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The Uncomfortable E in Conversations about ECM Solutions

Elephant In the Room ECM-489096-edited.jpg

Elephant In the Room ECM-489096-edited.jpgThere is a lot of uncomfortable conversation right now about the “ECM” term.

Truth be told, I find the conversation interesting because I have always viewed ECM as more of a verb (a strategy for something you do) rather than a description of a market space. But let's put that aside for the time being as we analyze each letter. 

Let's start the ECM conversation by focusing on the “C” – Content. Content has always been more than just documents; it is complex and increasingly viewed as an asset to gain competitive advantages. While the composition of content is always changing, Content is the part of ECM that still makes the most sense.

Next: the “M” part of ECM software -- Management. Like “content,” what “Management” means is more fluid than it used to be. Old ideas of top down, rigid control over information no longer holds. Conceptually and pragmatically, content management is now social and collaborative, and more open, flexible and inclusive. That doesn’t preclude the need for structure and strategy. In fact, as the volume and variety of content grows while new demands for compliance (like GDPR) and risk mitigation explode, the need for the “Management” part of “Enterprise Content Management” has never been greater.

Finally, let’s tackle that pesky “E” word – Enterprise. Here is where things go awry. “Enterprise” conjures images of a single, monolithic, top-down solution. It creates expectations of projects that are long, drawn-out, expensive, over-budget and late. Maybe that was a reasonable image in the very early years of ECM. But today’s solutions are mobile and open and engaging and agile and adaptive.  Most crucially, modern cloud ECM can implement quickly and with minimal IT involvement. Continuing to attach the word “Enterprise” just doesn’t do this dynamic justice. 

This semantic inconsistency is why I encourage our customers to think about content management as something you do. ECM software helps you do it, whether it’s a full-blown enterprise deployment or just improving information processes within a team or department.

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