A paperless office was a dream of many an organization in the 1980s and ’90s. The simple word processor was followed by spreadsheets and other office automation software. It was soon realized that documents so created needed to be managed. So the ‘Document Management System’ (DMS) came into being and later as the World Wide Web came along, it dawned on people that the artifacts placed on the Web also needed to be managed; so the ‘Content Management System’ (CMS) followed. Now let us look at these terms and understand them.
A document management system (DMS) is a computer system (or set of computer programs) used to track and store electronic documents, and / or images of paper documents. It is usually also capable of keeping track of the different versions created by different users (history tracking). Now, the term has some overlap with the concepts of content management systems. DMS is often viewed as a component of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) systems and related to digital asset management, document imaging, workflow systems and records management systems.
In early 2001 when I put in DMS in our organization, it took us some effort to change the organization’s work culture; I had to persuade people to try out the electronic form of managing documents. When it succeeded, I was very happy and satisfied but soon realized that I had to expand my horizon of thought to consider other demands that had suddenly sprung up. Our marketing department wanted all their publicity material, advertisements in print, radio and TV, artwork and other creative material to be stored, catalogued and made shareable. That was a tall order and I had to struggle to find a solution. Later, as our website got loaded with content and our intranet started exploding with matter, it became apparent that these too needed our attention. I then got exposed to the developing area of content management.
An enterprise content management system (ECM) involves management of content, documents, details and records related to the organizational processes of an enterprise. The purpose and result is to manage the organization’s unstructured information (content), with all its diversity of format and location. The main objectives of enterprise content management are to streamline access, eliminate bottlenecks, optimize security and maintain integrity.
A CMS/ ECM provides a collection of procedures for managing work flow in a collaborative environment. The procedures are designed to do the following:
- Allow for a large number of people to contribute to and share stored data.
- Control access to the data, based on user roles (defining which information users or user groups can view, edit, publish, etc.)
- Aid in easy storage and retrieval of data.
- Reduce repetitive duplicate input.
- Improve the ease of report writing.
- Improve communication between users.
In my last organization, I had put in ECM/ CMS and included all forms of records, including normal office documents. We provided access to all content through the enterprise portal, and ensured security by centrally defining access rights accorded by the respective managers through a work flow process. Placing all important office records centrally had quite a few advantages; data could be shared in the group, security features could be enabled and data management in terms of safety, back-up etc. became much easier. People could access records at any time and from any location since it was not confined to a desktop or laptop.
It is however important that the purpose of putting in content management system in any organization should be clear and subsequent steps should proceed in the stated direction. Success of the system can be gauged by fulfillment of the objectives, such as information sharing, safety/ security of data, user convenience, etc.