What is Enterprise Content Management?
Enterprise Content Management (or ECM) is a system solution designed to manage an organization’s documents. Unstructured information—including Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PDFs and scanned images—are stored and made accessible to the right people at the right time.
From commercial supply chains to contract management, or HR processes to government administration, the driving force behind implementing an ECM solution is to do business better. By eliminating dependence on paper documents and organizing unstructured information according to business need, organizations are empowered to work more efficiently.
Listening to our customers over the years, we’ve found consistent goals for implementing ECM. Regardless of industry, customers want ECM to help:
- Remove dependence on paper and streamline business processes
- Drive better customer service and increase productivity
- Reduce organizational risk
Leading ECM solutions, including Laserfiche, accomplish these goals and more. Here are 5 key elements of an ECM solution:
Top 5 Elements of ECM
1. Capture documents digitally
Managing an organization’s content begins with the capture and importing of information into a secure digital repository.
This can be any kind of document that is created, captured, stored, shared or archived, including:
- Invoices from vendors
- Resumes from job applicants
- Research reports
A few methods of capturing these documents include:
- Using electronic forms to make documents digital from the point of creation
- Scanning paper documents to be filed in a digital repository
- Managing “already digital” content, including Microsoft Office documents, PDFs, photos and video
- Automatically filing and categorizing documents from servers, MFPs and other shared locations
Traditional methods of capturing documents require a great deal of effort and expense. Capturing documents in a digital repository eliminates many of the obstacles created by paper: labor-intensive duplication, slow distribution, misplaced originals and the inconvenience of retrieving files from offsite storage.
2. Store documents in a digital repository
With robust ECM systems, organizations can easily store any business-critical document in a digital repository, allowing users to:
- View or make edits (based on access rights) to any document in the repository
- View document metadata
- Organize documents within a flexible folder structure
The benefits of enterprise content management go beyond simply keeping track of where documents are located. A content management system also reduces the time, cost and complexity associated with managing documents throughout their life cycle, helping ensure compliance with organizational record retention policies.
In fact, a recent Nucleus Research study showed content management systems returning $6.12 for every dollar invested.
3. Retrieve documents, regardless of device or location
Once an organization’s records have been securely stored, you can:
- Find any document using full-text search
- Identify specific words or phrases within document text, metadata, annotations and entry names
- Use preset search options to search by document creation date, the names of users who checked out documents and other metadata
Enterprise content management software helps eliminate time spent searching for information, enabling employees to answer information requests from clients, citizens and auditors immediately. More than that, staff have instant access to the information required to make better decisions about issues impacting your organization’s bottom line.
4. Automate document driven processes
Automation helps organizations eliminate manual tasks—including photocopying, hand delivery and repetitive dragging and dropping—to achieve greater results with fewer resources. Some ECM systems have digital automation features that can:
- Automatically route documents to the right people at the right time
- Alert staff members when documents require their attention
- Recognize errors before any extraneous work can be done
For example, purchase orders must be signed, records must be archived and employee vacation requests must be either approved or denied. Automation moves these documents through the necessary steps of review and approval, in the order specified. The end result is processes that are more cost-efficient, streamlined and error-free.
5. Secure documents and reduce organizational risk
With strengthening compliance restrictions in a wide range of industries, organizations are increasingly using ECM systems to optimize records management practices and protect against risk. An enterprise content management system must provide customizable security settings to allow organizations to protect information from unauthorized access or modification.
- Restrict access to folders, documents, fields, annotations and other granular document properties as needed
- Monitor system login and logout, document creation and destruction, password changes and more
- Protect sensitive metadata by controlling information access down to individual folders, templates and fields
Leading ECM solutions enable line of business departments to manage user access independently—which means sensitive HR information stays within the HR department, while private financial information stays within the finance department, even if the information is stored in the same repository.
Most ECM platforms include a few of these 5 key elements, but category leaders—like Laserfiche—provide a complete ECM solution, helping your organization dramatically improve business processes. Schedule a demo to learn more.
To learn more about what enterprise content management is and how it works, download a copy of the 2015 Gartner Magic Quadrant, which evaluates 20 different ECM vendors based on ability to execute.