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Enterprise Content Management's BI Flavors

A large amount of overlapping functionality between business intelligence and enterprise content management tools indicates that BI will become an integral part of the ECM framework in coming years, our expert argues.

Enterprise content management (ECM) has always been a bit of a wallflower -- acknowledged as important, but emerging slowly and flourishing most in professional and service-oriented firms where collaboration and knowledge management are paramount. But ECM offers a lot that's beyond the capabilities of most business intelligence systems -- the ability to handle semi-structured data in diverse document formats, team collaboration, support for ad hoc working groups, and knowledge management. All are of growing interest in the world of BI.

The ECM wallflower is blooming with the emergence of four trends in IT:

  • The need to unlock the value in semi-structured and unstructured data sources and add that data to the strong operational and predictive analytics available in structured, BI-based information.
  • The need to develop more agile and actionable enterprise-wide views of the organization. Putting in portals is nice, but they're useless if they can't consistently drill down and uncover the data underlying a problem, or if they fail to deliver alerts and warning alarms on a timely basis.
  • The need within enterprise portal views to facilitate both ad hoc and structured collaboration.
  • The need, both for compliance as well as general good management, to deliver single, trusted, reality-based views of the state of the organization, its finances, its product positions, its customer satisfaction profile, and its status with suppliers and partners.

In short, more timely, complete and trusted information is moving toward the head of the class in IT organizations.

ECM goals and services increasingly overlap with what is happening in the world of BI. Several BI vendors are delivering -- through data mining and text analytics -- unstructured and semi-structured data suitable for use in statistical, OLAP, and predictive analysis tools. Vendors are more frequently tapping ECM sources. BI also has been a driving force -- with scorecarding, performance metrics and business activity monitoring (BAM) -- in transforming dashboards and portals into the accepted display and presentation mode within organizations large and small.

Moreover, the business process management (BPM) landscape has many overlaps among BI vendors, application server and middleware providers, and content management suppliers. The cross-platform, open, extensible nature of portals from such vendors as BEA, Cognos, Hyperion, SAS and many others is insurance against proprietary tools that may impose either server- or client-side dependencies to get the most out of a system.

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