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ECM: The Rise & Fall of Enterprise Content Management

Colin Graf | Tuesday, July 18, 2017

ECM: The Rise & Fall of Enterprise Content Management

If you remember Saturday Night Live from the 90s, and Coffee Talk with Linda Richman (Mike Myers portraying his real-life mother-in-law), then this may sound familiar...

Enterprise Content Management: neither enterprise nor content management—discuss.

The term "enterprise content management" – or "ECM" for short – has been problematic at best in its troubled life, and often a complete misnomer at worst. If we believe what Gartner tells us, then ECM is dead after a 17-year run. 

ECM: Problems at Inception

First, ECM has rarely been implemented truly at the enterprise level vs. a series of departments. Or should we say that it was rarely implemented successfully across a large or even mid-sized enterprise. Whenever we heard of an attempt to implement ECM at the enterprise level in the good (read: bad) old days, we'd hear tales of disaster that reminded us of the SAP implementation horror stories we used to hear about.

The most successful implementations that we've heard of or have led have instead been focused at the departmental, agency or business group level and then spread throughout the organization.

Second, rarely does ECM really capture and manage all content within an organization. Most content is created electronically and hides out in hard drives, shared drives, Microsoft SharePoint libraries, cloud files shares, with archived information stored on paper, CDs, DVDs, tape, microfilm, microfiche, and even aperture cards. And what about all that content in your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, line of business systems, customer relationship management systems (CRM), and web content management systems (WCMS)? While ECM-related integrations exist, these content repositories often function as information silos (just really useful ones).

The true evidence of ECM not really catching on by terminology or practice is how few users of what many call ECM rarely refer to it as such.

Gartner's Birth of Content Services

According to Michael Woodbridge at Gartner in his recent article, The Death of ECM and Birth of Content Services: "...ECM is now dead (kaput, finite, an ex-market name), at least in how Gartner defines the market. It's been replaced by the term Content Services, a strategic concept that covers three aspects, namely Content Services Applications, Platforms and Components."

In a nutshell, Woodbridge explains that the following being the primary function of Content Services:

  • Regulatory compliance and risk management
  • Retention and dissemination of business knowledge
  • Cost and process efficiencies
  • Innovation and new ways of working

The MetaSource Take on Content & ECM

We believe that Gartner is on the right track, though we prefer to think about ECM as being the following components of document-centric processes and workflows:

  • Content Ingestion: the process of scanning, importing and processing information from your documents, which can include document imaging and scanning, e-forms and the automated capture of email and attachments and fax
  • Content Capture & Data Entry: the process of automatically extracting information from captured documents so they can searched and retrieved later
  • Process Workflow & Decisioning: analyzing processes to determine flow, how decisions are made and compliance requirements, and streamlining them with workflow automation tools
  • Reconciliation & Auditing: reconciling whether or not incoming information and data are complete and accurate to reduce the risk of a bad audit – a.k.a. quality control (QC)
  • Compliance Services: ensuring compliance with regulatory bodies with records management, secure access, automated document retention scheduling, instant search and retrieval, and auditor self-service
  • Call Center & Customer Experience: acquiring missing information and approval from customers to enhance your quality of service and their level of satisfaction throughout the customer journey

What Do You Call It?

Granted, ours is more of a mouthful: we haven't come up with a term like "Content Services" but hope that it's a better fit than ECM ever was – created by our friends at AIIM, who now talk more about business process automation and information governance.

What do you think? Let us know your thoughts about ECM and, more importantly, if there's anything we can do to help you take advantage of whatever you call it.

Contact us to learn more about ECM, content services or related


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