ECM - or Emergency! Can't Manage?

Let’s start with a trite comment – information is the life blood of an organisation.

If that information is not under control, then your organisation is probably suffering from poor circulation.  Its decision making capabilities are severely impacted, and its capability to compete in its markets will be compromised – it is heading for an informational equivalent of a heart attack.

Many organisations have tried to solve the problem through the use of an enterprise content management (ECM) system.  Whereas ECM may have a place in highly regulated industries, it has severe limitations in how it can help organisations in their general information management needs.

The main problem is that ECM is only as good as the information that is in it, but only a small proportion of an organisation’s information assets will actually find their way into an ECM.

A search through an ECM will also tend to throw up far too many “results”.  These may well be ranked by some order, probably using a basic heuristic of “relevance”.  For those who have used an ECM, it is pretty obvious that an ECM’s definition of relevance is far removed from the user’s – and there will be nothing you can really do about it.  Only through a real in-depth understanding of how to construct search phrases can you hope to get close to what you want.  Otherwise, what you want is on page 6 of the presented results – but you lost interest and gave up on page 3.

Such an approach to search and analysis against what is available leads to a perception of effective decision making.  However, the decision was only made against the available ECM information – not ALL the available information.  That something may come to light at a later date that changes the decision is not even thought about.  The wealth of information available from the internet is disregarded; information from others across the value chain of customers and suppliers not even thought about; even information from others within the organisation is not used, as it is not in the ECM.

Even when you have found something that you think is relevant, it may be just one paragraph from a 100-page report, or one slide from a 50 slide PowerPoint deck.  Your work is cut out to create something meaningful that applies to your needs.

A different approach is needed – one that layers across any number of data stores and allows information assets to be viewed as a set of objects.  One that uses more advanced, flexible heuristics in order to provide intelligent searches.  One that allows you to build on-the fly virtual folders of useful information that can be easily turned into reports.  One that actually meets your needs – rather than one that frustrates them.

ECM was a solution to a problem that was there in the 1990s.  It has not managed to move with the times and is ill-fitted to deal with the emergence of cloud-based information storage of the likes of Dropbox, Box and SugarSynch.  It is time to look elsewhere and avoid the “Emergency! Can’t Manage” syndrome.

This article first appeared as a blog on the Docurated site at

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