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Any business that wishes to elevate far beyond that of other start-ups should take note of enterprise content management (ECM). But what is enterprise content management, and why do you need to implement it now? This is a complicated situation that I aim to answer. 

As someone who has been involved in content management and creation for dozens of companies for the past decade, I find that enterprise content management is one element that sets apart a fresh start-up from a business on the trajectory to high-level success. 

This is a specific style of content management—simplifying and streamlining how your company creates and shares information in a unified manner. Instead of tossing random ideas and methods around, enterprise content management can create a cohesive and beautifully structured stream of information. 

Here’s exactly how to do that. 

What Is Enterprise Content Management: A Breakdown

Enterprise content management sounds quite intimidating from its definition, but even smaller, newer companies can and should benefit from implementing it into their business processes and workflow. ECM is the process of creating policies that ensure that all of your content is built, stored, and shared similarly. 

In practice, you could even think of enterprise content management as a guideline for your business. There are clear steps you’ll define that every employee should follow regarding records management, information management, and metadata. To be clear, ECM is not a single idea but a unique methodology your company uses. 

ECM is simply the term used to define the approach of creating a set of guidelines for everyone in a company to follow and its functionality. That said, ECM varies in execution from company to company. Each business has its voice and way of handling information, so this is all about finding your company’s style and incorporating it across the board. 

ECM has been around for many decades and isn’t a new idea, either. In the past, before the digital age, we find ourselves in, it involved tons of documents and pieces of paper that employees would need to reference. Today, it is much easier and more flexible with all-encompassing ECM software, cloud-based sharing, and more that streamline your digital transformation. 

Why You Need Enterprise Content Management

Above all else, if you are a business looking to take your company to the next level of success and quality, you’ll want to use enterprise content management for customer retention purposes. If you don’t, you’ll find that you’ll have 30, 50, or even 100 disparate voices all sharing information on behalf of your corporation to mixed results. 

One person might go on your Twitter page and share content that does wonders, but another person goes on Facebook and is far less professional. This can lead to confusion and mixed messages that potentially divide or reduce your consumer base. 

Enterprise content management helps you establish guidelines for every person in your company so they can still implement their unique flair while feeling like a single cog in a well-oiled yet expressive machine to the end-users. 

In addition, enterprise content management saves you a massive headache through its document management systems. If everyone is contributing to gathering data, storing ideas, and similarly sharing information, it’ll save you time and money in the long run.

Ultimately, enterprise content management is a policy that separates the more typical companies from those who aspire to reach a new level of success and popularity. If you want human resources, social media, branding, etc., inspired by the likes of Google, Meta, Apple, Samsung, and Amazon, you’ll need ECM sooner rather than later. 

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How to Implement Enterprise Content Management in 5 Steps

Implementing ECM in your company is going to take some time and investment. Think of it as a huge undertaking that is ultimately worth it for establishing a foundation and setting guidelines by which everyone can follow the same formula from that point forward.

In general, the most important steps were set in stone by the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), the most prominent IT management group in the world. 

At its heart, enterprise content management involves creating your company’s unique content identity through capturing, managing, storing, preserving, and delivering information

1. Capture data across your business departments

This is the most straightforward part of the ECM process, but it can be pretty time-consuming. You want to gather together every piece of information and unstructured content you have for your company. 

Yes, sadly, this includes both the physical paper documents you’ll need to digitize and any pre-existing online ones, too. It takes many connections between departments and teams to gather these resources, but the effort is worth it because you can set up systems to make it easier in the future.

2. Manage documents

Managing is the second half of collecting all the documents and data on your company. This is where you may have to edit documents to work digitally, such as scanning papers to make PDF files and taking out certain unnecessary information to leave out filler content. 

You’ll also need some software or platform to take care of this document capture procedure. Microsoft and Google have Excel, Word, Docs, Sheets, and so on that can help convert unstructured information into an easily readable format. 

In addition, Microsoft OneDrive and Google Drive are fantastic apps and software to keep ahold of documents as you gather them together. The problem with this is that there are severe limitations to the amount of space these services usually hold, leading to the next step. 

3. Store data in an easily accessible way

Once you've finished gathering and editing your information in a way that you can store it, it is time to find a more permanent location for everything. This is where the below ECM software can be the home for that document, offering a cloud-based structure that can be accessed from anywhere. 

Accessibility is key during this portion of the ECM process. Before, you likely had everything all over the place, but now it is time to bring it all together. Create folders based on the different aspects of your business. 

For example, you might have a "Human Resources" folder for all employee policies, benefits, contracts, etc. Then you have a folder for sales, another for socials, and still more for the other departments in your company. 

This will keep everything nice and neat while ensuring that people have a clear path to whatever they need to find. You also want to ensure that every document and information is categorized and titled well. 

This is the place to be detailed. If you have a customer records folder, you could, for instance, separate by year or alphabetical order. You want the document to clearly state the purpose of the information, such as the customer’s full name, and not something generic. 

4. Preserve old and new data as a team

While storing information, you also want to set up your team for success in the future. You need to create policies in the company where new information comes in a set manner, so you keep up your hard work and build upon it further. 

In addition to that, you want to plan for the future. Eventually, there is going to come a point where the data and information you have is unbelievably enormous. This is where you want to set up solid backups of all of your data and proper archiving of older information so that you properly preserve it for the future and avoid unwarranted deletion. 

One way to do this is to divide the information up by years, so you can quickly reference information when you need it, but it won’t clutter up the more current and necessary data. There are other options, so experiment and find what works best for your company. 

5. Deliver information in a unified manner

Finally, it is time to do something with the information you’ve gathered and preserved. This is a massive step since it is time to create a formula for correspondence, information-sharing, and the like. One way to do this is to create simple templates for your team instead of manual processes. 

For instance, you could have a template for how to address customer service responses. Personalization can come once you go through the usual rigamarole of introductions, disclosures, etc. In addition, you want to have shared assets that all employees and departments easily access. 

In this case, you might want to have brand images, logos, and the like in different shapes, formats, and sizes so that you can decorate any necessary documents with them at will. An ECM platform can also help you deliver information to consumers through its management tools. 

It can be great for keeping track of real-time contact information, letting anyone in the company’s shared server instantly dole out announcements, details, support, regulatory compliance, etc., as needed. 

Types of Content That Benefit From ECM

Now that you know how to implement ECM in your company, it’s time to target specific info and content for your information management. Not all content necessarily needs ECM, such as less tangible info, such as videos and images.

These are the best types of content that benefit the most from an ECM system in place for your business: 

  • Contracts: Any type of legal or technical document like these should always feel similar.
  • Invoices
  • Receipts
  • Rules
  • Audit trails
  • Case management
  • HR resources/policies
  • New employee welcome packets
  • Social media posts
  • Blog articles
  • Announcements
  • Press releases
  • Corporate copy
  • Website content
  • Intradepartmental and interdepartmental communication
  • External correspondence
  • General paperwork 
  • Healthcare
  • Indexing
  • Recurring data: Any type of constantly updated data, such as sales, revenue, profits, audience info, business metrics, etc. 
  • Consumer info: Addresses, contact info, customer profiles, and so on. 
  • Proposals

Best Enterprise Content Management Software to Save You Time

There are quite a few enterprise content management software providers these days that even further simplify the five key elements. These SaaS programs provide a cloud-based system for you and your employees to gather and share info online. 

If you are a company that uses a hybrid or mostly remote work environment, you could benefit even more from these platforms and their API. 

Here are some of the best ECM software, but there are undoubtedly many more like Ben Aston noted in the past for general content management systems

  • Microsoft SharePoint: As with most Microsoft services, SharePoint has a streamlined and familiar user interface that still includes immense depth and plenty of features. This is a solid starting point (pardon the pun) for companies.
  • Box The Content Cloud: Box is a typical feature-rich cloud platform for companies. I like the style and simplification of its UI, but it still includes some excellent features like sending much larger-than-normal files, signatures, and AI assistance. 
  • Alfresco: Alfresco is a popular service for some of the largest corporations in the world, such as Cisco and NASA. Its plethora of features and professional quality make it a hit, especially if you want to automate workflows. 
  • IBM Cloud Pak: This is one of the most open-ended platforms for ECM you’ll find. The problem is that it is far too deep and customizable for many businesses. If you can assemble a team of people to shape this for your business needs, it can be the most open and helpful ECM implementation. 
  • Adobe Commerce: This is one of the CMS and enterprise systems for larger companies. Though it is quite costly, it dramatically helps businesses with numerous employees and departments to manage information across. 

A Solid Strategy Is Key to ECM Success

Enterprise content management is one of the most daunting aspects of expanding your business and the overall content lifecycle.

Suppose you can find the right people and foundation to use the right cloud-based content services platform to unify your corporation. In that case, you’ll find that it results in a much more professional and high-quality system that is appealing to stakeholders. 

But ECM software doesn’t do the work for you. It takes a team to unite various styles, ideas, and departments. The best way is to have a thought-out and successful content management strategy. This is the other essential half of enterprise content management, and both are necessary to take your business to the next level. 

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Cody Perez
By Cody Perez

Cody Perez is an editor for Venture 4th Media, dealing with editing, general content creation, and assisting with launching new websites. He also writes for a variety of large media companies, including IGN and Destructoid. Cody currently studies remotely for Tokyo International University, focusing on Business Economics and Japanese, which has complemented his 10+ years of experience in marketing, public relations, social media, and content creation.