In AIIM’s recent State of the ECM industry research, we saw that content chaos is still the biggest challenge for enterprises, despite some progress over the past year. While shying away from dealing directly with the causes of this chaos, recent work by Forrester researchers suggests that the solution is not in the deployment of particular products, but changing the way we look at content.

The fundamental problem, outlined in the recently published Forrester (news site) report Plan Your ECM Strategy For Business, Persuasive, Transactional, and Foundational Need by Stephen Powers and Alan Weintraub, is that, while enterprises have taken a product-specific approach to content management, a much broader approach is required.

This approach, the research argues, should be based around content in four types and their transactional technologies.

Content Types

Those content types, as the title suggests, include: Business, persuasive, transactional and foundational content.

The first three types are not new and were defined by Forrester some years ago in an attempt to help enterprises develop content strategies that dealt with specific problems. The fourth is a content type that has been recently identified.

By defining needs in terms of those four content types, enterprises should be able to develop strategies that will match their business needs with products that deal with those particular content issues.

Identifying the Problem

The problem, the paper says, is that many enterprises are still set on an enterprise content management vision where all their needs will be met by a set of applications from a single vendor, built on a unified repository.

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Content-Centric Technologies within the ECM functionality sets; courtesy of Forrester

The reality for many enterprises, however, is that they will have to source different elements from different vendors. How to decide what and where is at the heart of the problem. Taking a content-based approach around the four elements identified by Forrester is a start:

1. Business Content

This is the content that is produced in the enterprise itself and is used to complete the daily tasks of users in the enterprise. It includes many of the common formats such as office documents, spreadsheets, web content and mobile content. It is at the base of many daily processes

2. Persuasive content

This is content that aims to influence external audience behavior. It can be created inside and outside the enterprise, or is even created by website visitors. While print has, until now, played a large role in this, this kind of content is increasingly digital and includes video, audio, rich Internet applications, blogs and wikis.

3. Transactional Content

This is the content that drives back-office processes and generally comes from outside the enterprise. It relies on workflow business process management software to drive it along, and comes in many formats including e-forms, faxes and electronic records.

4. Foundation Content

Foundation content technologies support all three types of content. These are technologies that provide functionality such as check-in/check-out technologies, permissions, archiving and workflows, as well as support for records and retention management. Most ECM products contain some level of foundational functionality, while other applications that are not content-based are starting to feature some of the foundational functionality, or integrate with ECMs that do.

Although there are some vendors that deliver functionality across the four segments, none of them can provide best-in-class for all four, Forrester contends.

So what to do? The principal thing that enterprises need to do is identify their content needs. It is unlikely that a single enterprise CMS is going to fit, so enterprises should avoid any impulse buying. Instead enterprises should:

  • Identify precisely what content you are using, and be open to multi-vendor solutions if you find that the content you use falls into more than one of the categories.
  • Different kinds of content may fall into more than one of the content types as outlined, so it may be that the content will have to be supported by multiple ECM products. As a result, it is important to identify the business context of the content to identify the business needs.
  • Step outside the box beyond the traditional ECM components like document management, records management or web content management. Other technologies, such as collaboration or social applications, may optimize ECM investments and enable more effective use of content.

While this probably won’t solve your content problems overnight, it will help enterprises identify exactly what their problems are. If you’re interested in more, the paper is available from Forrester