Trying to organize and implement Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solutions is a bit like wrestling a morphing blob of goo. Squeeze one part of the blob to get it under control and another section bulges out and falls on top of you.

For two years, a quartet of industry players has worked on ECM3 -- an ECM Maturity Model created to help organizations tame the mighty blob. Let's take a look at what they came up with.

Starching the ECM Blob

The players behind ECM3 are Wipro, CMS Watch, Smigiel Consulting Group and Hartman Communicatie. They are referred to as the Project Leaders of the Maturity Model's "Guiding Consortium."

The Guiding Consortium, along with input from gurus within the Enterprise Content Management community, have now released version 1.0 of their maturity model. This model is split into thirteen different Maturity Dimensions, which are in turn divided into three different groups: Human, Information and Systems.

The thirteen Maturity Dimensions break down as follows:

maturity dimensions.jpg

(Source: ECM3)

In addition, each dimension is assigned one of five Maturity Levels: Unmanaged, Incipient, Formative, Operational and Proactive.

Separately tracking each Maturity Dimension allows an enterprise to assess, plan, implement and test each of the thirteen dimensions at the pace each individual dimension requires. Each dimension progresses through the Maturity Levels independently from the others. For example, at the same point in time:

  • The Human dimension of IT expertise might be at Maturity Level Operational, meaning that managing repository and workflow systems for the organization's Enterprise Content Management endeavors has been solidly implemented.
  • The Information dimension of re-use is at Maturity Level Formative, meaning that the initial content analysis and designing a structure for the content to live within has begun.
  • The Systems dimension of security is at the highest Maturity Level Proactive, meaning that security is treated as a centralized, shared service.

Each Maturity level has a set of specific activities associated with it to help organizations move up to the next level.

From Model to Reality

Of course, the challenge with any model is this:

  • It has to be simple enough that people can use it without a dozen PhD's and a computing cluster the size of New Hampshire.
  • It has to be complex enough that it's capable of mapping to reality with some level of accuracy.

If you're at all involved in ECM development, planning, roll-out or dreaming -- it's worth going to the ECM3 site and downloading the model's description. Reading through the PDF document will make the interactions between each of the dimensions and levels much clearer, and might even spark some ideas that you think might improve the approach.

As the model itself matures, it may help to further refine the Enterprise Content Management tools that are out today, and inspire entirely new programs to help guide this process forward in the future, just like the Darwin Information Typing Architecture Maturity Model, the Records Management Maturity Model, and the Information Lifecycle Management Maturity Model have attempted to do for their sectors. Anyone who wants to join the ECM3 Guiding Consortium is invited to apply, and of course you don't have to officially join in order to share your input and help tame the ECM blob even further.

The next face-to-face ECM3 meeting is scheduled to take place at the AIIM Expo 2009 in Philadelphia in March 30 - April 2, 2009.

For more information: