What is IM & ECM

Information, as we know it today, includes both electronic and physical information. The organizational structure must be capable of managing this information throughout the information lifecycle regardless of source or format (data, paper documents, electronic documents, audio, video, etc.) for delivery through multiple channels that may include cell phones and web interfaces.

What is Information Management

Information management (IM) is the collection and management of information from one or more sources and the distribution of that information to one or more audiences. This sometimes involves those who have a stake in, or a right to that information. Management means the organization of and control over the structure, processing and delivery of information.

Given these criteria, we can then say that the focus of IM is the ability of organizations to capture, manage, preserve, store and deliver the right information to the right people at the right time.

Information management environments are comprised of legacy information resident in line of business applications, Enterprise Content Management (ECM), Electronic Records Management (ERM), Business Process Management (BPM), Email Management (EMM), Information Organization and Access (IOA), Knowledge Management (KM), Web Content Management (WCM), Document Management (DM) and Enterprise 2.0 (E2.0) technology solutions and best practices. Information management requires the adoption and adherence to guiding principles that include:
  • Information assets are corporate assets. This principle should be acknowledged or agreed upon across the organization otherwise any business case and support for IM will be weak.
  • Information must be made available and shared. Of course not all information is open to anyone, but in principle the sharing of information helps the use and exploitation of corporate knowledge
  • Information the organisation needs to keep is managed and retained corporately. In other words the retention and archiving, of information. If you save a document today, you expect it to be secured and still available to you tomorrow

Information management is a corporate responsibility that needs to be addressed and followed from the upper most senior levels of management to the front line worker. Organizations must be held and must hold its employees accountable to capture, manage, store, share, preserve and deliver information appropriately and responsibly. Part of that responsibility lies in training the organization to become familiar with the policies, processes, technologies and best practices in IM.

What is ECM

New product suites have arisen from the combination of capture, search and networking capabilities with technologies of the content management field, which have traditionally addressed digital archiving, document management and workflow. Generally speaking, this is when content management becomes enterprise content management. The different nomenclature is intended to encompass all of the problem areas related to the use and preservation of information within an organization, in all of its forms — not just its web-oriented face to the outside world. Therefore, most solutions focus on "business to employee" (B2E) systems. However, as the solutions have evolved, new components to content management have arisen. For example, as unstructured content is checked in and out of an ECM system, each use can potentially enrich the content's profile, to some extent automatically, so that the system might gradually acquire or "learn" new filtering, routing and search pathways, corporate taxonomies and semantic networks, which in turn assist in making better retention-rule decisions, determining which records or documents to keep, and which to discard, and when. Such issues become all the more important, as email and instant messaging are increasingly employed in the decision-making processes in an organization.

Thus, the term enterprise content management refers to solutions that concentrate on providing in-house information, usually using internet technologies. The solutions tend to provide intranet services to employees (B2E), but also include enterprise portals for "business to business" (B2B), "business to government" (B2G), or "government to business" (G2B), etc. This category includes most of the former document management groupware and workflow solutions that have not yet fully converted their architecture, but provide a web interface to their applications. Digital Asset Management (DAM) is as well a form of ECM that is concerned with content stored using digital electronic technology.

The typical "early adopter" of these new technologies was an organization that deployed a small-scale imaging and workflow system, possibly to just a single department, in order to improve the efficiency of a repetitive, paper-intensive business process and migrate towards the Paperless office. Even in these early years, when the market for these software products was still relatively immature, it was clear that each of the major technologies within EDMS offered tremendous value to specific organizational processes or applications, at a time when business processes were overwhelmingly paper-based. The primary benefits that the first stand-alone EDMS technologies brought to organizations revolved around saving time or improving accessibility to information. Among the specific benefits were the following:
  • Reduction of paper handling and error-prone manual processes
  • Reduction of paper storage
  • Reduction of lost documents
  • Faster access to information
  • Online access to information that was formerly available only on paper, microfilm, or microfiche
  • Improved control over documents and document-oriented processes
  • Streamlining of time-consuming business processes
  • Security over document access and modification
  • Provide reliable and accurate audit trail
  • Improved tracking and monitoring, with the ability to identify bottlenecks and modify the system to improve efficiency

Through the late 1990s, the various segments of the EDMS industry continued to grow steadily, if not spectacularly. The technologies appealed to organizations with clear problems, and which needed targeted, tactical solutions to address those problems.

As time passed, and more organizations had achieved "pockets" of productivity with the use of these technologies, it became clear that the various EDMS product categories were in fact complementary for many businesses. Organizations increasingly wanted to be able to leverage the capabilities of multiple EDMS products. Consider, for example, the needs of a customer service department, where imaging, document management, and workflow functionality could be brought together to allow agents to access any information needed to resolve a customer inquiry. Likewise, an accounting department could access supplier invoices from a COLD/ERM system, purchase orders from an imaging system, and contracts from a document management system as part of an approval workflow. And as more and more organizations established an Internet presence, they wanted to present certain portions of this information via the web, which required the capabilities to manage web content. Furthermore, organizations that had installed the software in individual departments now began to envision wider benefits, if they were to deploy it across the enterprise. Consider the fact that many business documents cross multiple departments and multiple business processes. Why not improve the management of electronic documents throughout the organization, and gain the same business benefits at an enterprise level?

Both the market and the software providers began to understand the strategic potential of software products that integrated the individual EDMS technology components into a single, integrated solution, capable of addressing an organization's complete information management needs. In fact, the movement toward integrated EDMS solutions merely reflected a common trend in the history of the software industry: the obsolescence of certain types of products and the convergence of technologies, as vendors melded them into new packages.

In the late 1990s, these software vendors began a major surge of software development and acquisition activity, adding capabilities to their software products or buying the software companies whose products offered the functional capabilities they needed. Integrating the products into a single solution has proven to be an ongoing challenge for many of these vendors. Scalability – that is, the ability of a software product to continue to function well when it is deployed on a wide scale – also presented some significant problems, as organizations demanded solutions that could be deployed not just to multiple geographic locations, but on a global scale, to tens of thousands of users.

In response to these market demands, the major software providers put considerable development effort into addressing these issues, and they continue to enhance the capabilities of their products and to expand the types of content those products can manage. Beginning in approximately 2001, the industry began to use the term "enterprise content management" to refer to those software solutions that provide the full complement of EDMS technologies, reflecting the truly "enterprise" nature of their products.

Independently of the major ECM vendors, open source enterprise content management systems have emerged. These include for example, Nuxeo that has been proposing a robust and extensible open source ECM (Enterprise Content Management) platform to the most demanding organizations worldwide. Nuxeo received coveted Intelligent Enterprise's "Editors Choice Award" and is named one of the "Companies to Watch" in 2009. Similarly to the operating system, application server and database markets, these entrants hope to apply the open source distribution model of freely available and downloadable software to compete against the traditional enterprise software sales model of the incumbent ECM vendors and commoditize the ECM market.

The need for scalability and scanning facilities for hundreds of millions of documents requiring Terabyte, Petabyte or Exabyte filestores that are in compliance with existing and emerging standards such as HIPAA, SAS 70, BS 7799 and ISO/IEC 27001 may make outsourcing to certified end to end service providers a viable alternative.

Content management has many facets including enterprise content management, Web content management (WCM), content syndication and digital or media asset management. Enterprise content management is a vision, a strategy, or even a new industry, but it is not a closed system solution or a distinct product. Therefore, along with DRT (document related technologies) or DLM (document lifecycle management), ECM can be considered as just one possible catch-all term for a wide range of technologies and vendors.

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