Enterprise Content Management: Organize Your Documents
Enterprise content management (ECM) is the solution to your pile of papers and missing written documents. With ECM, all those docs become captured and archived.
What is enterprise content management? Enterprise Content Management, or ECM, is the lifecycle of collecting, organizing, and delivering information and content, like files, images, etc., to stakeholders throughout the enterprise, including employees, partners, and customers.
What Are ECM Systems and What Do I Need to Know About Them?
An ECM system is a technology that lets you manage content and documents across your entire organization. Some might ask why a complex system is required to organize documents. What else does an organization need to do besides make sure their employees manage their files?
True, ECM solutions contain several basic file and document management tools, like system access, file sharing, file modification, and, in some cases, file versioning. A small business that creates, files, and shares a dozen or so documents every day can probably live without an ECM solution. A hospital, law firm, automotive manufacturer, or engineering company, however, generates a dozen files every minute or less. Business will grind to a halt unless those files are properly managed. In an enterprise situation, managing documents becomes significantly more important and complex than properly naming files and folders.
Contracts, for example, were traditionally signed in triplicate and stored in a file cabinet for record keeping. In the modern enterprise, contracts are signed by all relevant parties and stored electronically in multiple locations for compliance, internal audits, and eDiscovery purposes. Contracts are often digitally signed, shared via online document portals, and stored in the cloud; no hard copies or file cabinets. It is a best practice for the enterprise to have direct control over document access and metadata, which details when and where it was accessed, who signed it, and what changes were made through multiple versions.
An ECM system, therefore, provides all the proper and necessary features, functions, and capabilities that organizations need to manage a complex and extensive ecosystem of files, including official documents (contracts, consent forms, private data, etc.), structured data (like in a relational database) or unstructured data (scanned files, annotated case files, etc.). Without an ECM system, finding the right file is as easy as finding a needle in a haystack.
There are several subsets of ECM, focusing on different areas of content management:
- Transactional management develops processes and procedures that focus on document-driven management, emphasizing versioning and document control.
- Collaborative management foregrounds tools and techniques that facilitate collaborative work on documents, with shared resources and intuitive ways to share insight and work.
- Web Content management emphasizes web authoring tools and workflows, including tools for managing multimedia and metadata.
As you can see, an ECM system is much more than a file storage and management system. Documents have different uses, lifecycles, workflows and compliance requirements. AnECM system must therefore manage a document’s lifecycle. Finally, ECM systems democratize how employees manage and access documents at different locations and across other devices.
How Does ECM Work?
Enterprise Content Management is a more extensive term that describes a collection of technologies, practices, and strategies that support document retention through a productive and standardized lifecycle. More specifically, ECM focuses on how records are digitized and managed through digital means, with business, administrative, and, in some cases, compliance and cybersecurity operations.
ECM assumes several related document management processes:
- Capturing documents, often through digital scans, in either structured (text and numbers) or unstructured (audio, video, images, emails, etc.) formats
- Managing content, including streamlining and simplifying file access and visibility of documents in the system
- Automation, especially of repeatable tasks associated with secure file transfer, document integrity checking, event monitoring, and workflows related to specific actions (for example, a contract signature might trigger storage, file transfer, and the creation of several new documents)
- Case management, tracking, monitoring, and analyzing documents (and several drafts of individual papers) to assist in high-level decision-making
- Collaboration on shared documents, often using concurrent online editing or clear access and document versioning to prevent accidental content deletion, overwriting, or someone from editing an older document version
- Search functionality to locate specific versions of documents, or even sections of documents, based on the contents included therein or associated metadata
- Retention management, specifically for regulations and compliance requirements
- Analytics on document use and access to help optimize document processes and gain visibility on your organization’s document workflows more broadly
Based on these ECM processes, we can see that there is a specific document lifecycle that can serve as a checklist for most organizations:
- Capture: The beginning of the lifecycle begins with document capture and ingestion, and can include any document: Word documents, text files, scanned paper documents, images, and others.
- Preserve: Choose precisely where to store a document in your system for optimal accessibility and availability. This also includes editing documents or publishing them in a static form for documentation or regulatory requirements.
- Categorize: Organize data by category through a descriptive file structure or metadata as well as a complete and adequate tag or category taxonomy.
- Process: Prepare documents for whatever processes you will perform with or on them, including workflows, reviews, and retention procedures.
- Publish: Content can be published in various ways, depending on your requirements and the document’s use in your organization. This can include web content, documents published directly to clients or users, etc.
- Archive: Unlike storage, archiving designates valuable content that should be retained for specific purposes (compliance, reference, and so on) without clogging up shared document storage or workflows.
- Remove: Deleted documents must be removed according to the different data governance strategies and compliance demands that your organization has in place.
How Does ECM Help with Content Lifecycle Management and Document Management?
ECM strategies are built around the workflows and processes for managing critical documents. ECMs also shape those lifecycles and strategies based on the functionality they bring to your organization. While an ECM system can help with general content management, they are best suited to support complex content management processes in which long-term business cases, interactivity, and compliance drive business. Furthermore, an ECM system enables document audits, which are a top priority for most organizations.
Considering what an ECM system can do for your organization, it’s critical to build an effective ECM strategy. A strategy should include these considerations:
- Determining Scope: Organizational document management should have a scope of operations, including who needs to access which documents and when. This scope should also include the relevant workflows that connect stakeholders with records and automated responses.
- Map Document Management onto Compliance Requirements: Compliance and data security will take priority over many other business objectives, and your ECM strategy should do the same. Questions of privacy, security, and documentation are necessary parts of any ECM strategy.
- Understand Your Document Lifecycle: A lifecycle may not contain every step listed above, so you need to understand what works for you, what doesn’t, and how those lifecycle stages impact the flow of communication and content through your organization and out to external stakeholders.
- Integrations: Don’t reinvent the wheel. ECM solutions should, to some extent, leverage your existing infrastructure. That can be as simple as providing a suitable document management infrastructure that can leverage environment-agnostic SaaS tools and application-specific integrations for features like cloud storage, mobile device access, and collaborative editing.
ECM does come with some risks, however:
- Lack of Transition: If your content isn’t located 100% in the ECM system, much of it can be lost through the cracks. ECM calls for an integrated and holistic approach to content management.
- Uneven Adoption or Use: Likewise, if your employees aren’t 100% invested in your ECM strategy, then you run the risk of having disjointed or broken content efforts, which disrupts workflows.
- Lack of Training: ECM systems involve the proper use of technology and a work process. If your team isn’t trained on either of these, then you’ll find that your content efforts will struggle. Ensure that everyone is onboard with your system, and that continuous training occurs when processes or technologies change.
Manage Content Across Your Entire Business with the Kiteworks® Content Firewall
Content management covers three critical areas: security, compliance and productivity. With the Kiteworks platform, you get all three without compromising your own content management policies and procedures.
With the Kiteworks Platform, you get:
- Security: Our systems utilize AES-256 encryption for data-at-rest and TLS 1.2+ for data-in-transit. Its hardened virtual appliance, granular controls, authentication and other security stack integrations, and comprehensive logging and audit enable you to achieve compliance efficiently. This includes all our built-in features for Data Loss Prevention, ATP scanning, disaster recovery and single-tenant cloud environments.
- Audit Trails: The Kiteworks platform provides critical logging technology so that you can manage all information related to file access. Monitor and log file access, downloads, document changes and control versioning for collaborative work and eDiscovery integrity.
- Compliance: Industry regulations can determine who can touch what information and when. With Accellion and the Kiteworks Content Firewall, you can manage granular access for documents across multiple environments, determine access in real time and model access permissions based on company-wide compliance policies.
- Data Visibility and Management: Our CISO Dashboard gives you an overview of your data: where it is, who is accessing it, how it is being used, and if it complies. Help your business leaders make informed decisions and your compliance leadership maintain regulatory requirements.
- Integration: Leverage major storage and productivity apps to manage documents and employee work. Integrations include Google Drive, Box, DropBox, SharePoint (online and on-prem), OneDrive and Office 365.
Learn how you can manage content across your entire business with Kiteworks. Also, make sure to sign up for our newsletter to learn about Accellion news, events and product updates.