ECM is What?

By DANIEL ANTION posted 11-25-2013 17:45


It started on Laurence Hart’s great Word of Pie blog when he pronounced ECM as having died or almost died and been reincarnated or perhaps it is awaiting reincarnation as a series of services. I suggested that ECM isn’t a product, but rather that ECM is an activity. In other words, to “manage” is a verb and someone in the “enterprise” should be managing the content. I built on that thought in an article on my SharePoint Stories blog where I describe how we have decided to move a slice of our content out of SharePoint and into a less robust environment – which just happens to be exactly what our customers want us to do.  Next, Marc Anderson, in an act that might prove that “no good deed goes unpunished” isn’t just an old saying, tagged my post on Facebook. So far, between comments on blogs, Twitter and on Marc’s Facebook page, it would appear that ECM is:

Actually, I shouldn’t blame Laurence Hart for starting this, I think John Mancini (President of AIIM) actually started this ball rolling by suggesting that “ECM as a term is a bit tired” and perhaps it had outlived its usefulness, lost its buzz or is just somehow failing to capture (no pun intended) the energy it once had.

I usually agree with John, Laurence and some of the people who have either pronounced ECM dead or dying or have suggested a realm of existence into which the thing formerly known as ECM should reappear (it’s not often I get to mix Buddhism with rock music in a sentence), but this time I don’t.

Let’s deal with death and dying first. To say that ECM is dead is like saying Accounting is dead, or inventory management is dead. Ledgers might be dead, Solomon Software might have been reincarnated as Dynamics, some aspects of inventory management might be what UPS is selling as Logistics, but we are still making, buying and selling stuff. We are still debiting and crediting accounts like inventory and receivables. Similarly, we still have content and it still needs to be managed. Maybe we want ECM to be dead, because it never really lived. We collected content, we stored content but we never actually managed content. Now that we seem to have an abundance of tools that can actually help us manage content, we want to call it something else lest anyone hearken back to the previous implementations gone sour and asks about the money we spent. We want to bring the world something new rather than admit that we didn’t know what we were doing earlier or we weren’t actually capable of doing it.

ECM is alive. ECM needs to be treated like accounting or inventory management, or any of the boring backroom tasks that companies just have to accept as being part of doing business. Maybe the people doing ECM, using the current tools associated with ECM can improve a business process, but ECM isn’t Business Process Management. Maybe the results of ECM can help an organization meet its knowledge management goals, but ECM is not KM. ECM relies on abilities and capabilities, but those are the artifacts of the tools by which we ‘do’ ECM. ECM might be a business practice, but that sounds too noble, too elevated. “The practice of ECM” sounds like something only good companies do. Sorry, ECM isn’t just for the pretty people, ECM has to be done in every organization and when something has to be done, someone has to do it. ‘Do’ is a verb. According to the now ethereal Encarta Dictionary, the core meaning includes: “indicating that somebody performs an action, an activity, or a task” – so there.

 If we aren’t going to manage content, why did we keep it in the first place? 

Managing content is no different than managing inventory, in fact you could argue that content is just another type of inventory. Why do companies have inventory? So they can make money selling it. Why do companies have content? Who knows? Some people will point to reasons like ‘compliance’ – “we have to keep those documents for 7 years.” So, managing that content would require keeping it, tagging it with a date and deleting it on January 2ndof year 8. Most content doesn’t fall into such a well-defined container and some would argue that if it does, it’s a record and we’re really talking about Records Management, but I digress.

Most people, when defending the stuff they have kept will offer up an answer that basically says “this stuff is, might be or could be valuable.” If it has value, it should be managed. It should be managed so that the people, for whom it has value, know how to find it. It should be managed so that there is no doubt as to which version is official. It should be managed so that it can be rendered onto web pages and mobile devices and desktops around the world. If it doesn’t actually have value, it should be destroyed but that is also an activity and someone has to do that too. I gotta go, I have content to manage.

#sharepoint #ECM #SharePoint #contentvalue