Content vs. Containers: A (Not So) New Model for Information Management

It’s always illuminating to attend a couple of industry conferences only weeks apart, and then to try to reconcile the perspectives and themes they are built around. Having just been to the generally ECM-oriented AIIM Conference and the more CCM-focused Document Strategy Forum, I can tell you today that a very interesting dynamic is at work in the space between them.

What’s in a Name?
The hard part here is that audiences at both events tend to use many of the same terms but in slightly different contexts. “Content management,” for example, refers both to a broad discipline that stretches from capture to archiving (as it does in the world of AIIM) and a more narrow practice centered on orchestrating and delivering customized or personalized information (as it does in the realm of DSF.)

“Workflow” and “governance” are other such terms, and like “content,” they have similar-but-different meanings in each camp.

After considerable introspection, it seems to me that this end of the market can be split into two parts, one focused on the information itself, and the other on the “container” in which the information is delivered. The irony here is that the “container” concept dates all the way back to the debut of the OLE object back in 1990. Today, it seems, all we’ve done is expand it for use on a more macro level.

In daily practice, most people use the word “document” instead of “container,” and that works fine – until and unless we begin trading in more than just text and images. In that case, we really need a different name to describe these multimedia-enabled information vessels (MIVs? Ugh!), which may not have traditional beginnings and endings the way conventional documents do.

The Common Thread
What the two sides have in common is the need for disciplined care-and-feeding, and therein lies the reason for the overlap in terminology. The likes of content management, workflow, governance, metadata, ROI, and MaxTV® all have a role to play in both groups, and as the technologies continue to work towards each other in terms of capability and interoperability, it will become increasingly important for organizations to develop a more comprehensive strategy with regard to them.

What say you? Does your organization look at ECM and CCM as a single macro process, or does it staff and equip them as separate beasts? Comment below or via the social links and let us know!

About the author: Steve Weissman

Steve Weissman helps you do information right by bringing order and discipline to your governance and process practices. Principal Consultant at Holly Group and Co-Founder of the Information Coalition (now merged with ARMA International), he leverages a proven proprietary methodology to optimize everything from strategic planning and needs assessment to vendor selection and user adoption. He is, in short, The Info Gov Guy™, furthering best-practices for finding, leveraging, and protecting your business-critical information. A member of the AIIM Company of Fellows and holder of numerous industry designations, he can be reached at or 617-383-4655.

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