Chapter 1: Electronic Content Management Systems (ECM)
What Is ECM?
An Electronic Content Management System (ECM) is computer software that essentially replaces filing cabinets and paper documents with electronic image files that are stored on a hard disk.
ECM technology allows you to create, capture, distribute, review, maintain, store, retrieve and dispose of information. It also allows you to streamline your workflows and can become a crucial part of your company’s overall records management strategy.
The goal of ECM is to make storing and finding documents easy and efficient. It’s as simple as that.
While ECM may sound like a new technology, it’s actually been around for a long time. In fact, a Business Weekly article from June 20, 1975 that was titled “The Office of the Future” suggested that a paperless office was not far off.
At the time, several manufacturers had specialized systems that could image paper documents. However, this technology didn’t gain acceptance as quickly as the article predicted.
I think the main reasons for the delay were that disk storage costs were high and that these systems were proprietary (meaning that the hardware, software, and file formats were unique to each different manufacturer).
But in 1987, Laserfiche released the first PC-based document imaging system. This system was based on industry-standard hardware and image file formats, and it started the document imaging/management revolution.
When you’re learning anything new, you have to overcome the language barrier. When I began learning about paperless technology, I felt like everyone was speaking French for all I could understand. Perhaps you feel that way too.
While I like to refer to electronic document management as ECM, people use different language to talk about this technology. Depending on who you’re working with, you might hear ECM called any of the following names:
- Paper-less office
- Content Management System (CMS)
- Document Imaging
- Document Manager (DM)
- Document Management Software (DMS)
- Document Management System (DMS)
- Electronic Document Manager (EDM)
- Enterprise Content Management System (ECMS)
- Business Process Management System (BPMS)
There are a lot of additional terms associated with ECM technology. For a full glossary of these terms, see Appendix A.
You might be thinking why should I care? What benefit does this technology have for me and my business?
I’m glad you asked.