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Components of the ECM process

Different ECM vendors offer varying levels of functionality, features and support. Here's the fundamental building blocks of a future-ready ECM platform.

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The value of enterprise content management (ECM) software goes way beyond simple scan, store and retrieve solutions.

These six building blocks of ECM encompass the functionality present in an ideal solution. 

1. Capture

Your solution should capture important data in the form of physical documents or digital information into one system. The right ECM solution uses data capture technology that:  

Supports all file types

Your ECM solution should preserve the native file type, rather than standardize all your files to one proprietary format. If it is unable to, this would limit what you can do with your content in the future.  

Captures data from physical locations

Your ECM solution should provide you the flexibility to capture data through mobile devices. This saves your business the cost and time associated with transporting paper documents. Better yet, your staff no longer has to ship documents to a centralized location just to scan them into a system.  

Many ECMs increasingly use artificial intelligence (AI) in their capture dynamics to speed processes. For example, intelligent capture allows for machine learning and intelligent processing of even unstructured data. 

Automatically sorts documents and extracts critical information

It’s costly for any organization to manually sort documents and enter data into their systems. Your ECM solution should give you the flexibility of automating both processes.  

This starts with automatically classifying documents as they enter the system, pulling all critical information and validating the extracted data. Now information that is used to index your documents are accurate and as up to date as possible.  

2. Manage

Managing business processes is an important building block in an ECM platform. Your solution should be able to optimize daily processes and drive efficiency by: 

Automating structured processes

Certain processes have standardized outcomes, such as accounts payable, accounts receivable and the employee hiring process. Look for a low-code ECM solution that allows you to streamline these processes without adding to your organization’s IT burden.  

Consolidating your unstructured information  

You should ensure that your ECM system allows you to capture and manage all information related to a business process, not just the documents flowing through it. These include notes, reminders, memos and added correspondence with customers. An ECM minimizes the need for siloed systems, allowing your employees one single source of truth.  

Facilitating case management 

Most case-based processes are not predictable or standardized. Your ECM solution should allow knowledge workers to effectively handle high-value exceptions. Organizations should also be able to have a 360-degree view of all case-related information, such as data records, documents, forms and history, phone calls, updates, insights, tasks and events.   


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3. Integrate

By choosing an ECM solution that easily integrates with your other applications, you can ease the transition to the new software. This eliminates the need to switch between screens to find the right information and minimizes error caused by manual data entry.  

Integrations with your ideal ECM solution should:  

Require minimal custom code

Custom code is expensive, takes a long time and must be revisited when systems and processes change. Your ECM solution should be able to quickly integrate with your other applications. That means within hours, not weeks or months.  

Do more than retrieve documents   

Look beyond document retrieval. An ideal ECM solution will provide the ability to make your users even more efficient by automatically filling out electronic forms, launching workflows, printing barcode cover-sheets and dynamically composing documents like offer letters and policies. 

Synchronize your data

The information stored within your ECM system is related to transactions and data in your other systems. Ensure that your systems remain in sync with a two-way data exchange. This eliminates duplicate data entry and is vital to ensure consistent decisions regardless of the system the user is in.  

3. Access

Employees should be able to access information easily without processing delays. With an ideal ECM solution, access to information is:  


Your ECM interface should allow personalization to accommodate each user's preferred work style. For example, users can work with greater efficiency when specific document workflows are automated and they are intelligently routed to the relevant people at the right times. 


Employees should not have to toggle among applications to get their hands on data. Ensure that your ECM system extends to your other applications such as Outlook, SharePoint, Office, ERP systems and all your other critical applications.  


Your ECM solution should make your content available from mobile and tablet devices. This is a fundamental requirement, because having instant access to your information from anywhere has a profound impact on productivity. 


Ensure that your ECM system gives your remote workforce the ability to capture photos, retrieve, create and update documents and forms from anywhere. This eliminates the time and energy spent on entering data only when they are back in the office.  

Transparent and self-serviced   

Improve customer service by allowing your customers to submit forms, track their status and access documents online. You also reduce the time and money spent printing and mailing documents and forms. 

4. Measure

Real-time updates are crucial to keeping business processes operating optimally and meeting customer expectations. An ECM solution provides you with live insights into the status of your processes, the completeness of your records and the health of your system. Analytics from your ECM solution give teams:  

Visibility without burdening IT departments

Eliminate bottlenecks and make timely decisions without waiting on a database administrator to run a report or gather information for you.  

Faster access to business dashboards 

Give your executives and knowledge workers real-time insights into the organization from their mobile devices. Adding portals to your collaboration platforms ensures the latest information is right at their fingertips, whenever they need it.  

Versatility with data analytics

An ECM system should integrate directly with spreadsheets, allowing instant extraction of data, allowing you to slice the data the way you need to. When you need to extract data to a data warehouse, it should be easy and cost-effective. 

5. Conversions  

Often, the system you've relied on for years for content management will become too costly, too complex to maintain or unsupported by the vendor.  

This may present itself through heavy administrative overhead, costly third-party services, custom development expenses or patch jobs to keep the system running. It could also be impossible to drive efficiency when your ECM solution runs on an outdated platform that does not connect with your existing IT infrastructure.  

Consider a new solution if your legacy ECM solution continues to add costs without adding value. Your future vendor should be one that maximizes your return-on-investment (ROI) by planning for the future with a clearly defined product roadmap and a clear understanding of where content is going in the next decade. 

6. Store 

The content your organization creates, consumes and eventually destroys is growing at an exponential rate. Tracking and storing information will become increasingly difficult because large volumes of your content exist in structured and unstructured formats.. An ideal ECM solution should make it easy to:  

Secure your content

Your ECM solution should meet or exceed your existing security design. Secure your data by partnering with vendors who meet compliance standards for your industry and enlist third parties to test their security. 

Protect your content

Platform security is one level of precaution, but application-level and cloud-level security are critical, too. Secure ECM vendors will use multiple layers to protection content, as well as encourage access controls, automated monitoring, database security protocols and employee training. 

Destroy your content

Legal requirements dictate your documents be deleted according to their retention requirements. Ensure your ECM solution makes it straightforward to implement and audit your retention plans.  

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