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What is enterprise content management (ECM)?

Start here to understand the basics and benefits of enterprise content management.

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Enterprise content management (ECM) — sometimes referred to as document management or records management — is the process of managing the entire life cycle of an organization’s content, including documents, spreadsheets, contracts and scanned images. The goal of an ECM solution is to reduce risk and improve productivity, efficiency and customer experience by eliminating paper-based tasks and enhancing process visibility.

What is an ECM solution?

Enterprise content management is an umbrella term for the technology, strategy and method used to capture, manage, access, integrate, measure and store information.

The value of today's ECM solution goes beyond simple scan, store and retrieve solutions to encompass all the platform's capabilities and strengths.

Traditionally, ECM was primarily comprised of transactional content management, a system of record for managing process-related documents. But transactional content management, often associated with business processes that help drive actions and decisions, is just part of ECM and another term under its umbrella.

> Read more | Using an electronic document management system (EDMS) as a centralized document repository

First-generation enterprise content management solutions no longer fully reflect the way users create, use and interact with information, which is why the term has evolved into content services. A successful content services approach helps you tackle changes in technology and the way we work, and combats information silos by delivering the right information to the right people at the right time.

So what are the benefits?

  • Reduce clutter while increasing data and process visibility and accessibility, ultimately saving time and significantly lowering costs
  • Archive information and access it quickly anytime, anywhere
  • Eliminate paper-based tasks and make records-keeping more accessible and efficient
  • Organize and structure your company’s data to easily cross-reference, providing invaluable context around and transparency into processes

Gartner Market Guide for Content Services Platforms

You can use a Market Guide to understand how the status of an emerging market aligns to your future plans. Discover why Hyland has been recognized as a 2023 Gartner Representative Vendor.

What are the features of an enterprise content management system?

The right platform enables you to build unlimited tailored solutions that integrate and work with your core applications and systems. The features to look out for can be categorized into nine main functions.


This is the critical starting point of your content management journey. Capture documents — even in structured and unstructured formats — and automatically and intelligently extract, classify and validate information before seamlessly integrating it with core business applications.

Content management

Get a complete view of your processes. Automated content management simplifies access to the files you need so your team can make faster, better-informed decisions.

Business process automation 

Streamline critical processes. Automate repeatable tasks, route documents, manage exceptions and extend key processes using configurable workflow tools and built-in rules and actions that are easily customizable without IT support.

Case management

Get full visibility into an entire case from start to end. Staff gets a 360-degree view of all the information they need for effective case management and enhanced customer service.

Customer communications management

Improve customer communications with content management integrations. Create individually personalized content and handle a wide range of communication needs to meet customer expectations.


Share content, collaborate on documents and extend related processes to your users — whether internally or externally — in a secure environment.

Reporting and analytics 

Discover, analyze and reimagine reporting and analytics. Gain visibility into your content and processes in real-time with interactive dashboards and audit trails of all activities.


Find the content you need no matter where it resides. Intelligent query tools let you search through repositories, sites, email systems, intranets and more from a single platform.

Records and retention management

Meet regulatory and compliance standards. Configure automated rules and workflows for easily overlooked tasks like approvals, storage, archival and deletion.

The history of ECM

Over time, the term ECM has been replaced by the term content services. Content services describes flexible and often cloud-based offerings that enable effective access to, use of, and management of information across the organization by users, processes and applications.

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