Document Management versus Content Management

Things used to be simple. In the 90s, I delivered Document Management solutions. They were simple, straightforward, and they worked. With the start of the new millennium, I started delivering Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solutions. The difference was that we were supposed to be handling content that weren’t documents. This included pictures, videos, and web pages.

Except that I wasn’t often doing that.

Sure, I delivered a few Digital Asset Management (DAM) systems and created some websites and portals. When you got down to it, I spent most of my time delivering slightly more evolved Document Management solutions with some process thrown in to spice things up.

Forget “Enterprise”. It was always solutions solving specific business problems, at least on the successfully projects. At best, I was simply delivering Content Management, not ECM.

Why Not Document Management?

What I have determined is that Content Management is simply a system, like a database. It is not what people need to do their job. When was the last time someone sold an Oracle database to a business user to solve their data problem?

People need solutions. They need a DAM system for their advertising assets. They need a collaboration site to use for projects with people around the world. They need a Web Experience Management system to guide web visitors towards desired goals.

They need a Document Management solution to store, retrieve, find, and share documents that is simple to use. The legal and record managers want a Document Management system that will insure compliance with regulations and company policies starting from the day that the Save button is first clicked.

Document Management is a solution. It is a specific application of Content Management technologies to solve a specific business problem. When done correctly, it does nothing but help people do their job.

Collaboration as Document Management Evolved

When I first started, the Document Management application was only used if you needed to do some advanced searching or reorganizing of the document library. Later, I learned the joy of collaboration solutions, like eRoom. The problem is that in the rush to the browser, we lost the tight integration with the desktop.

It is time we get that back. We need to realize that Document Management is a specific, business critical, solution. It should serve as a gateway to a collaboration site where documents can be shared, placed as part of a project, and managed as a business asset. Those documents can then power business processes.

We need to remove the stigma of the name and embrace the division between content and documents. Document Management and Content Management should cease being interchangeable terms. Let’s say what we mean and execute.

This has the power to increase the success of our projects. As many of us have experienced, Document Management is the “gateway drug” to a broader world of Content Management.

It is time to start getting people hooked.

4 thoughts on “Document Management versus Content Management

  1. ECM, Box, Dropbox, anything-in-the-cloud, … WTF cares. Storage is storage …

    Documents do not empower the process, they ARE the process. Only a homogenuous solution that supports well-defined business goals (not just rigid processes or free-flow collaboration) using content (going through various states), business data, business rules will support the business. The business people have to be able to create both content and processes themselves without huge projects. Not what is being bought today …

    You talk to any IT manager today and their answer will be: ‘We only look for xxM because we already have ECM, CRM, BPM, ACM, CMM, (you take your picks). It is amazing how little they understand that what the business really needs is a totally consolidated application that they won’t get from distinct xxM silos. And they won’t get it from Box either.


  2. Finally, someone willing to admit that Enterprise Content Management is not the same Document Management. Thank you for telling the truth. Content Management is geared toward website content and not corporate documents and records. Boxes in the cloud are not content management or document management, they are missing huge pieces of the pie and they are not enterprise. One of those missing pieces is process automation. Business run on processes, which are often called procedures. Many times, you will find that the procedures are completely undocumented. This is due to the fact that processes just happen over time as the organization grows or becomes more mature. Most organizations don’t take the time to stop and look at what they are doing. What works for a 5 employee company may not work for a 5000 employee company. Processes define who does what and when. They help documents provide information to the right people at the right time. Another piece is records management. Organizations really should be considering what happens to documents from their creating to their disposition. Managing the entire life-cycle helps to ensure compliance with record keeping regulations. There are systems that combine all of these pieces and are easy to use. The difficult part is defining the processes. There are no shortcuts there, it has to be done. Just by defining processes, most organizations gain 15% in efficiency by correcting obvious missteps.


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