JM Pascal Asks Pie the Hard ECM Questions


You may have missed it, but last week, Jean Marie Pascal posted an interview with me on his blog.  It was a fun exercise, though it took a while as our schedules precluded quick email responses (my delay being the longer of the two).  JM hung in there with me and the interview was finally completed.

If you have been missing the joy of reading fresh posts by me, then the interview will be a nice read.  It covers ECM, Documentum, Open Source and a little about me.  Share and Enjoy.

This Little ECM Definition Comment

If you went and read the interview, you may have seen my comment on the definition of ECM.  I criticized AIIM’s ECM definition as being tool centric. Bryant Duhon, the Infonomics editor, challenged me on this, saying that Strategy was definitely in the definition. I hadn’t responded previously because I knew this was a response.  Well, here it is…

Bryant, you cheated. Maybe not intentionally, but you did.

Let me explain. When I first criticized the definition, it was more tools/technology focused. Sometime in the recent past, AIIM changed their definition to this:

Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is the strategies, methods and tools used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to organizational processes. ECM tools and strategies allow the management of an organization’s unstructured information, wherever that information exists.

The word “technologies” was replaced with “strategies, methods and tools”.  I will state right now that my statement from the interview is no longer relevant, though I still am not found of the tool component.  Here are some other issues I have with the definition:

  • This definition still has no soul.  As I pointed out two years ago, It has no passion.  If a definition of ECM makes me want to work in another field, then it needs to be looked at closely.
  • I do not like the phrase “related to organizational processes”.  I know that if you look deep enough, every piece of content is tied to some sort of formal or ad-hoc process. This phrase just feels too confining and screams formal process.  All organizational content is involved.  The second sentence covers that to some extent, but it is the second sentence.
  • The second sentence is too long. Not in size, but some words should be removed.  “ECM tools and strategies allow…” should be changed to “ECM is…”.  While that isn’t a complete definition, I feel it is more correct and should probably be first after being modified.  The first sentence addresses the practice of ECM while the second one is closer to actually defining it.

Now my proposed definition should be open to full analysis and critique in response.  I know my definition isn’t perfect.  Then again, I’ve gotten no negative feedback so maybe it is perfect.  I doubt that is the case, so I open it up to your review again:

Enterprise Content Management is the empowerment of all content within an organization. This is accomplished through the centralized management of content, allowing for people and systems to access and manage content from within any business context using platform agnostic standards.

Keep in mind that ECM is only a stepping stone to my vision of Omnipresent Content Management.  That is where we take what we learn from ECM and apply it to all content, everywhere.

Dare to dream.

9 thoughts on “JM Pascal Asks Pie the Hard ECM Questions

  1. Dwayne says:

    A true meaningful and comprehensive definition of ECM is a tough nut to crack. On several occasions I’ve had the need to go out and pull definitions of ECM for presentations here at work, and so, I hit AIIM, Gartner, and as many other sources as I can find at that point in time.

    I think we (ECM industry folks) know that content is everywhere, but, I constantly get that the definitions are too broad and are not truly understood by those outside the industry, or those that just don’t think in those terms. Those comments are typically followed be “that could mean anything is content” Well, um, yeah. Content plus relevancy equals value. In the end, the definition needs to be applied to the situation at hand, and what it means to the organization.

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  2. Pie old chap, it pains me to say this, and I will buy you beer one day to make up for it, but your definition truly sucks !

    “Empowerment” ? Puh-lease…… A definition should not need to spawn multiple sub-definition threads, so while I think I understand what your getting at with the “empowerment of all content within an organization” – some VP who has just been given ECM as a new part of her empire is gonna read that and think WTF ?

    Also when was the last time you read the AIIM statement ? When you joined ? You have been working in the ECM space much longer than I, but unless my memory is failing me (possible, too much beer consumed in my youth…) the AIIM definition has always had the ‘strategy’ aspect in it since I have been a member, and I think I joined in 2003 / 4.

    Personally I like the AIIM definition – no, its not perfect, but no definition of a broad subject area ever can be. At least it mentions strategy twice, and ‘unstructured information’. I do however like your “business context” in place of the AIIM “organizational processes”. Bottom line, I think your definition befits your ECM ‘guru’ status;

    You understand it and your pretty sure we understand it (we as in “the industry’) but as Dwayne noted, I don’t think any “outsiders” would understand it.

    Also should not a definition (by definition…) be cold and analytical ? It should not require soul or passion. You might build a vision statement for your particular ECM effort / information management strategy, that has plenty of passion and even ‘soul’ – but its certainly not required to get in the way as part of a definition.

    Also please put warnings in your posts in future. I thought I had a good handle on your sense of humor, but after spraying my keyboard with Coke at the “empowerment” moment, I then did it again for the final “dare to dream”…!

    I hope this was negative enough for you – don’t hate me man…….

    Keep churning this great stuff out, it gives us all something to think about and discuss.

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    • Thank you! I love being told that my definition “truly sucks!” I am not a big fan of empowerment, so I am more than open to other words. Any ideas?

      Strategy was a minor word two years ago. The definition then was, “Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is the technologies used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to organizational processes. ECM tools and strategies allow the management of an organization’s unstructured information, wherever that information exists.” It is minor. The first sentence is a definition statement. The second sentence addressed what ECM tools and strategies allow, not what it is. It is a moot point since strategy is now more central to their definition.

      One more comment Jed…Don’t be a hater. 😉

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  3. I was just about to start writing and then Jed’s note came up.
    Empowerment feels out of place for me also… although my keyboard stayed clean.
    And I would change “centralized management” with “coordinated management” (yeah, I know… sounds like empowerment all over again).
    “Business context” is a good catch.
    I think it’s a tie

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    • Hmmm, thanks for the comment. “Coordinated management” is probably an improvement. I’ll think on it. Anyone else agree with lopataru?

      As I told Jed, I am willing to replace empowerment, not a fan of the word, but I want a word that conveys a similar concept.

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  4. “Don’t be a hater” : you know me matey, more of a lover than a fighter 🙂

    I am humbled by your historical facts on the current AIIM definition, and stand corrected on the strategy issue !

    I am destined to get no more work done this morning while I mull over alternatives to “empowerment”…… a sucky sucky word….

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    • My history was yanked from my post 2 years ago where I first commented upon the definition. That is why I accused Bryant of “cheating”. It had changed on me. Look forward to your insights.

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  5. This is what I came up with – ‘Strategic reorientation of content from being a business process artifact to building an empowering platform on which an enterprise strives to become more agile, compliant, and competitive’.

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