July 11, 2017
Within the community of analysts and thought leaders who spend their time thinking in depth about technologies to manage data and documents, a new debate over what to call the systems has resurfaced. Far beyond being an exercise in semantics, the latest effort to redefine what was once humbly known as ‘document management’ reflects the elevated role of content, specifically unstructured data, in the world we all live and work in.
The Analysts Weight in on ECM
According to Gartner, the term Enterprise Content Management is dead. Used to describe what most end users generally thought of as ‘document management,’ the analyst term has lost its meaning and relevance in part because neither the management or documents nor the management of content reflect the ultimate value of the end results produced or enabled by these systems.
The new term adopted by Gartner for the same systems is “content services.”
Forrester further refined this reimagining of ECM to include two sub-markets — 1) Transactional Content Services and 2) Business Content Services, with the former most closely aligning to “traditional” ECM.
Taking Aim at Information
AIIM, on the other hand, has taken another approach to redefining the ecosystem of solutions formerly known as ECM. AIIM’s standard definition for ECM has been, ““Neither a single technology nor a methodology nor a process, it is a dynamic combination of strategies, methods, and tools used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver information supporting key organizational processes through its entire lifecycle.”
With this core definition in mind, AIIM has taken a broader view of the evolving world of ECM, choosing to describe next generation solutions that capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver information asplatforms.
According to AIIM, “Intelligent Information Management means that new world is all about Data AND Content, not Data OR Content. We’ve operated in the past with a convenient dichotomy between data management and content management. If this dichotomy ever made sense, it makes less and less as time goes on.”
Data, Content and Information
This point is well taken. The REAL distinction between “data” and “content” is essentially the difference between structured and unstructured data. Structured data has historically been captured, stored and managed within Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, considered to be THE source of data and information within organizations. Unstructured content, typically in the form of documents, emails, etc., have historically been managed by enterprise content management systems (formerly document management systems).
Aside from the conventions that determine HOW these two sources of information are captured, managed, stored, preserved and delivered, their potential value is essentially the same.
Data: Structured or Unstructured?
Our team at Artsyl Technologies has a unique perspective on both set of platforms, because we are in the business of transforming unstructured content into structured content, so that sources of information like invoices, quotes, orders become a natural part of the stream of information that informs our everyday business transactions and decisions.
Our docAlpha business digitization platform intelligently extracts data from unstructured documents and cross-referenced structured data sources like ERP systems to validate that information. Then, that data can be fed into the ERP system as a transaction with zero manual data entry required. OR, we can feed the source document and extracted metadata into an ECM system (or intelligent information management system—or whatever you choose to call it).
We understand that at the end of the day, regardless of the number of channels by which data flows in and out of an organization, and whether or not that data is structured or unstructured, it ALL serves the same ends.
Content is King; Information is the Kingdom
While debates among analysts over what to call the systems we rely on today for data versus documents may seem pedantic, the conversation REALLY is about sorting out the role of technology as a contributor to solving business problems and creating new business opportunity.
ECM is being reinvented because its role is changing as new innovations like robotic process automation and artificial intelligence promise to radically change the world of work. These NEW disruptive technologies will increasingly rely on available data to learn, adapt and automate routine aspects of our work life. The fact that unstructured content is now the BIGGEST source of information within our organizations BY FAR explains why ECM suddenly has a pivotal role in defining the future of business.
To learn more about how business digitization platforms like Artsyl’s docAlpha transforms both structured and unstructured data into information and automates business processes, contact your Artsyl account executive.