Someone, somewhere once said that ECM is about managing unstructured content. That may have been true once upon a long time ago; not anymore. I’m also not even sure that ECM really exists other than as some ephemeral (in the grand scheme of things) concept and marketing bumpf.
What I am sure about, brothers and sisters, is that organizations are sitting on butt-loads of information in various forms, formats, states of structuredness, and states of currency. They need to manage/control/contain/leverage this information in order to achieve real business objectives or solve real business problems. I have yet to come across an organization that wants to manage content for the sake of managing content (if I did I wouldn’t work with them).
I am currently working on a fictitious project for a made up client in a city that doesn’t exist. The objectives of the project are to catch up to and pass the competition in n years. The client will do this by providing their customers with a kick-ass user experience, delivered through a new web portal.
User experience will be achieved by presenting customers information that is relevant to them and by providing them with an holistic view of their relationship with the client. It also involves allowing customers to conduct business when, where, and how the customer wants. Catching up to and surpassing the competition will be achieved by getting more customers (a better user experience will help) via Search Engine Marketing and Search Engine Optimization (big fancy words for metadata / keywords / blah, blah, blah).
They’re going to make all this happen by using information; all sorts of information. Not just the unstructured stuff. (The actual existence of truly unstructured content is a debate for another day.) They’re going to pull stuff from a wide assortment of systems (see the really cool diagram) and present it in a fashion that is relevant to the user. This, folks, takes management. This takes management of information across the enterprise. This may lead to an Enterprise Information Management way of doing business (I really hope so). However, if the client does not propagate this way of working with information to other business areas, they don’t get to use the Enterprise label.
As far as the structured – unstructured thing is concerned; the majority of information that is in scope is highly structured. I’d be surprised if any of the rest of the information was truly unstructured.