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10/7/2005
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Content's Value Enhanced

Companies are spending more on enterprise content management to get more out of unstructured data and keep up with government regulations

Information is the life blood of many companies. And they're investing in content-management technology to convert that information into even more valuable assets and make it available to employees, customers, and investors.

Driven by the need to cope with government regulations and a surfeit of unstructured data, companies are ramping up their spending on enterprise-content-management systems, according to a recent InformationWeek Research survey of 186 business-technology professionals. Such systems embrace multiple technologies, including document management, Web content management, records management, and archiving.

More than half (52%) of respondents say that the Sarbanes-Oxley Act has led them to adopt enterprise content management. The law, which requires companies to document and test internal controls over financial reporting, has challenged companies to move beyond spreadsheets toward building dedicated repositories for collecting information on internal processes.

Electronic-records-retention laws also were cited by 52% of respondents as driving adoption of enterprise-content-management systems, followed by intellectual-pro- perty and copyright protection (48%), customer privacy (36%), and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (32%).

Spending On The Rise

Nearly one-third of surveyed companies say they'll spend more than $500,000 on content-management technology and services this year. But when asked when their companies expect to see a return on these investments, a whopping 56% say they're unsure, with only 20% already seeing a payback and another 24% expecting it in three to 12 months.

Document management is the most common component of an enterprise-content management-implementation, with 78% of respondents saying they're using it. Document management covers a broad range of technologies, including document and content capture, workflow, document repositories, computer output to laser disk and electronic-report-management sys- tems, and information-retrieval systems.

Other types of content-management technologies survey respondents are using include Web content management (71%), record management or archiving and retention (67%), and document capture and imaging (57%).

Web content management addresses the content creation, review, approval, and publishing processes of Web-based content. Many companies use it to control the look and feel of their Web sites, while giving franchisees and dealers the freedom to customize content on their own sites.

Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group Inc.'s Thrifty Car Rental division uses enterprise content management to manage 450 city-specific Web sites it launched in May. The sites receive content through data feeds from Thrifty's central data center. Thrifty purchases city-specific data, such as area maps, weather forecasts, and local restaurant and entertainment listings, from outside sources. The data includes XML tags for specific locations. That allows content to be extracted from the data feed and uploaded to the Thrifty site in the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, for example; the same process is performed for all 450 sites. By centralizing content management, Thrifty is able to maintain control over the look and feel of its sites and maintain brand consistency.

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