Since the 1980s, relational databases have been used to store business information. They were a huge step forward over hierarchical databases, which organized data into rigid tree-like structures with connections between data elements defined by the links in the structures.
Relational databases typically store information in rows and columns in tables, with column names providing the linkages between tables. The relational model works terrifically well within a particular database, but can create challenges across databases, particularly at scale when linking vast volumes of data with inconsistent naming conventions.
ECM systems are typically a bit more complex, consisting at their core of: a) a file management system to store content assets and b) a relational database to store the metadata associated with those assets.
For over two decades, the disciplines of content management and data management have existed in somewhat parallel universes. This disconnect has manifested itself in a lack of integration between data-centric business systems and ECM systems. AIIM research indicates that 27% of organizations with ECM systems report no integration between their ECM system and other core business systems. For example, 61% report no connection between their ECM and ERP systems.
Folks in the content management space have traditionally framed the approach that we take to solving document-intensive process problems in content management terms and within the confines of the specific process problem being solved. Content management was the lens through which we looked at these problems, and specific content management technologies – e.g., ECM, ERM, Information Governance, Taxonomy and Metadata – were the tools that we used to solve them.
“ECM” was the straw that stirred the drink for these large-scale document-intensive process problems. This content frame -- rather than a data-centric frame -- served us well for over a decade – when the first-generation problems to be solved centered around large scale automation and elimination of paper within a specific business process. And it is still a very relevant and important frame for organizations that haven’t yet solved these core process problems.
There are new process challenges, though, that are changing the way many organizations look at the role of ECM and how they look at the connection between data and content. For these organizations, content management is not necessarily at the center in how they look at these process problems, but rather one element in a set of required capabilities (including semantics, business intelligence, CRM, and ERP, to name a few) necessary to solve a business problem.
Get my new e-book, From Documents to Content to Data for more details.