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Living Together, Growing Together: ECM, BPM, KM as Variations on a Theme

Yes, it’s the title of an old Fifth Dimension song. But “Living Together, Growing Together” is also what is happening in the worlds of ECM, BPM, and KM – which is to say, the ‘managements’ of enterprise content, business processes, and knowledge.

Regular readers know that I teach the AIIM ECM certificate program, and I’m now preparing to pick up the BPM class as well. In addition, I’ve recently reconnected with my old knowledge management roots, and I just can’t get over the enormous degree to which each discipline today echoes the others even as each has its own point of focus.

  • Each counsels iterative program development
  • Each involves some manner of internal intelligence-gathering
  • Each results (when properly approached) in effective process improvements
  • Each results (when properly approached) in clear infrastructure recommendations

Where they differ is in their points of reference – their core contexts, if you will.

  • ECM revolves around the (usually unstructured) information your people rely upon to get their work done, and how that information moves around the organization.
  • BPM revolves around how your people get their work done, and to a lesser extent, what information they need to succeed.
  • KM revolves around the ability of your people and systems to share the information they possess so their work can be best accomplished.

All clearly related, all required to one degree or another, but each different enough to be difficult to fully reconcile.

This isn’t necessarily a problem because project success does not depend upon becoming an expert in all three areas. Rather, it depends upon taking a disciplined approach to whichever specialty best addresses the business problems you are trying to solve, and then seeing it through as completely as possible. (It’s the shortcuts that’ll kill you.)

The trick, of course, is to figure out which one is best suited for you! This means two things:

  • You need to at least be conversant in all three subjects so you can understand the issues at hand and how they relate to you.
  • You need to understand your organization’s own needs, foibles, and objectives so you know what to match them up against.

Just two more examples of how ECM, BPM, and KM today are living together.

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