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What is ECM? 5 Benefits of Enterprise Content Management

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Increasing productivity and efficiency is the battle cry of every organization, especially when it comes to manual processes, managing data and, ultimately, improving profitability.

ECM is perhaps the best tool to achieve these goals.

What is Enterprise Content Management (ECM)?

ECM stands for Enterprise Content Management, a technology collaboration solution designed to manage, store and organize business documents in real time. ECM allows organizations to significantly streamline business processes and make day-to-day operations more efficient.

Organizations that want to improve operations and remain on the forefront of business technology need to consider implementing ECM, a market that is expected to grow by more than 25% CAGR through 2026.

But how does ECM work and what are potential risks of not implementing an ECM solution? Here are five key components and benefits of Enterprise Content Management software that businesses of all kinds can realize when they implement ECM:

Benefits of Enterprise Content Management (ECM)

  1. Provides a central repository for data
  2. Digitally captures documentation
  3. Enhances document security and compliance
  4. Streamlines document retrieval
  5. Leverages automated, document-driven processes

1. Provides a Central Repository for Data

Managing your business’ content begins with capturing and importing your information into a secure digital repository — a digital library, of sorts. Many organizations maintain records and data in multiple formats and locations, including everything from online platforms to personal desktops and file cabinets. The pitfalls of keeping critical business data in such a hodgepodge of formats is that it can lead to lost data, security breaches, duplicate files and more.

A central digital repository allows users to view or edit any document, view document metadata, manage content and organize documents contained within. The repository makes it easier to find and store content securely. It also improves employee collaboration, since employees across departments and enterprise-wide will have access to any document.

2. Digitally Captures Documentation

For documents to be transferred to a repository, they first need to be captured and digitized using a variety of methods. This process includes scanning paper documents and creating electronic forms, or importing content that was already digital, such as Microsoft Office documents, photos or PDFs. Not only do cloud-based electronic files help eliminate the chaos of storing and managing paper documents, ECM also helps your organization’s green initiatives.

Documents that are typically archived in the repository include:

  • Invoices from vendors in the finance department
  • Resumes from job applicants from human resources
  • Contracts and sales orders
  • Email correspondence linked to specific individuals
  • Research reports with proprietary content
  • Miscellaneous documents and unstructured information

RELATED GUIDE: Keys to Successful ECM Implementation

3. Enhances Document Security and Compliance

ECM software optimizes records management practices and protects against the risks of security breaches and cyberattacks, while also providing a hassle-free way to stay up to date on increasing compliance restrictions. By using customizable security settings, ECM allows organizations to protect information from unauthorized access or modification.

ECM helps increase security by allowing users to:

  • Restrict access to folders, documents, fields and other information
  • Monitor system login and logout data
  • Monitor document creation and destruction to ensure compliance
  • Monitor password changes

Without proper security protocols, the long-term implications can be devastating, leading to loss of employee data, trade secrets and customer information. Just as importantly, it can also lead to a loss of customer confidence.

4. Streamlines Document Retrieval

An ECM system is different from a content management system (CMS) or file sharing program. Within the repository, you can find any content by searching different aspects of a document, including:

  • Creation date
  • Keywords or full text
  • Phrases contained within the document
  • Names of users who have edited the document
  • Metadata or metatags

The ability to perform a simple search can significantly cut down on the time spent looking for information, which improves employee productivity and customer service. Without ECM, employees will likely spend significant time searching for data instead of doing the actual work they were hired to do, the work that helps drive your company’s growth.

Don’t think this is a problem in your organization? In one study, employees reported that they couldn’t find the information they were looking for 46% of the time. In short, an ECM practically serves as your company’s own customized, super-powered search engine.

The ability to retrieve all the information you need quickly and accurately is a major advantage for every area of your business, but especially for the finance department. Having real-time data and reports on demand streamlines month-end close, payment services and that all-import audit process that requires extensive documentation. You and your employees don’t need IT or a specialist to extract data and run custom reports, meaning that information is available to whoever needs it whenever they need it.

5. Leverages Automated, Document-Driven Processes

The automation of document-driven processes increases workplace efficiency by eliminating manual tasks, such as photocopying and hand delivery of documents. With automated workflows and processes, they become more cost-efficient, streamlined and error-free.

The benefits of enterprise content management systems are endless, and ECM can be used for any department in any type of industry including healthcare, construction, finance, manufacturing, distribution, education and more. Many businesses find that after integrating an ECM solution into their workflow, their document management system helps reduce the time spent on analysis, problem solving, decision making and recreating work by as much as 50%.

What is the ROI of ECM?

Admittedly, ROI varies based on the company, degree of employee adoption and the type of ECM system used, but among several companies surveyed, ROI reportedly ranges from as low as 38% to over 600%!

By implementing a custom solution, business analysts can help determine the right ECM applications to optimize your unique business processes. They can also guide you in using the software in a way that will best benefit your business. ECM implementation isn’t just a plug-and-play process, however.

To see whether your company is a fit for ECM and whether now is the time to move forward, take our simple online ECM quiz. If your results indicate that now might be the right time, contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation!

Enterprise Content Management Quiz

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