Contents of this article:
- What is enterprise content management? A recap
- Key benefits of enterprise content management
- Top 5 enterprise content management benefits
- ECM benefit #1 - Faster access to information
- ECM benefit #2 - Improved data security and integrity
- ECM benefit #3 - Enhanced compliance
- ECM benefit #4 - Collaboration in the cloud
- ECM benefit #5 - Automation and acceleration
What is enterprise content management? A recap
Before we dive into the benefits of ECM, let’s quickly recap what it is.
- Enterprise content management is the business process of organizing, storing, and controlling access to an organization's documents – and doing so in a centralized and systematic way. It aims to enhance efficiency, collaboration, and regulatory compliance.
- An enterprise content management platform supports this process by providing a centralized digital space for securely storing, organizing, managing, accessing, and using those documents. Benefits of an ECM system over paper-based processes include automatic version control, improved online access, access controls, and workflow automation.
We cover this in much more detail in our guide, What is Enterprise Content Management? If you need to refresh your understanding of ECM, bookmark this article and head over there first.
Key benefits of enterprise content management
We’ll explore the main Enterprise Content Management benefits in detail below. But here’s the headline news – the most common benefits of a content management system and the features that deliver them.
|What it means
|ECM benefits to business
|Centralized document management
|All documents located in a single, central repository
|Faster access to information accelerates business processes, and can improve decision-making and quality management.
|Document creation and e-signatures
|Allows users to digitize paper documents, create digital documents from templates, and e-sign documents - for consistent documentation and faster sign-off processes.
|Ingest and identification
|OCR, AI, machine learning, and keywords
|Fast document upload and automated ‘understanding’ of content allow documents to be classified and routed into workflows.
|Version control/audit trails
|Automatically tracks changes and document versions
|Ensures document accuracy and compliance. Creates a transparent audit trail of changes for accountability and traceability.
|Permissions and security
|User permissions control access to content
|People can only access the documents and content they have permission to see. So documents are more accessible to authorized users, without it becoming a free-for-all.
|Search, retrieval, and distribution
|Enhanced search, browse, and filtering
|Powerful search and retrieval tools enable users to quickly locate and access documents, saving time currently wasted on searching disorganized filing systems.
|Manual tasks automated
|Automated workflows streamline and optimize business processes - freeing people up for more value-adding work.
|Systematic management process
|Records are systematically classified, retained, and disposed of according to requirements. Ensures compliance with regulations.
|Specific to different solutions
|Ability to work together online in real-time, from anywhere in the world. Accelerates workflows. Reduces admin and costs.
|Connect seamlessly to other software
|Streamlines business processes, supports cross-departmental workflows, and reduces duplicate data in multiple places.
|Up to unlimited storage
|Designed to grow to manage an increasing volume of content and users, so it scales with your business.
Top 5 enterprise content management benefits
Obviously, it is possible to list more than 5 benefits of enterprise content management. The aim of this article is to explain to you why enterprise content management could be a perfect, or at least suitable solution for the problems you're dealing with in your company, not to create a complete list of potential benefits.
ECM benefit #1 - Faster access to information
Your people are drowning in documents. Unstructured data and documents represent 80 to 90% of all new enterprise data. Without a systematic way to organize and access documents, this content tsunami is a serious threat to productivity.
- People wasting time searching for the documents they need…
- Or giving up their search and simply not completing their jobs-to-be-done
- Risks to quality, customer service, etc. when people can’t find the info they need
- Or use out-of-date information due to multiple versions of different documents
ECM solutions slash the time it takes for people to find the information they need to do their job - whether that’s viewing medical files to guide patients in a healthcare setting, or accessing technical drawings to provide online customer support. The key ECM benefits here are:
- People can work faster and reclaim lost time for additional tasks
- They are more responsive and agile in their day-to-day operations
- Time-savings translate directly into lower costs and higher capacity
- Access to information supports better decision-making and quality outcomes
Putting the right info into the right hands at the right time, makes your business flow better – streamlining tasks, accelerating processes, and increasing productivity. Plus, potentially boosting customer satisfaction through better service - and saving stress and frustration for your staff. Win, win, win!
ECM benefit #2 - Improved data security and integrity
You might recoil at the thought of increasing access to your documents. You may have commercially sensitive information you need to protect - or documents that are embargoed. However. a key ECM benefit is that it actually protects your content from unauthorized access.
ECM solutions allow for great access to documents - through digitization, online access, and improved discoverability - whilst maintaining high levels of security and protection - through permissions and access controls. So people who need to use it, can. But everyone else is kept out.
ECM systems allow organizations to set granular-level access controls, determining who can view, edit, or comment on specific documents. This ensures that sensitive information is shared only with authorized individuals, maintaining confidentiality and compliance with data protection regulations.
Plus, automatic revision tracking and version control mean no more headaches trying to work out which is the latest version or who changed what and when. You can track changes, revert to previous versions, and view the entire document history. This maintains the integrity of documents and facilitates collaboration without the fear of losing important information.
Furthermore, centralizing files in an easy-to-access repository reduces the risk of people creating their own copies of files on their desktops and departmental folders - which results in confusion and out-of-date information proliferating.
Finally, ECM software typically includes a range of cybersecurity measures to protect your data online, including:
- Two-factor authentication
- Secure file transfer
- Data loss prevention, and backups
ECM benefit #3 - Enhanced compliance
For organizations that are subject to regulatory requirements, an ECM system is hugely beneficial. It makes the audit process easier and helps you demonstrate full compliance with the law. This reduces the risk of non-compliance penalties. It does this by:
- Providing a systematic compliance process, including rules and alerts around retention and disposal
- Centralizing compliance documentation to make it easier to comply with audits
- Automating workflows that reduce the risk of human error and create an audit trail
- Providing robust access control and data security
What does that look like in practice? So many things for so many organizations. For example, in policing, this might mean flagging records for disposal after a specified retention period. For universities, it could mean keeping an audit trail of changes made to student records, in accordance with privacy and data regulations. Whatever your unique use case, this is how enterprise content management helps you operate efficiently, confidently, and compliantly in a regulated environment.
ECM benefit #4 - Collaboration in the cloud
Depending on the ECM system you choose, it may include shared digital workspaces. These allow for cloud-based collaboration that greatly accelerates processes. And promotes a culture of cross-functional collaboration and breaks down productivity-sapping silos.
Let’s look at an example of workflow automation in the publishing world. Real-time document collaboration can accelerate time-to-market for publishers by:
- Accepting author submissions online and capturing key information - rather than receiving it via email and manually inputting data
- Checking the completeness of the submission and routing it automatically to the right editor
- Allowing multiple collaborators to review and edit the document online - with all amends captured and visible in real-time
- Automatically allocating tasks to collaborators as a document moves through the workflow
- Sending approved text to design templates, ready for creative colleagues
It also facilitates remote collaboration, which is increasingly important in the globalized talent market. By providing an efficient tool to work together from anywhere in the world, you can benefit from the best people, wherever they are.
ECM systems also help with quality management, knowledge sharing, and preservation, by providing a repository for institutional information. For example, ‘how to’ information, workflows, and best practices. This ensures critical information isn’t lost when people leave the business and saves time when onboarding new staff.
ECM benefit #5 - Automation and acceleration
The example above is also an example of automation in ECM. The scope and abilities of ECM software are vast and opportunities for automation vary depending on your business sector.
Whatever your unique business case, the benefits of ECM automation are undeniable. Firstly, automation reduces manual intervention and repetitive admin tasks. This accelerates processes, reduces the risk of human error, and increases operational efficiency. And we know saving time means saving money. Then, there’s the question of consistency and completeness. Imagine an expenses approval process. Without ECM, employees might email in their receipts or hand in paper copies. They may or may not explain the expenses correctly. An automated workflow via an ECM can enforce consistent data entry and insist on receipts being attached. This speeds up the process and should increase stakeholder satisfaction when expenses are paid faster.
Finally, there’s resource optimization. That’s about using your human capital effectively to create the highest impact. Automation gets rid of tasks that don’t need human intervention, so your people can be used more productively elsewhere.
There are so many benefits of content management systems. We could go on and on. If you’ve been wondering why Enterprise Content Management is important to an organization, this should give you something to hold on to.