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What is ECM or Enterprise Content Management

Discover what is ECM or enterprise content management system and how it can benefit your business. Explore its functions and applications.
Qué es un ECM o gestor de contenidos empresariales / What is ECM
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Manuel Aguirre

What is ECM – Introduction

Before defining what is ECM, it is necessary to understand that efficient information management is a cornerstone of business success. With the exponential growth of data across all industries, businesses are faced with the challenge of managing and organising this vast amount of information effectively. This is where Enterprise Content Management (ECM) comes in, a comprehensive solution designed to address the complexities of managing content in enterprise environments. In this article, we explore in depth what an ECM is, its essential components, features, benefits and use cases in a variety of industries. In addition, we explain how an ECM can optimise the information lifecycle, improve operational efficiency and provide a competitive advantage to organisations.

What is ECM – Definition

To define ECM, we can say that Enterprise Content Management (ECM) refers to a set of strategies, processes and technologies designed to comprehensively manage the entire information lifecycle within an organisation. This approach spans from the initial creation of documents through stages such as capture, storage, management, distribution and preservation, to their final disposition.

In essence, an ECM system acts as a centralised platform that enables companies to effectively manage all of their digital content and documents, as well as the processes associated with them. This includes text files, images, videos, emails, forms, reports and any other type of content generated or used in the business context.

The main objective of an ECM is to optimise information management, enabling organisations to easily access the data they need, when they need it, in a secure and efficient manner. In addition, an ECM also focuses on upgrading team collaboration, facilitating compliance and reducing the costs associated with physical document storage and management.

What is ECM – Key Elements

ECM systems consist of several fundamental elements that work together to provide comprehensive content management. These elements include:

Document capture

Efficient document capture is the first step in the content management process. This involves the collection and digitisation of physical documents, as well as the import of digital files from different sources.

With our ECM Athento software you can perform document capture with the following functionalities:

Automation and intelligence to reduce the associated manual work: OCR and text extraction, automatic document classification, barcode reading, document batch splitting.

Metadata management

Metadata is descriptive data that provides additional information about a document or file. Metadata management in an ECM allows content to be tagged and categorised for easy search and retrieval.

Athento has several functionalities related to data and metadata management, in addition to those mentioned above to reduce manual work in document capture. For example:

Indexation

Indexing is the process of assigning relevant search terms to documents to facilitate their retrieval. ECM systems use advanced indexing algorithms to ensure accurate and efficient search for content.

Information storage and security

ECMs provide secure and scalable storage capabilities for all types of enterprise content. This can include cloud storage options, local servers or a combination of both.

Information security is a central concern in enterprise content management. ECMs offer advanced security features such as role-based access control, data encryption and audit trails to protect the confidentiality and integrity of information.

From Athento we can find the following functionality for optimal and secure storage:

Documentation management

When defining what an ECM is, we saw that it allows the entire document lifecycle to be managed, including the management of records and documentation. At this management stage, there are multiple actions that an ECM software must allow to carry out. For example:

  • Version Management: version management is crucial to track and control the different iterations of a document over time. An ECM allows maintaining a complete version history and keeping track of changes made by users.
  • Automated Workflows: Automated workflows enable the creation of structured and automated business processes for content review, approval and distribution. This helps to upgrade operational efficiency and ensure consistency in organisational processes.

Athento is a powerful tool for implementing document processes as it allows you to design, activate and maintain workflows without IT assistance, graphically and with real-time changes. So that business area managers have the flexibility and power they need to transform business processes.

  • Automated processing of documents and records through automatisms: modern ECM tools make it possible to activate digital circuits for managing documents, applications, files, cases or other procedures.
  • Basic document management. Functionalities for managing, organising and working with documents and records such as: classification tables, digital asset management (DAM), folder browsing, bulk editing of fields and documents, image and video tagging, multiple search options, notifications, reporting, etc.
  • Digital signature: it is now essential for document management tools to integrate functionality to electronically sign documents, both for internal and external users.
ciclo de vida de la solicitud de credito

Delivery and publication

The distribution, delivery and publishing functionality of a document management or ECM software refers to the system’s ability to efficiently share documents with relevant stakeholders. This functionality involves several key aspects:

  • Distribution: the document manager allows documents to be distributed in a controlled and secure manner to users inside and outside the organisation. This includes the ability to send documents by email, share secure links or publish in online collaborative spaces.
  • Delivery: The system facilitates the delivery of documents to specific recipients in a timely and efficient manner. This can include scheduling automatic deliveries, email notifications or integration with courier systems to ensure that documents arrive at their destination at the right time.
  • Publishing: Document management allows documents to be published in a way that is accessible to those who need to access them. This can involve the creation of online repositories where users can search and access documents quickly and easily, as well as the publication of documents on websites or corporate intranets.

In addition to the aforementioned functionalities, Athento also allows documents to be generated automatically from templates, configurable by business users, with rules for advanced document composition. As well as the flow of document approval by external users.

Preservation

Preservation functionality in an ECM system refers to the system’s ability to ensure the long-term integrity, security and accessibility of documents and records important to the organisation. This functionality involves several key aspects:

  • Long-term preservation: a document management platform enables documents to be stored securely and durably, ensuring that information is retained in its original state for extended periods of time. This includes the ability to manage technological obsolescence and maintain compatibility with standard file formats to ensure future accessibility.
  • Compliance: The system provides tools and functionality to comply with legal and regulatory requirements related to document retention and preservation. This includes the ability to establish retention policies, apply access and audit blocks, and manage the secure destruction of documents when necessary.

What is ECM – Main features

In addition to the elements mentioned above, ECM systems often offer a variety of additional features to meet the specific needs of organisations. Some of these features include:

  • Integration with other enterprise applications: ECMs easily integrate with other enterprise applications, such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and online collaboration tools, to facilitate data exchange and upgrade productivity.
  • Advanced search: ECM systems offer advanced search capabilities that allow users to quickly find relevant content using complex search criteria, filters and tags.
  • Records management: Records management is an important aspect of regulatory compliance and information governance. ECMs offer records management functions that help organisations retain, archive and dispose of documents according to legal and regulatory requirements.
  • Online collaboration: ECMs facilitate online collaboration by allowing users to share, comment and collaborate on documents securely and in real time, regardless of their geographic location.
  • Customisation and flexibility: ECM systems are often highly customisable and adaptable to the specific needs of each organisation. This includes the ability to customise workflows, user interfaces and security policies as needed.
  • Mobility: With the proliferation of mobile devices, ECMs offer mobile capabilities that allow users to access, view and edit content from anywhere at any time, thus enhancing productivity and collaboration.
  • Data analytics: ECMs provide integrated data analytics tools that enable organisations to extract valuable information from their enterprise content, identify trends, patterns and opportunities for upgrades.

What is ECM – Benefits for organisations

Implementing an ECM offers an extensive list of benefits for organisations, including:

  • Improved operational efficiency: an ECM streamlines business workflows, reduces time spent searching for and retrieving information, and upgrades productivity and collaboration across teams.
  • Cost reduction: By eliminating the need for physical document storage, reducing paper usage and upgrading operational efficiency, an ECM helps reduce operational and data storage costs.
  • Regulatory compliance: ECMs provide advanced records management and auditing tools and functions that help organisations comply with legal regulations and standards.
  • Security upgrade: ECMs offer advanced security features, such as granular access control, data encryption and audit trails, which help protect sensitive information from unauthorised access and meet enterprise security requirements.
  • Optimising the information lifecycle: by managing all stages of the information lifecycle, from initial capture to final disposition, an ECM ensures that information is available when it is needed and securely disposed of when it is no longer relevant, thus optimising the use of resources and storage space.
  • Transform processes in an agile way: Athento is designed with a low-code vision so that non-technical users can configure business processes of varying complexity without the help of IT (in addition, Athento has a development framework for more complex customisations). This ease of digitising processes, creating digital workflows and making information and documents flow is what modern organisations need to stay ahead of the curve and be agile in adapting their processes to socio-economic changes.

What is ECM – Use cases

ECMs have a wide variety of applications in different industries and business contexts. Some examples of use cases include:

Insurance sector

For insurers, an ECM system provides a centralised and secure platform for managing all information and documentation associated with insurance policies, claims, customers, suppliers and internal processes.

In the insurance industry, where the amount and complexity of documentation is considerable, an ECM system can upgrade operational efficiency by streamlining document management processes. For example, automated document and data capture enables rapid scanning and processing of insurance application forms, claims reports, customer documents and more, reducing processing times and increasing accuracy.

Financial Sector

In the financial sector, ECMs are used to manage financial documents, contracts, regulatory reports and other important documentation. It is also possible to configure the credit application process digitally, from a customer’s request for some type of credit to the process of disbursement or non-acceptance of their application; structuring what is called the single customer folder. This helps financial institutions upgrade operational efficiency, reduce risks and comply with financial regulations.

Legal Sector

In the legal sector, ECMs are used to manage legal documents, contracts, court cases and other documentation related to the legal practice. This allows law firms and legal departments to efficiently manage their information, upgrade productivity and ensure compliance.

Health sector

In the healthcare sector, ECMs are used to manage electronic medical records, diagnostic images, laboratory reports and other clinical documents to create and structure the electronic medical record. This allows healthcare providers to easily access patient information and upgrade care coordination.

Education Sector

In the education sector, ECMs are used to manage course content, educational materials, student records and other academic documentation. It is possible to set up processes in such systems where from the start of student registration and enrolment, students are linked to the institution. This facilitates collaboration between academia and students, upgrades access to educational resources and simplifies administrative processes.

Enterprise content management is a crucial aspect of any modern organisation. With the increasing amount of data that businesses generate and manage, having an efficient ECM system in place is critical to streamline processes, upgrade collaboration and ensure compliance. By understanding what an ECM is, its key components, features, benefits and use cases, organisations can make informed decisions about implementing these powerful content management tools. If you are looking to maximise your company’s potential, consider implementing an ECM and take your content management to the next level.

Find out how an ECM like Athento can transform your business today! Contact us for more information.