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11/30/2009
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10 ECM Basics and Gotchas to Avoid

Explore the crucial components of enterprise content management and the 10 pitfalls that undo efforts to capture, manage, store, preserve, secure and share information.

The volume of information we're processing is unmatched in history: According to an InformationWeek Analytics 2009 State of Storage poll, more than 60% of the 328 business technology professionals surveyed manage more than 1 terabyte of data. A remarkable 20% of respondents manage more than 100 TB. Databases, e-mail and other office documents are the main drivers of data growth. In a recent Information Week Data Deduplication report, 60% of the 437 respondents said their Tier 1 storage needs are increasing by 11% to 25% annually, with 18% exceeding 25% growth. And that doesn't include the reams of paper records still being produced.

Too often, we're still using shared network drives and folder structures to organize information and enable remote access to documents. E-mail-based collaboration systems that create content silos are unfortunately the norm for too many organizations. When employees hold gigabytes of e-mail and electronic documents that are not shared across the organization, problems emerge ranging from lower productivity and organizational inefficiency when duplicating work, to users becoming single points of failure on projects, to embarrassing and potentially expensive security and compliance issues when critical data is lost or misused. At its most extreme, these increased costs and decreased productivity can cripple an organization.

Enterprise content management (ECM) systems have the potential to solve many of these and other problems surrounding the capture, management and delivery of content within organizations. Unfortunately, ECM deployments can be fraught with challenges that can devour a substantial amount of time, money—and IT credibility. It doesn't have to be this way. This article, which is based on the In-Depth Report entitled "10 Gotchas That Can Derail Your ECM Initiative," examines the components and benefits of ECM. To learn more about top challenges that grind ECM initiatives to a halt, download the full In-Depth Report from our ECM TechCenter.

The Ocean of ECM Offerings

The evolution of document management into ECM has made available systems much more comprehensive in their capabilities. However, it has also added a fair amount of complexity to these suites while raising questions around functionality and how to select the appropriate tool.

The ECM software spectrum typically falls into 10 broad functional categories. These categories may be standalone products, or may be features of larger enterprise systems. Each, however, requires its own unique approach to implement that aspect of functionality within the organization. CIOs need to understand these distinctions.

Document management is typically considered the foundation of ECM. Document management tools provide repositories for business documents such as Word, PowerPoint and PDFs as well as the logical organization, display, access control, versioning, auditing and search services for documents and their content. Document management software replaces file cabinets and their digital equivalents, shared file drives.

Collaboration tools allow people to work together and team up on content even if they are in offices around the world. These components usually include workspaces, real-time instant messaging, online meetings, screen sharing, wikis, polls, blogs and forums. Collaboration tools may reside within a document management platform or may be standalone components.

Web content management tools allow employees to author, maintain and administer internal or external Web sites that integrate content from different sources to provide an integrated view of data. This category may include enterprise portals that integrate content visually for end users.

E-mail management systems deal with the prodigious amount of e-mail people receive and define procedures for archiving, control and monitoring. These systems differ from document management tools in that they may also be used to reduce the size of the e-mail database and improve mail server performance. Other important goals are to control the lifecycle of e-mail and monitor e-mail content to ensure regulatory compliance.

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