Enterprise Content Management or ECM is a software application that helps organizations create, organize, manage, integrate, secure, preserve, distribute and publish unstructured content such as Word, PDF, PPT, XLS, images, videos, and audio files. An important element of an effective ECM system is it’s integration with the business applications, allowing users to work collaboratively within the context of the business process across the enterprise. ECM allows organizations to categorize and structure all of that content in a meaningful, easily searchable way, improving user experience and providing important analytical capabilities to drive better decision making. Robust ECM solutions also provide strong records management capabilities to help lower costs and reduce compliance risks. A SaaS based ECM application is now commonly referred to as Content Services.
The terms Content Management and Enterprise Content Management are often used interchangeably. But without the word Enterprise in the term, it could mean that it is a point solution being used to manage content in a department or specific area with limited capabilities whereas ECM implies an enterprise wide solution that is fully integrated across various applications to capture, store, manage, preserve and deliver information based on the business context.
Enterprise Resource Planning systems are focused on structured data and transactions. ERP is a system of record for an organization especially for financial data and reporting. Whereas ECM has to do with managing all the unstructured content and documents that accumulate outside of the purely transactional processes. Bringing these two systems together provides significant business benefits as a common information interface for users across the business.
Document management is a subset of content management or ECM. Document management involves capturing, organizing, storing and managing the lifecycle of documents such as Word, PDF, or XLS files, but ECM systems extend that to other types of content such as video and audio files, emails and office productivity and publishing tools. Plus ECM systems offer records management for enhanced compliance and enterprise level business process integration capabilities for collaboration.