The benefits of enterprise content management systems

24 Jan 2022

The way enterprise content management helps businesses meet their goals may sound like benefits in themselves. In reality, the benefits go much further and include:

  • Better decision-making. When employees have access to all the information and content they need when evaluating the option, they make better-informed decisions.
  • Content security. The only way to access any piece of content is via a password protected interface. Yes, this requires strong password practices, but no one will just happen upon a document like those that might be left on top of a file cabinet. Plus, if you use cloud content management, the data centers (should) use multi-layered security protocols and encryption to ensure your content remains secured.
  • Enhanced document controls. Access rights go beyond merely granting access to documents – they define what a user may do with a document. Basic levels of access would be view, edit, and admin. These controls add another level of document security while still granting access to employees to help achieve a faster response to vendors, customers, and prospects ready to buy.
  • Lower document storage costs. Without a need for physical media or storage, costs become more predictable and manageable.
  • Better use of office space. With more available office space, you have more flexibility to meet changing work environment needs such as for health, safety, and adding staff.
  • Increased productivity. Everyone spends less time looking or waiting for documents and more time getting work done. Being in a controlled and centralized system, employees can find documents and other content quickly. Many systems allow for quick searches based on key data fields in the document. Invoices, for example, could be found by invoice number, customer name or number, or other fields. Automated workflows move and share documents for review and approvals at the speed of a click. Real-time collaboration tools support meeting productivity.
  • Greater employee satisfaction. Employees stay engaged and energized when they can stay productive with the bonus of flexibility that improves the work-life balance.
  • Greater customer satisfaction. Your sales and customer service teams will be able to access the information they need to respond faster to customer requests whether they are working at the office, in the home office, or on the road.
  • More available data at your fingertips. A well-structured enterprise content management program puts all the relevant content at everyone’s fingertips, empowering informed decision-making.
  • Content lifecycle management. You’ll optimize data storage and prevent files from becoming bloated with outdated documents and content. Enterprise content management systems enable you to manage the lifecycle of every document from creation through archiving and, as appropriate, even deletion.

Managing the Content Lifecycle

Every piece of content shares the same five elements in its content lifecycle:

  • Capture
  • Publish
  • Retention
  • Archive
  • Deletion

How long you keep a piece of content depends on the document type, its relevance, and often any regulatory compliance requirements. As content volumes grow, keeping track of each piece of content becomes a bigger challenge. It’s easy to find a document in a mostly empty file cabinet. It’s more difficult in one bursting with documents.

The centralized and digital nature of enterprise content management makes managing the entire life of content simpler. Every piece of content gets a creation date tag when added to the system. It's always in the same location. In many cases, you can even add retention dates to a document or group of documents. This way, as a document reaches the end of its lifecycle, you can decide whether to set it for deletion or continue to store it as needed.

At this point, we’ve looked at enterprise content management from the perspective of digitizing all files. Realistically, you may have some files that must live on paper such as legal contracts. Cases such as these still belong to enterprise content management. To facilitate the management, you would engage with a system for tracking these documents. This might look like:

  • A barcode on each document, scanned and recorded in the document database.
  • Boxes of the content likewise barcoded and scanned and then stored in a secured facility.
  • Regular audits to ensure security and validate the presence of each document.

We live in a digital world, but it isn't completely paperless yet. It's important to know that even paper documents can be managed via a centralized application to ensure your enterprise contents' accurate and efficient management.

Types of content ECM's support

There are three types of content and data: structured, semi-structured, and unstructured.

  • Structured content
    is the data stored in databases, enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications, customer relationship management (CRM) tools, and line of business applications.
  • Semi-structured content
    are those documents like invoices, HR forms, and order forms that have specific data types, although the actual documents themselves may vary in layout and design.
  • Unstructured content
    includes correspondence, presentations, and other media for which the data and the design are different from one document to another.

Different types of ECM

You may see a variety of answers if you search "enterprise content management" online. The range of definitions has expanded as technology has increased the amount and type of possible enterprise content. You may see it referred to as follows:

Web content management

Web content, especially for enterprises, includes a lot of material. You’re likely to have articles, blog posts, videos, webinars, and more, not including the web pages and corresponding material related to the product or service offering. Web content management systems like SiteCore® can be quite extensive to handle and organize all of your web content.

Collaborative content management

These systems manage the creation, revision, approvals, versions, and tracking of single documents, often legal contracts and documents. SharePoint would be an example of this type of system.

Transactional content management

This term refers to organizational content related to the sales and support of the products or services sold and may include both digital and paper-based content. It typically includes all three content types: structured, semi-structured, and unstructured content.

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