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Enterprise Content Management (ECM): What It Is, Types & Steps for Success

by Ryne Knudson

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Over the past few years, Enterprise Content Management (ECM) has become more prominent across the workplace landscape.

In 2017, the global enterprise content management market was estimated to be worth 31.66 billion U.S. dollars. By 2020, that figure had soared to 50 billion USD, and was expected to pass 67 billion in 2022:

Bar graph of ECM market growth year over year

As business processes and documents become digitized and more digital forms of content evolve, organizations are becoming more reliant on ECM software to manage their vast amounts of digital assets.

Your guide to modern digital asset organization

In this guide, we’ll explore ECM in detail, considering the benefits, key functionality, and use cases of enterprise content management software designed for the digital age.

Read on, or skip ahead as we cover:

What is Enterprise Content Management (ECM)?
Why is Enterprise Content Management Important?
The Different Types of Enterprise Content Management
Which Industries and Departments Benefit From ECM?
What is Enterprise Content Management Software?
How Does Enterprise Content Management Software Work?
The Overarching Benefits of an ECM System
Key Functionality to Look for in an ECM System

Enterprise content management (ECM) is a dynamic combination of strategies, methods, and tools used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver a company’s information. It supports critical organizational processes and business goals, ensuring information is easily accessible at any point throughout the content lifecycle.

According to the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), Enterprise Content Management (ECM) consists of five major components:

Infographic showing the five components of ECM [Image source]

An ECM system helps companies automate processes, increase productivity, and encourage team collaboration across the organization.

Enterprise Content Management (ECM) brings several benefits to your business. Some of the primary ECM benefits include:

There are three main types of ECM:

Web

Web Content Management (WCM) places control over the look-and-feel of a website in the hands of designated staff. It enables them to easily update, modify, and publish content for the site while following strict brand guidelines.

Collaborative

Collaborative Content Management (CCM) lets multiple people access and modify a single piece of content, such as a financial or legal document. It’s perfect for organizations that manage projects involving various stakeholders as it’s easier to work together while monitoring and updating the latest version of the content.

Transactional

Transactional Content Management (TCM) is ideal for organizations that continually use various types of content, such as records, paper documents, and digital files.

TCM software captures content from the various channels, classifies it, stores it, and creates an automated workflow to ensure users receive the content at the right time. It also integrates with other apps and databases to make sure all of the content is available throughout the organization and then deletes the content when it’s no longer required.

Let’s take a look at the different industries and departments that can benefit from ECM.

Industries

- Finance: Improves the speed of various manual processes and paper documents, such as loan composition and payment processing systems, through digitization and automation.

Departments

Enterprise Content Management (ECM) software is used to store, track, edit, and collaborate on content creation, distribute data, build and manage workflows, facilitate team collaboration, and integrate with other enterprise systems, such as ERP systems.

It helps companies organize, manage, and distribute unstructured content such as documents (DOC, XLS, OCF), images (JPEG, TIFF, PNG), health records, contracts, surveys, product information, emails, and web pages (XML, HTML). Employees can access content and exchange information according to their user privileges and security permissions.

The typical lifecycle of content in the ECM software follows these steps:

  1. Information is captured.
  2. Content is published on a company portal or intranet.
  3. Content is backed up in a secure repository to ensure it’s never lost.
  4. Old content versions are archived, replaced or deleted to create more storage space for relevant information.

ECM software identifies duplicate and near-duplicate content when capturing information so the organization can reduce the volume of data.

The content and document metadata are organized and stored in folders in a central repository so that the right people can access it at the right time.

Approved users can find specific documents in the ECM software using full-text searches. Once it’s located, they can read, edit or print a copy of the information, regardless of their location or device. The software also allows users to search for specific words or phrases within the stored documents, thus reducing the time spent scanning content and increasing their productivity.

When using ECM software, users typically have the same goals:

The ECM software provides everyone in the organization with easy access to all the information they need to make business decisions, complete projects, and collaborate efficiently.

An ECM system provides a centralized platform where you can manage your organization’s critical content, conserve precious resources, and streamline your workflow operations.

Let’s take a look at some of the other benefits:

Create a single source of truth

An ECM system can provide organizations with a single source of truth (SSOT) by storing all departmental documents from marketing, sales, IT, HR, legal, and more in a secure, digital content repository.

ECM software can sift through large amounts of data and identify duplicate, incomplete, or incorrectly filed records.

By structuring information so that it’s only stored once, companies reduce the risk of duplication and ensure everyone has access to a single, approved, and authoritative piece of information.

Save time and eliminate redundancies

The more information you possess, the more time consuming it is to manage it all. And poorly organized data only compounds the problem.

But with an ECM system, you can quickly filter across the central repository to find content for different campaigns or operational needs. This saves time and reduces redundant work that can arise when people struggle to find what they are looking for and end up needlessly re-creating assets.

Gain document version control

An ECM system helps you gain document version control, so you don’t have to worry about losing track of updates to critical documents. Team members can work on a document simultaneously, recording their notes and comments on it.

Plus, you can always revert to a previous version as the ECM software automatically saves time-stamped versions in the background.

With an ECM system, your team can collaborate seamlessly and maintain control of all your documents.

Minimize security and compliance risks

An ECM system can enforce security policies and keep an audit trail of all documents accessed and the activities occurring on them. The increased security features can restrict access to files and folders to specific departments. For instance, you can limit human resources information to HR personnel.

Furthermore, the software’s record retention policies eliminate any previous ad-hoc processes that may have exposed you to government and industry regulatory compliance risks.

There are a number of methods and tools that can be used to enact enterprise content management in a way that suits your business best..

In this section, we’ll examine the key functionality and features you should look for when selecting an Enterprise Content Management system.

Capture

The Capture functionality of an ECM system lets you convert and import data into a secure digital repository. The information can be any kind of document that is created, captured, stored, shared, or archived, including:

Asset types shown in Brandfolder

With Brandfolder’s Ingesting and Storing features for instance, you can:

Manage

The Manage functionality of an ECM system includes document management, collaboration management, web content management, and transactional records management.

Users can view or make edits (based on access rights) to any document in the single repository, check a document’s metadata, and organize documents within a flexible folder structure.

Brandfolder asset metadata

With Brandfolder’s asset management power tools for instance, you can:

Store

The Store feature temporarily backs up frequently changing information within flexible short-term folder structures to allow users to view or edit information.

Brandfolder asset storage features

Brandfolder allows you to organize, curate, and store digital assets in easily accessible folders so you can:

Retrieve

The Retrieve functionality helps you find your securely-stored records. The software saves time spent searching for information so that you can answer information requests from clients and auditors immediately. You can:

Brandfolder asset search functionality

Brandfolder’s smart search and discovery functionality allows you to find exactly what you’re looking for. You can:

Preserve

The Preserve functionality backs up infrequently changing information in the medium and long-term as record archives. Organizations use the records management features to help comply with government and other regulations.

Brandfolder asset version control and history

Brandfolder’s management tools aid regulatory compliance by allowing you to:

Collaborate

The Collaborate functionality is a key component of an ECM system. Teams can collaborate on content creation throughout various workflows while managers keep overall creative control.

Brandfolder asset notifications and collaboration features

Brandfolder’s workflow and collaboration features allow teams to keep assets on-brand. You can:

Secure

The Secure functionality allows organizations to protect information from unauthorized access or modification. An ECM system’s customizable security settings let organizations restrict access to sensitive HR information and private financial information.

Brandfolder permissions and digital rights settings

Brandfolder’s rights management feature gives you complete control over who sees what and when. You can:

Automate

Automation and machine learning are key parts of an ECM system, helping organizations eliminate manual tasks, such as photocopying and delivering documents by hand, and improving productivity.

Some typical automation features include:

Brandfolder automation and imgage tagging

Brandfolder uses smart automation features throughout its system. For instance:

Integrate

ECM systems integrate with other apps and software to save you time switching from one tool to another. You can quickly access all your on-brand assets directly from software such as Adobe, Microsoft Office, and Salesforce.

Overview of Brandfolder integrations and plugins

Brandfolder has a long roster of integrations and plugins that create a seamless workflow. For instance, you can:

The Future of Enterprise Content Management

In many ways, the future is now with enterprise content management. As more and more digital assets spread across departments, it’s becoming essential for organizations to become more efficient and secure.

Enterprise content management systems are adapting to the demands of organizations looking for more agility and integration. As technology evolves, particularly with automation and machine learning, ECM platforms will be able to reduce manual processing time and ensure the right people can access the right content.