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Forget ECM: It's Document Management From Here On In

Enterprise Conent Management still has a place in the acronym pantheon, but that place is an increasingly limited one...
At CMS Watch we frequently have to explain to people why we have separate research streams for WCM (Web Content Management) and ECM (Enterprise Content Management). The explanation is frequently a response to the question, "aren't they just the same thing?" The simple answer is no, they are not.ECM was originally, and quite usefully, coined by AIIM back in the day as a term to describe an overarching approach to managing all forms of content. Unfortunately, the term has been royally misused since. For some it is a rationale for installing a single big technology platform (or suite of content management tools). For others ECM is a business practice that encompasses all the different methods and process of managing any enterprise information. For others it's simply a really big WCM system. For still others ECM is a layer in an Enterprise Architecture diagram.

I think the term ECM still has a place in the acronym pantheon, but that place is an increasingly limited one. (It would seem that we are not the only one thinking hard about this very set of issues, as, quite coincidently, John Mancini of AIIM recently blogged on this topic.)

I believe most buyers around the world actually want and buy document and records management systems. They don't want or need a single system to manage all their enterprise content, no matter how wonderful or magical such a system may sound. Their specific needs include such applications as: the accounts payable process, handling medical records, managing legal case matter, and so on. In short, enterprises need to implement process-specific solutions.

We call these solutions document and records management systems. That's what they have always been, and likely always will be. That is the key reason why we changed the name of the CMS Watch "mid-market" enterprise content management vendor category to "Document Management." We've also begun to separate out our market overviews (see our recent slideshare presentation), and will work toward renaming our entire ECM research stream in the next quarter.

ECM is an aspirational term for many, one that suggests a single layer/platform/system/methodology that will address your enterprise content needs no matter how complex, diverse, or voluminous. Some major vendors promote this approach, and buyers for such systems also exist, but they make up only a small minority in this market. So, though it may seem a little dull by comparison, from now on we will use the terms Document Management and Records Management where they apply, and will reserve the exotic ECM moniker for that rare breed of big, complex, and typically very expensive platforms that actually merit such a grandiose term.Enterprise Conent Management still has a place in the acronym pantheon, but that place is an increasingly limited one...