Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is the umbrella term for all the tools, systems, and methods for gathering and storing the data a business needs, and for delivering that data to the users who need it when they need it. At a basic level, it works by classifying information according to how much human involvement is likely to be necessary for its use, thereby allowing the data to be sorted for easier retrieval later.
The ubiquity of smartphones (especially with the growing list of always-on, always-connected apps), the increasingly mobile nature of the modern workplace, and the exponential rate of expansion in the world of connected appliances and the Internet of Things (IoT) can result in a staggering amount of data entering the systems of even the most modestly-sized business. This data is generated both from employees internally and customers externally. The sheer volume of it is often more than most businesses are able to cope with without committing unreasonable amounts of time and other resources to simply managing information. This is why most modern business needs some form of ECM.
Does One Size Fit All?
The benefits of moving to an ECM system from a more traditional set of processes are undeniable. Operating costs are generally reduced immediately simply because employees are able to retrieve any data they need instantly. This drastically reduces paper-related expenses, as employees no longer need to maintain hard copies of important information. It is only the largest enterprises, however, that can afford to dedicate the staff and resources necessary to implement ECM internally.
A Solution for Smaller Businesses
More and more frequently, companies are choosing to utilize established, third-party ECM solutions rather than trying to handle it internally. While this is largely a question of cost – dedicated ECM providers can almost always provide their services more cost-effectively than internal solutions – third-party providers can generally offer a superior service as well. This becomes particularly obvious when considering standards compliance. Combining SAS 70, ISO/IEC 277001, BS 7799, and HIPAA compliance, for example, can be a challenge; one that is often best left to dedicated specialists.
Luckily for small and medium-sized businesses, the ECM market has been expanding into new areas lately, and this includes a shift away from only offering enterprise-class solutions. Many providers now offer targeted, scalable solutions that fit specific use cases many smaller businesses often encounter. This means that the playing field is now even more level. Thanks to ECM solutions designed for non-enterprise sized businesses, smaller companies can now keep pace with their larger competitors.