Enterprise content management vs document management

The tech industry is overflowing with acronyms like NAS, BaaS, IaaS, SaaS, IPS, DMS, and ECM. Trying to make sense of it all can be difficult. But investing in technology isn’t cheap, which is why it’s essential for you to have a good understanding of exactly what type of tech solution you need — and which acronym-laden service or product is a good match. 

Today, many companies are looking for solutions to help manage their ever-increasing cache of digital information. The two key products in this space are document management (DM) systems and enterprise content management systems (ECM). 

What are the distinctions between enterprise content management vs document management? Both focus on optimizing the way you organize, store, and distribute digital content, but there are some differences to be aware of before you invest in a solution.

Enterprise content management vs document management

If you’re struggling to manage your company’s digital information, you likely need help in one of the following areas. 

Document management 

Document management refers to the organization, storage, and tracking of business records. Usually the records are “structured” document types, such as Word or Excel documents or PDFs. You can think of a document management system as a kind of digital filing cabinet — one that provides structure for organizing and accessing electronic documents.

Document management promotes efficiency by giving team members access to the right information at the right time. It also supports a standardized workflow that teams can easily follow to maintain transparency across the entire organization. 

For example, document management enables managers to access real-time data for key initiatives, review it, and provide instant feedback to team members. This technology is exceptionally useful in streamlining and expediting projects for remote and dispersed teams. 

Enterprise content management 

Enterprise content management is broader than document management, as it refers to an organization’s overall approach — including the tools, strategies, and processes — to managing digital content. 

In this case, “digital content” includes both structured and unstructured business assets — everything from Word documents and PDFs to video presentations, images, and podcasts. 

Enterprise content management systems combine capturing and searching for content with digital archiving, serving as a kind of knowledge base for company content. 

Pro Tip

Find out more about them in our guide, ECM tools.

Choosing between an ECM and a DM system 

Both document management and enterprise content management systems provide support for managing digital assets. They are also both designed to minimize operational costs and encourage streamlined internal processes. 

But which one is most appropriate for your needs? To make that decision, consider the similarities and differences between the two types of systems. 

Both ECM and DM 

  • Employ SaaS (on-demand software) technology
  • Help arrange disorganized data
  • Support version control and manage review trails
  • Prevent unauthorized access to documents and other content
  • Provide a data recovery feature
  • Provide untethered access to valuable information
  • Improve the efficiency of paper-intensive business processes

Here’s what makes enterprise content management and document management different:

  • Document management is intended to manage documents only, while ECM encompasses all file types.
  • Document management systems are primarily for streamlining document workflows and simplifying regulatory compliance. ECM systems store and process business assets throughout their complete life cycle, from creation to destruction.  
  • Document management systems may be sufficient for small businesses, while enterprise content management systems are more appropriate for larger organizations that have a growing number of assets.
  • Enterprise content management systems are typically more costly than document management systems, and they require more extensive employee training for optimal use. 
  • An enterprise content management system is more complex than a document management system because implementing an ECM system effectively requires a deep understanding of how all departments create and use digital assets. 

No matter which system you choose, you’ll be taking a step in the right direction when you make the effort to better manage your organization’s digital assets. As your business grows, so will your data and document stores; being prepared to handle it all will pay off in the long run — and set the stage for more rapid growth.

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