GKC ARMA Panel Recap – Emerging ECM Trends

I attended the January ARMA meeting as a panelist to discuss the trends TSG sees emerging in the ECM space and how they relate to the records and information (RIM) practice. This post will recap and highlight the discussion. I’d like start the recap by saying thank you to the co-panelists at the Greater Kansas City ARMA chapter meeting yesterday, Karen Shaw from the National Archives and Records Administration and Denise Pickett an ARMA Board Director and from Black & Veatch. Both have a great depth of experience in managing records and I hope to continue our conversations.  We would also like to say thank you to the moderator David Steward from Husch Blackwell. He kept the discussion moving by starting off with a definition of ECM and its comparison to RIM, we then covered ECM and RM technologies, Information Governance, and leveraging records for business value.

Defining ECM

To start, Karen Shaw shared with the group AIIM’s ECM definition as well as a more colloquial definition.  AIIM formally defines ECM as the “…strategies, methods and tools used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to organizational processes. ECM tools and strategies allow the management of an organization’s unstructured information, wherever that information exists.”

A simpler definition we often use is that ECM is the management of all information that doesn’t fit nicely into a database; whereas a database is built to manage structured information, an ECM system is built to manage unstructured content.

 ECM and RIM Technologies – How do they intersect or diverge?

The panel agreed that ECM technologies generally break along industry lines. For example, Documentum for the life sciences sector, FileNet for insurance, and Hummingbird/OpenText for Legal. This is not always true, but each of these vendors have a large market share in these industries.

The intersection of managing records versus managing content made for an interesting discussion. For most purposes if content is important enough to store in an ECM system it is typically a record of some kind. Though that fact may not be recognized or officially acknowledged. In many ECM implementations the content is not actively managed as a record. The retention information is often kept in a separate system. This is an unnecessary separation of the records metadata.

Considering the content in the ECM holistically from its complete life cycle, records management information is simply another dimension of the content just as security is a dimension. There is no reason records management information should not be stored right along with the rest of the metadata for a content object.

For some additional detail a Forrester report from Q3 2013 describes how ECM technologies encompass Records Management functionality, the report can be viewed here. Our partner Alfresco, has a webinar with Cheryl McKinnon, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research that is a good follow up to the report.

Information Governance

When the topic of information governance came up, the entire panel was in agreement that both ECM and RIM projects need a defined information strategy and governance process to be successful. There must be a hierarchy or group of people authorized to make decisions about the information being captured and stored. While ARMA does have an Information Governance Professional certification, any group familiar with IT Steering Committees or Strategy groups should be able to take the Information Governance concept and apply it to managing business and organizational information assets.

Leveraging Records for Business Value

The panel concluded with some discussion about how FOIA has led to the development of cottage industries exploiting public records; for example, the lawyer who seeks traffic citations in order to promote his or her services to the citated drivers.

The promotion of big data in companies often leaves out the wealth of data stored in ECM and RIM systems. A simple application is to use records to improve customer service by gaining a more complete view of a customer’s history and interaction with departments in a company, for example sales and service records.

Companies need to look beyond simple self-service, such as viewing statements or paying invoices. The next level challenge is akin to the advancement of using data within ERP systems; begin mining the knowledge in ECM and RIM systems to create new service offerings.


The topics for the panel could have easily filled a day-long seminar and the attendees had several positive comments for the group as they left. It was exciting to see the energy in the room. The next ARMA meeting is focusing on big data and it should be very thought provoking.

Please let us know what you think about emerging ECM trends in the comments below. How do you think businesses can build on the information captured in ECM and RIM systems?

2 thoughts on “GKC ARMA Panel Recap – Emerging ECM Trends

  1. The discussion and questions were so flowing so well, we could have gone two hours and people would not have noticed the time. Great interaction!

    • Thank you Denise. Next time we get together I would be very interested in hearing more about your nuclear records specialist certification.

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