ECM Choices Depend on Content Definitions

“Content is king.” That’s how the saying goes, but just what is the definition of content?

Can content be defined as documents, Web pages, pictures and other digital media? Is content blog postings, e-mail, group discussions and chats? Is content essentially any knowledge that can be managed, stored and accessed?

Trying to define content can be especially confusing and even terrifying for the companies that have made it their business to manage the diverse pieces of content that exist today.

There was a time when the differences between various content management platforms were clear and distinct: Web content management products were designed for creating and managing content on Web sites; groupware and collaboration systems managed the creation and distribution of interactive group content and knowledge; digital asset management products controlled the storage and manipulation of images and other digital media; and, of course, document management platforms helped track, store and control the movement of business documents.

All of this has led in recent years to the rise of what is now called ECM, or enterprise content management, systems.

At its core, an ECM product is designed to control and manage the creation and distribution of all content created by a company.

But, as with most trendy product designations, vendors are slapping the ECM label on all manner of solutions.

If a vendor takes a collaborative portal product and adds some document collection management and Web publishing features, is it an ECM solution?

What about a Web content management platform with some collaboration and document routing controls?

If a document management system adds collaboration, process management and wikis, is it an ECM product?

Right now, the answer is yes to all (plus a few other ECM iterations we haven’t even brought up).

Unfortunately, this can cause quite a bit of confusion for companies that are looking to invest in an ECM solution.

eWEEK Labs recommends that businesses base their ECM decisions on their core content requirements.

If most of your essential content is Web-based, for example, then a Web content management or portal-based system may be the best option.

Are you a business that must control and track a lot of PDFs, Microsoft Office files and scanned hard-copy documents? Then you should go with a solution with strong roots in classic document management.

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