The Broader Picture of ECM: From ‘Systems of Record’ to ‘Systems of Insight’

The term “Enterprise Content Management” is one that we are all familiar with, but it can have a lot of different meanings. The vision of ECM has evolved through the years as an outgrowth of earlier business concepts like records management, information management and document management. And as the distinction between documents, data and records became less and less clear, “content management” emerged as a convenient construct to guide the confluence of paper documents, digital information and business process across an enterprise.

The Evolution of ECM

Enterprise Content Management is evolving once again as developments like mobile technology, advanced analytics and the cloud all make a disruptive impact. Are you starting to wonder where the next generation of solutions and approaches will take us? You are not alone. A study conducted by AIIM took aim at predicting the state of Enterprise Content Management in the next five years and defined the following “eras of ECM” in their executive brief Thinking Beyond ECM. Consider how the business conditions and technological capabilities have evolved sympathetically over time.

The Paper Era – for hundreds of years business has been fueled by paper.

The Micrographics Era – during the 1950s paper began to be replace by microfilm and microfiche.

The ERP Era – from the 1960s through the 1980s the computer age transformed business data.

The Document Management Era – since the 1990s organizations work to replace paper with digital.

The ECM Era –managing many different types of data, documents and records across the enterprise.

“The industry that has been described for the past decade as ‘Enterprise Content Management’ has its roots in a business challenge that is as old as business itself,” says AIIM’s John Mancini. But he warns that “the combined impact of consumerization, the cloud and mobile, and the Internet of Things is rapidly signaling the end of the ECM Era.”

From Systems of Record to Systems of Insight

Is the term “ECM” past its prime? It may be. Certainly one distinction is clear: Today’s organizations are looking to move beyond ECM as functioning solely as systems of record to instead perform as systems of insight. Rather than simply capture and secure information, next generation ECM tools are being used as a platform to improve the performance of the organization as well. Using information in better ways to build business insight, boost brand satisfaction, and enable more effective and strategic decisions are just a few of the benefits of this expanded approach to Enterprise Content Management…(or whatever we may start calling it soon).  

The Convergence of Capture, Analytics and Case Management

The convergence of advanced capture, data analytics and case management is driving the current evolution of ECM. It’s one thing to capture information; it’s another to understand that information and then take action. That’s what the next generation of ECM is all about. Intelligent capture technology, advanced analytics and integrated case management tools all work together to enable organizations to take more thoughtful and strategic action. It’s not just about security and records management anymore, it’s about using the information gathered in more insightful ways to boost the performance of the enterprise.

Ready to move forward? Look for partners and providers with the right mix of expertise, capability and vision that will allow you to make the most of the broader picture of ECM

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Kevin Craine is the managing director of Craine Communications Group. He is writer, podcaster and technology analyst, as well as the author of the book Designing a Document Strategy and a respected authority on document management and process improvement. He was named the No. 1 ECM Influencer to follow on Twitter.