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Why enterprise content management might be more important than ever

In the wake of the pandemic, we’re all adjusting to new working patterns, workflows, and even locations. Now more than ever, it’s important to have the systems and processes to organise and manage content throughout its lifecycle. Here’s how enterprise content management (ECM) works, and why you need it.

By: Lydia Bird

The modern enterprise consumes and produces a colossal amount of content. According to IDC, 64.2 zettabytes of data was created or replicated in 2020 and “the amount of digital data created over the next five years will be greater than twice the amount of data created since the advent of digital storage.” Whether it’s emails, documents, photographs or videos: content is essential to all business functions, and managing it effectively is a cornerstone to operating smoothly.

This is only more true in an environment permanently changed by the effects and ramifications of Covid. While many regions in the world are still affected, others are returning to a normality that looks less like the old way of doing things. The role of the workplace is diminished, and organisations must face the challenges of a permanent shift towards more mobile and flexible working. According to the BBC: most of the UK’s Top 50 employers “do not plan to bring staff back to the office full-time.”

The fact that your workforce is no longer all in the same workplace complicates the existing challenges of effective content management. Storing and sharing content – and helping manage its creation, archival and eventual disposal – takes on renewed importance at the same time that it becomes more difficult.

In this environment, enterprise content management (ECM) becomes a prerequisite for success. If proof were needed, a report by Fortune Business Insights suggests that the global enterprise content management market will grow from USD 15.33 Billion in 2018 to USD 43.16 Billion by 2026. On this evidence, ECM is on the rise. But what exactly is it, and how does it differ from digital asset management (DAM)?

What is enterprise content management (ECM)?

Simply put, enterprise content management is the process of managing the information an organisation needs to achieve its business goals. In practice this most commonly centres on a digital platform for storing and retrieving all of a business’ essential information. But as a discipline, ECM is more all-encompassing.

In reality, ECM is concerned with content management from the moment it’s created, right the way through its useful life, to the point where it’s archived and ultimately deleted. By combining this full-lifecycle approach to content with the careful storage and management of assets at any life stage, ECM ensures that an organisation can create, access and update all the information it needs to thrive.

Effective ECM is typically achieved through multiple tools and processes, but digital asset management is a key component.

What’s the difference between DAM and ECM?

A digital asset management system is a software platform built to store essential digital files for the teams or organisations that need them. Typically designed with powerful organisational, search and sharing features, a DAM can act as a single, authoritative repository for all of an organisation’s digital assets.

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What is digital asset management?

The essential way to stay on top of your business, sales and marketing collateral.

Clearly the core functionality of a DAM is essential to enacting ECM across the organisation. Aside from storage and retrieval, advanced DAM features such as versioning support, and fine-grained access controls are core to delivering the lifecycle management and security assurances of an ECM strategy, and realising its benefits across the board. But what do those benefits look like in practice?

ECM in practice

Enterprise content management aims to connect everyone in the organisation with all of the files, information and other digital resources they need to fulfil their potential. A DAM is crucial in achieving this by providing a centralised storage resource in which everything can be kept. Today’s leading DAMs are usually cloud-based, meaning that everyone can access their content, no matter where they are, or whether they’re working from the office or from home.

Centralised storage removes the nightmare of duplicating business assets to multiple regional servers, and the risk that failing to synchronise changes will prevent one or more teams working effectively. And having a single, access-anywhere resource means that staff can get to the materials they need from anywhere when connected to the internet.

These benefits alone remove the blocks and frustrations from the distributed and collaborative workflows on which corporations and large organisations depend, but they also solve content headaches for teams and individuals. For example, sales and marketing teams can ensure they’re working from a consistent digital playbook, while content is easily shared with consultants or other external stakeholders.

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What is sales enablement?

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Enterprise-grade security

Of course, easy access mustn’t translate into a free-for-all, so to be suitable for an ECM implementation, a DAM must have enterprise-grade security and robust user and team-based access controls. By encrypting assets at rest and in transit, a cloud-based DAM protects confidential and valuable data from attack at least as well as a corporate network – with the added advantage that it’s less likely to be affected by ransomware.

Users can typically be granted team, project or role-based access to projects, team documentation or individual assets. With strong, centrally managed access controls, businesses can be sure they’re protecting their assets – and meeting any legal or regulatory data-handling obligations.

Aside from enabling enterprise-wide information sharing, ECM leverages DAM-based features to further streamline processes. Major time and resource savings come from powerful search features, accelerated by rich metadata. Users can quickly find the assets they need, saving the time spent digging around in old project folders or asking colleagues to help. And with the ability to search by metadata describing file or folder contents – rather than just going by filename or creation date – there’s much less chance of ‘losing’ assets in the system.

These benefits aren’t just reserved for distributed teams, or those which produce and use the most assets – they’re practical improvements for everyone in the organisation. Human resources, for example, can be sure that sensitive and legally-protected documents are secure, but also that content such as onboarding guides or welcome videos are easily shared with all who need them.

A DAM can also be instrumental in helping manage the lifecycle of the organisation’s content. With support for version control, collaborative commenting – and even editing and approval cycles – teams can manage assets from creation through to sign off, and grant access rights accordingly. Aside from benefiting sales, marketing and product teams, this also equips legal departments with tools to manage document production and signoff, ensuring greater compliance and preventing mistakes.

Finally, it’s important to stress that enterprise content management solutions need to work effectively for all users, regardless of their technical or administrative abilities. With web-based access portals, and support for direct integration with existing enterprise tools, the right DAM provides capability and speed, without contributing complexity.

“[Our staff] find it easy to use, intuitive, and not only that – they’ve been engaged and excited by it, and that’s not always the case when you’re rolling out a system”

Stephen Gerrard, NatureScot

Enterprise content management can transform your organisation’s ability to get the most from its assets. Digital asset management is a critical function in delivering on the promise. From creation and iteration, through use and adaptation, a DAM ensures that assets deliver their maximum value. In a changing world, with a changing workplace, the right ECM tool isn’t just an advantage – it may be the difference between success and failure.

Imagen provides asset management solutions to leading global organisations. Scalable, secure and robust, Imagen’s enterprise-ready platform is the ideal foundation for your enterprise content management strategy. Discover our capabilities today.

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