the ability to pull any information from any repository; content intelligence, which is the ability to put value on the content you have; and content distribution, which is the geographic distribution. This could be e-learning, portals, internet and extranet." These three qualities allow organizations to assign reasonable TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) to ECM initiatives: integration optimizes existing resources and familiar interfaces, intelligence prioritizes content and allows organizations to manage content lifecycles, and distribution extends content value to the widest possible user base.

Content lifecycle management is important since it allows organizations to protect, store and access content according to its priority and degree of usefulness. Content management company Vignette notes that the content management lifecycle consists of collection, production, delivery and analysis.

Components of ECM

ECM encompasses multiple policies and components, but common objectives do exist:

* Reuse content as objects. Treating content as reusable objects saves money and time by cutting down on re-creation, and keeps the company's message consistent. This also applies to streamlined methods of information access, such easily finding the information you need on a portal website or intranet. For example, IBM and Coca-Cola worked together to manage Coca-Cola's extensive and priceless library of marketing images. Coca-Cola understood its value but also understood that it was hard to manage image use across a huge company with many different marketing directives, campaigns and divisions. Using a content management application and equipment from IBM, the soft drink company created a data repository of official, reusable marketing images from decades of print, radio, television, and web advertising.

* Access and retrieve content. If you can't find it -- or don't know it exists in the first place -- you can't use it. Useful content spans all types of applications, but often exists in content silos that are invisible to other users. Organizations can significantly cut down on their operating costs if they can allow users to search and access content across repositories. ECM tools optimize search results, providing efficient tools for searches and avoiding redundant or off-target hits.

* Speeding up time to market. Effective ECM brings content-dependent products to market faster by allowing developers to efficiently create, access, and reuse content. This process is especially helpful for online data, media and publishing industries.

* Managing content lifecycle. A content lifecycle extends from creation through active use and ends with archiving or deletion. ("Deletion" is not a dirty word, but is an important part of an intelligent lifecycle policy.) Some industries are strictly regulated and must retain their written and electronic records for several years in an easily accessible format. Content lifecycle management also impacts non-regulated industries, where it affects content usage and litigation issues.

To accomplish these objectives, ECM consists of several major technologies. Some of its major components include Electronic Records Management, Document Management! Digital Asset Management and Enterprise Information Portals.

Electronic Records Management

The records management industry defines records as business-related content in final and unchangeable form, which must be retained for a specific period of time. Electronic Record Management (ERM) systems manage record lifecycles, which begin with capture and registration, continue through required retention periods (called "trusted record keeping," meaning that they must be immediately available), and end with timely deletion or archiving. Electronic records can consist of multiple content types including email, captured images of paper records, audio and video files. Recent corporate accounting scandals have tightened the atmosphere of record keeping, maintenance and retrieval. Content management company Documentum, for example, recently acquired TrueArc's technology to beef up its ERM technology. They suggest the following as necessary components of ERM applications:

* Manage complete record lifecycles.

* Use uniform records rules to classify and tag content.

* Use tags to prioritize storage and retrieval needs.

* Link records with related business content.

* Quickly produce records on demand, recover deleted content if required, and prove that missing records and content were legally destroyed.

* Archive or destroy records at the end of their lifecycles.

* Protect intellectual property.

Document Management/Digital Asset Management

Document Management (DM) technologies capture documents at their creation according to preset rules, store them in central repositories, and assign versioning and access controls. Different users will have different security roles, and can accordingly view, edit, and check modified documents back in, with or without approvals. DM involves workflow processes and subscriptions to content databases and directories as well as content modification alerts. In order to avoid moving content from one data source into another, DM usually accesses underlying objects such as servers, workspaces, folders, collaborative document databases, document summaries and profiles, and dictionaries.

Digital Asset Management (you guessed it -- DAM), controls and leverages digital media assets for projects such as web publishing, internal production processes, multi-channel marketing, knowledge management, ad-hoc research, and downstream system integration. Digital material includes unstructured documents and database files, music, ebooks, video, audio, software, presentations, photographs, pictures, and archive material web pages. DAM may either move digital assets into its own data repository, or may integrate with other data sources such as databases and digital libraries.

Enterprise Information Portals

Enterprise Information Portals (EIP) leverage content assets for corporate portal users, which may include employees, suppliers and customers. EIPs often include workflow and collaboration tools, content management, document lifecycle management, application integration and business intelligence. Managing both structured and unstructured documents, portals pull from a variety of data sources. Many of them track user behavior in order to present customized views and content searches, and some of them include features like forms management, collaborative group tools, content versioning and access controls, document lifecycle management, application integration and business intelligence tools.

Interwoven lists five requirements of an ECM deployment: usability, scalability, openness, robustness, and TCO. Users overwhelmingly prefer familiar interfaces, and ECM systems with only a single interface suffer from user resistance. IT can minimize usability barriers by integrating the ECM system into familiar applications such as Word; ECM works in the background by transparently leveraging content. Robust and scalable content systems support large data volumes, complex lifecycle management and remote offices while protecting information access. By working over distributed areas, IT can bring remote offices back into the content fold and make sure to produce consistent messages and communications. The ECM system should also closely integrate with existing business applications including application and portal servers, databases and repositories, and enterprise applications. This allows the organization to achieve a reasonable TCO by leveraging its existing assets and building on familiar applications.

Just as companies are centralizing their storage operations, ECM allows corporations to centrally manage their content. Auman said, "For a long time, the elements that are in content management were run by various departments within an organization. IT and the CIO's office are now taking control of all of that, and want to come in with a unified, clear strategy instead of having multiple vendors and product points. Doing this from the IT perspective really defines the need for a platform approach."

Regulatory issues, data protection, and leveraging existing investments are all pushing the need to framework ECM. As the META Group commented, "To address the growing demands organizations must face in dealing with all types of content, users and vendors must broaden their scope of functionality and embrace the evolutionary enterprise content management model."
Component Activity Details

Collection Retrieves or displays A content short list: word
 content from processing documents, spreadsheets,
 multiple sources email, database records, audio and
 video files, graphics of all sorts,
 query results, customer and
 financial information, scanned-in
 hardcopy, meta-data, forms,
 workflow, web pages. The best ECM
 packages work across a variety of
 existing data repositories to
 preserve investments.

Production Manipultaes content Processes consist of formatting,
 to present to users. versionning, editing, approving,
 customizing, targeting, language
 localization, delivery preparation,
 and deployment testing and staging
 Production can have both automated
 and manual steps.

Delivery Presents content to Delivery phases include document
 user, may personalize assembly and user interface/
 by use activity navigarion, and might also have the
 ability to customize presentation
 according to end-user behaviours.

Analysis Study content Scientific and mathematical
 consumption behavior algorithms analyze user behavior
 and traffic patterns. Using ECM
 tools, content, managers can use
 the reports to optimize content
 delivery and presentation.
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Article Details
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Author:Chudnow, Christine Taylor
Publication:Computer Technology Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2003
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