Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is a core business technology that helps organizations, no matter the size or industry, organize, manage, and distribute unstructured content.
While this technology is useful in vertical organizations, we’re going to focus on how five specific applications of ECM can drive business processes, increase productivity, solve critical problems, and help organizations achieve their goals.
Digitization converts analog information, like paper documents and photo prints, into a digital format. Many organizations wanting to cut costs, streamline operations, and save time are implementing enterprise content management systems to transform paper-based offices for paperless digital ones.
During the digitization process, scanners capture digital images from paper documents, then the ECM system organizes them into cohesive structures, extracting information and classifying content based on document names, extracted information, and additional metadata.
Digitization offers value to any organization that wants to implement digital processes, but let’s look at a specific application example.
Imagine a manufacturing company with several hundred employees. The organization stores all human resources (HR) documentation in paper files, beginning with job roles and resumes for new hires, moving through performance reviews, finance and medical details, and ending with severance or retirement documents. Having this information stored in paper format has numerous challenges:
- Lack of security (anyone with the key to the filing cabinet can access it)
- Slow to access, especially when physical documents are stored off-site
- Cumbersome to share and update
- Subject to complete destruction in fire and flood
- Prone to misfiling - according to Gartner 25% of poorly-filed documents will never be located
- Zero collaboration - only one person can have the physical paper document to work on at any one time
The digitization of paper documents and the introduction of automated efficiencies via ECM resolve these issues. The digitization process involves two phases:
- The scanning of each existing document, and passing through optical character recognition (OCR), intelligent character recognition (ICR), and forms tools to extract the key data directly from the document to add into the ECM system for fast and efficient access.
- The creation of simple processes and user interfaces to enable the ongoing entry of new materials — not from paper, but from digital-born resumes, forms, and systems.
Digitization can dramatically reduce the amount of paper within an organization, improve efficiencies, enable remote access, and accelerate an organization’s digital transformation strategy.
2. Document Management
Think of enterprise Document Management systems as providing organizations with the tools to go beyond just storing content, to being able to search and organize it effectively. Building on digitization activities, the document management system offers more advanced storage capabilities than digitization and in addition manages, tracks, and retrieves content, with features that include document version control, security and access management, and audit trails.
For a real-world example of a document management application, consider a team writing and collaborating on a project proposal. Document management not only makes it possible for several users to edit the proposal simultaneously but also ensures that changes don’t overwrite one another, providing a single source of the truth at all times.
Version control allows the team to know what the current iteration of the proposal looks like but also to revert to earlier versions in case of an error or a rethink. An ECM document management system also provides a detailed audit trail of all user activity on the document to ensure compliance and protect the organization as well as users.
3. Governance & Compliance
In regulated industries, such as healthcare, pharmaceutical, and energy industries, non-compliance with government and industry regulations can lead to sizable financial penalties, business disruption, tarnished reputations, and even prison sentences in certain circumstances.
ECM systems have several features to help organizations meet governance and compliance regulations, such as Records Management (RM), retention management, destruction, eDiscovery, and audit trails.
An example is found in the healthcare field, where HIPAA Retention Requirements dictate that documents must be retained for a minimum of six years from when the document was created.
Using a secure content management system, an administrator can set the retention time on a document at the creation level to keep it safe until its automated destruction, which allows for less audit and database bulk, as well as a decreased risk of fines.
A more advanced example occurs in the legal industry, where attorneys may be required to provide digital files and records, such as emails, documents, account reports, and chat messages, that are relevant to a litigation case. The process of identifying, collecting, preserving, and delivering electronic information is called eDiscovery.). During the eDiscovery process, legal teams halt all processing or disposing of pertinent information, known as implementing a legal hold.
While eDiscovery platforms exist, an ECM system offers a holistic approach with features that consider the organization as a whole, giving teams the ability to search faster and more efficiently with better results.
ECM systems also automatically maintain detailed audit logs, recording explicit details such as all document creations, edits, views, and deletions. These audit trails are a core requirement in any compliance or governance function.
4. Case Management
While digitization and document management are document-specific, enterprise case management system centers a slightly more complex element — the case. A case is a group of related documents and information relating to a specific entity, perhaps a patient, a legal case, or a planning proposal. Case management allows for the treatment of that case as a single, collected entity and provides a single user interface to allow all activities and workflows to be executed on that case from one place.
For example, an insurance company’s customer, or subject, experiences an automobile collision and files a claim. To ensure the subject receives the proper medical care and compensation, an insurance case manager creates a case that contains forms, police records, accident photos, medical reports, signed affidavits, repair quotes, and any other pertinent documentation.
To provide solutions and services in the most efficient way possible, the caseworker needs to see all information from the case unit on a single screen when requested, which is exactly where an ECM’s case management functionality comes into play.
Other common examples of case management include loan origination and processing, insurance policy and claims management, employee file management, medical records management, and new client account opening and onboarding in any industry. Any set of activities that rely on multiple documents per subject and have an associated business process can benefit from case management solutions.
5. Knowledge Management
Knowledge management is the process of creating, accumulating, structuring, storing, and sharing knowledge, experiences, and information within an organization. It gives organizations a competitive edge by improving efficiency and decision-making abilities while building a well-informed, collaborative workforce, starting as early as the onboarding process.
Knowledge management software within an organization typically delivers a combination of features and benefits including containing enterprise search, federation, and ideation:
Enterprise Content Search: Modern business depends on speed. One of the biggest hindrances for workers is the time spent searching for information. Workers can quickly and easily search against multiple aspects of the file, known as metadata, allowing them to quickly find the information and associated knowledge they are looking for. This detailed search capability, allowing users to cross-reference documents by type, date, topic, case, author, and more, rapidly allows them to find the knowledge needle in the content haystack — a key benefit of knowledge management.
Content Federation: For a knowledge management system to best serve the organization, users must be able to reference content from every system within the organization. However, this is a complex task as most enterprises have multiple, disconnected, legacy silos of information within their environment. Content federation breaks down these virtual walls by linking core business systems, enabling users to search, find and distribute relevant information efficiently, irrespective of where the original content resides.
Ideation: During the innovation process, ideation may be the key to creating new and useful knowledge. Inside every organization, there is a wealth of information, but databases containing mass amounts of material can overwhelm users. With ideation, a simple topic search can result in highly relevant information and ideas from inside and outside the organization that leads to greater, more creative decision-making and innovative solutions.
An example of an ECM knowledge management application is a customer support help desk. When a customer calls or submits a ticket, the support team must solve the customer’s problem as soon as possible, especially since organizations that lead in customer experience outperform their competition by 80%.
Using a knowledge management system, the support representative can locate the customer’s file and examine notes from previous calls. Then, the system can deliver information associated with the current problem — manuals, product videos, the latest company news or policy changes, and any other pertinent information that will help them solve the problem quickly and efficiently.
The potential applications of enterprise content management systems are extensive and will continue to evolve alongside business and technology. If you’re thinking about implementing an ECM system inside your organization, consider how these specific applications can serve your organization’s distinct needs.
Whether you’re interested in digitization, automation, streamlining business processes, compliance, document retention, and destruction, or creating a more cohesive culture in your organization, an ECM solution can give your organization a distinct competitive edge.
Contact us to see how to create the most powerful ECM applications with the Nuxeo Platform.