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ECM Not the Last Word in Technology (Literally)

Two decades into the study and implementation of information management best practices, I’m still amazed by how many conversations I have about how our industry defines things: what is content management? how is it different from records management? from Web content management? etc.

The problem is that there isn’t really one good term that covers it all – well, there is, but it’s horribly unsexy and it sounds like a holdover from the 1970s. That term is “information management,” and regular readers will have noticed that I use it quite a bit.

Being the business-process-centered guy that I am, I believe the operational distinction between a document, a record, and a Web page isn’t especially critical, especially during the initial planning stages of a project. So I tend to use the bigger phrase to embrace them all, along with such other valuable “content” resources as ERP, HR, and CRM.

Where it is important, however, is in the selection of the tools needed to facilitate and support those business processes. For instance, a system that is really good at federated search may be really bad at managing emails – if, indeed, it does it at all – and yet the term “ECM” frequently is used to describe them both.

My advice, as it has long been, is to forget about what specific solutions are called and focus instead on what they do. That, after all, is the only thing that really should matter, and as long as what they do aligns with what you need, you should be in good shape indeed.

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4 thoughts on “ECM Not the Last Word in Technology (Literally)”

  1. Great post Steve. I also think it is interesting how often the terminology changes. We have a community for IM professionals ( and have bookmarked this post for our users. Look forward to reading your work in the future.

  2. Ah, my old friend Mike2! I know it well, and not only because it is highly recommended by the AIIM ECM certification course I teach. (And by me, too!) Thanks for posting, and for the kind words.

  3. However unsexy you think it is (I don’t agree) it is accurate (which is the new sexy). We manage information in all its multitudinous forms. Whether that information is a record or not is completely irrelevant in terms of getting the job done. I’ve been arguing this point for ages, it seems. So far the only point I’m grudgingly willing to concede is that a “record” may have more weight in court. But even in that instance I suspect that a non-record that has rock-solid provenance will go farther than a record of suspicious or unproven origin.

    Good post, Steve.


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