Enterprise Content Management
What actually is it?
Enterprise Content Management (ECM for short) refers to methods of compiling structured, unstructured or partially structured information. Unlike with document management there is no direct German translation for the term, so the English term is also used in German speaking regions.
The individual methods are technologies for gathering, managing, storing, retaining and providing content. Content here refers to analogue or digital content in businesses. Structured content can be, for example, invoices, contracts, quotations and personal folders. Partially structured content can include emails, other written correspondence and articles. But also unstructured content such as memos could be of great importance for business.
With an ECM solution a strategy is defined for how these documents are gathered, processed, managed and stored. The right ECM software maps the structures and processes as a company-wide solution. Using an Enterprise Content Management system brings lots of advantages and huge cost savings for businesses.
Unfortunately, most desks are usually overflowing with paper and files.
The new generation of document management
Learn more about ECM methods
Learn more about the six methods of modern Enterprise Content Management solutions and which practical advantages these can bring to the company.
Gather and import documents
The first task is of course collecting all the content. Here, analogue receipts and invoices are also scanned and then filed in appropriate groups as digital documents. Documents that are already in digital form, such as electronic invoices via email, are also gathered and imported.
It is also possible to digitise large numbers of analogue documents and import them into an ECM system. These days, paper archives take up more and more space and are very laborious to navigate. With providers such as Dropscan, whole archives can be gathered digitally and archived in a cost-saving manner.
Manage and process files
Gathered files and documents are sorted into the suitable groups and are made accessible solely to those authorised with the authorisation system. Document management here includes the whole life cycle of a file and prevents accidental simultaneous editing by different people thanks to a check-out system to your personal desk.
Documents and files can be found by users thanks to a high-performance full text search. A key feature and also a big advantage of an ECM system for the user is that the documents you need are available to you in a matter of seconds.
Automation & workflow management
Automated business processes with a solid workflow management mean no longer having to send employees from room to room to print out invoices or quotations for release. Not even email is required here, because with an Enterprise Content Management solution this happens automatically and the employee sees which documents require attention and action in their list of tasks.
At the same time, an Enterprise Content Management system is not a closed system: it can be connected to other solutions via external interfaces (e.g. accounting systems, Sage, DATEV) and transfers data in order to make business processes as automated as possible.
Storage with Enterprise Content Management
With storage, the focus lies on short to mid-term retention of data and documents rather than archiving. Documents are no longer saved manually by users on network drives, but are automatically filed and organised via a client. Even if their are several versions of a document or file, there is still only one actual file made available to the user. This means that storage silos are dissolved and tedious searches in different network drive structures are eliminated.
The document needed can be called up either with a search function or via other attributes (e.g. click finder) in the ECM client. Here it doesn’t matter where a file is saved or how it is named – only what is inside it and which attributes or workflows are assigned to it.
Transferring and exporting data
The provision of data and documents outside of the company and the Enterprise Content Management is becoming increasingly important. Files and documents also have to be made available to employees outside of the IT infrastructure. For example if they are working from home or travelling. External partners, suppliers and tax advisors are also reliant on documents such as handbooks, delivery slips or bookkeeping receipts.
With ECM, documents are not sent as email attachments or even as print outs via post, but, for example, as password-protected links. Alternatively, external persons can receive their own restricted access to the AMAGNO client, or CSV or XML data can be exported via external interfaces.
Archive and automatically keep to deadlines
Large rooms with filing cabinets full of redundant files are a thing of the past. With Enterprise Content Management, a digital archive is generated and managed almost automatically. The focus is not on long-term archiving like with the normal storage of data. Existing analogue archives are digitised and are assigned keywords and structured almost automatically with OCR recognition.
Thanks to defined rules it is then determined as soon as you create a new analogue or digital document whether it’s a versioning of a file or whether it needs to be archived for the long-term. It is also possible to automatically set retention and deletion deadlines with ECM.
Enterprise Content Management
Important pointers for selecting your ECM solution
The market for ECM solutions in Germany presents over 100 solutions, of which around 20 have a significant number of users. With over 9,000 users, AMAGNO is one of the most significant and extensive modern ECM/DMS solutions in Germany and has a solid customer base across a range of industries.
As a software provider, every day we are discovering that the spontaneous search for an ECM/DMS solution to combat file, receipt and email chaos is generally unsuccessful due to organisational reasons. Drawing on our experience we would like to help you avoid the biggest mistakes and to give you the following tips.
Identify your main problem
You probably have one main problem which you are looking to solve. An ECM/DMS will help you on many levels. Find out about what else an ECM/DMS solution can offer before you pick a provider. Ideally with the help of specialists, put together a specification sheet, or at least an agreed list of needs and requirements for an ECM/DMS solution, so that you can compare providers in a methodical way.
Get decision makers and users involved
Get all decision makers (CEOs, controlling, finance department etc.) and future users involved. The introduction of an Enterprise Content Management system enables lots of new possibilities, savings and efficiency but also lots of changes for users. New, wide-reaching technologies often fail because of a low level of acceptance by users. Involving users early on lets you be sure that the new technology will be totally accepted.
Identifying investments and a project plan
Plan investments and the project schedule in order to identify and clear any stumbling blocks as soon as possible. A certain amount of investment is necessary at first in order to be able to enjoy the advantages later. This includes and investment of time and also money, but these will quickly pay off. If you’re not ready to do this, there is not much point in progressing any further. Create a chronological timescale that you will then follow along with the decision makers involved.
Put together a specification sheet early on
You should be especially sure not to overlook interfaces and external applications. Modern Enterprise Management systems are not closed solutions – they are highly integrative and communicate via corresponding interfaces with DATEV, for example, and with many other systems. All technical requirements should be laid out in a specification sheet. Ideally, this specification sheet should be created right at the start and added to if needed.