my world of work and user experiences

March 31, 2011

Do we need to manage our enterprise content?

Filed under: ECM — frederique @ 22:50

One of the subjects that I touched upon in my exploration of intranet governance is content: information published in – in my case – an intranet environment.

What are we talking about?
In the olden days, when company internet sites were basically on-screen brochures and intranets were digital company handbooks, content was fairly static and clear-cut: somebody published information about the company on the site. And if the information changed, somebody went in to update the page, preferably by simply retyping the text on the spot.

But when your site becomes more important, when it contains more information of more types and its value gets higher, then you need to manage your content more systematically. Within an enterprise, that is Enterprise Content Management: ECM.

I don’t think anyone just sat down to invent Enterprise Content Management for the sake of the content itself. The content on the intranet – or more generically in the enterprise information systems – is there for a reason. And we can only achieve the goals we have in putting the content out there, when we manage the content properly. For example:

  • The HR department publishes a description of the employee benefits, so that all employees can find and consult them without bothering the HR people all the time. Because the employees need to be able to absolutely trust this information, the HR department makes sure that this content is updated whenever anything changes, and the HR department head checks and approves it before it is published.

  • A technical specialist figures out how we could use a new tool to solve some problems. Her colleagues in the field do not have to re-invent the same wheel, so they should see this information, dive into it, comment on it and add to it. Once the dust has settled down, the senior specialists put a stamp of approval on it and it becomes a best practice. Until a better practices comes along.

  • The finance department has records that are uninteresting and even forbidden for ordinary users but that we need to show the auditors, or else we’ll get into legal trouble.

A definition
The Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM , the worldwide association for enterprise content management) defines ECM as follows:
“Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is the strategies, methods and tools used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to organizational processes. ECM tools and strategies allow the management of an organization’s unstructured information, wherever that information exists.”

Actually, they go on to say that it concerns the complete lifecycle of content, birth to death. So it doesn’t stop at the delivery of the content, but it also includes retention policies and the disposal of content when it has died or is supposed to die.

This definition looks at the content from the perspective of the offer, more than the perpective of the demand. But of course we capture, manage, store, preserve, deliver, retain and dispose of content only because somebody needs to find, consult, use, re-use and be freed of the content.

So that is why we need to manage our enterprise content: We need findable, readable, correct, up-to-date and complete enterprise content to do our jobs and keep our enterprise afloat, so we’d better manage it properly.

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