Fileshare with Search? No way, ECM delivers

10 09 2010

I have written a number of posts on ECM savings, why organisations should utilise ECM, how ECM and BPM together deliver a more streamlined working environment etc. however, in this post I am going to compare ECM strategy to simple file shares and search engines.

Why you may ask, well it’s because many business managers and even some in IT, believe that they can maintain content by simply using server file shares and some form of search engine.

Now let’s keep this question in mind and think of your organisation. Often with ECM and BPM technologies we become too abstract, too conceptual and because of this, business may miss our point or simply fall asleep (can’t blame them for that one). So try to think of your organisation and the way in which you work, the content you have and the people that need access to it.

ECM in your organisation

Think what sort of content you have and the volume you have in your organisation. Are we talking electronic documents such as those from Word? Are we talking scanned files? Presentations? Marketing material? Video? Audio? My list could go on…Let’s now think of a way to find those files? A simply file share will be impossible, and to look through a massive list of files brought back based on simple metadata or via some files content just won’t do the job. It’s alright for a couple of hundred files, but an organisation will have thousands, millions and for larger SME’s millions upon millions of files. File shares and searches in this fashion just won’t deliver the results, nor will it scale with your business. Also there is the cost, would the cost of such a search engine and file share deliver any real big differences? NO…

ECM will help you structure and assign metadata to files, it provides you with numerous ways of finding that content, numerous views, and numerous security models and can support any form of digital format. It can also take care of simple workflows such as publication while managing strict and useful version control. In addition, ECM will scale to meet your business needs and ensure your workers can access the content that your organisation holds, allowing your workers to work more efficiently and with all the information to hand, just when they need it….

How does ECM fit in…

ECM is not just a piece of software; it is a complete strategy (as well as technology) for managing the creation, storage, use and disposal of information / content. No doubt your organisation will have many different forms of information created in various different ways for different audiences. Because of this they will have different attributes, different security needs and different lifecycles. Also keep in mind that many different content types may cross different boundaries, for example marketing documentation may be used for print, it maybe a business document and or may also form web content.

ECM will ensure you take a holistic view of managing both structured and unstructured content. Because you need to have structures, policies and procedures to deal with your content, ECM ensures you meet a number of compliance regulations no matter what industry you are in. It maybe a little more “overhead” but the rewards far outweighs the effort.

If we believe that staff members need the right information at the right time, then the most important factor to facilitating that is information and knowledge management. The way we deliver this is through ECM.

What else can ECM deliver?

So what else can ECM deliver that file shares and Google like searches cannot? Well we have touched on a few, namely security, lifecycles etc.  But also keep these in mind:

  • Records Management – managing structured information from other systems
  • True version control – being able to quickly view previous versions of files and potentially role back to older versions
  • Audit – Being able to see everything that has happened to that content
  • Web content management – maintaining your online presence
  • Social Media outlets – bringing together your use of Social Media and the information it may hold
  • Complex metadata rules – Allowing you to assign complex metadata to any form of content
  • Content that triggers processes (active content) – Content can trigger business processes, or become a part of simple or highly complex business processes. ECM and BPM seamlessly integrate
  • Distributed access – being able to access that content anywhere in the world via simple interfaces that still maintain the highest level of security


Quick conclusion

ECM out performs file shares and Google type searches in every which way you can think of. Sure you may need to think about creation of content and metadata more, but the rewards of doing this are there right across the business. The default strategy within a business should not be “let’s share files on the server”, rather it should be “let’s get our ECM approach together”.



3 responses

10 09 2010
Sandy Kemsley

Andrew, I definitely agree that ECM outperforms network shares and enterprise search in most cases. However, most companies aren’t starting from a green field: they already have millions of documents on their network shares already, and the idea of moving that into ECM is more than a little daunting. A combination of ECM and network shares, possibly with enterprise search as an umbrella access method over both, is more realistic for most large enterprises.

10 09 2010
Andrew Smith @onedegree

I do see your point, but I really don’t agree with that. In reality, moving files from a file share to an ECM platform is quite painless and need not be daunting at all.

I have been involved with a number of very large scale implementations that have imported millions of files from file share into their ECM platform of choice, quite painlessly. In addition, back capturing files from other electronic stores and capturing files that were still in paper format, again quite painlessly. Agreed it may seem daunting when first discussed, but the actual process of this and what is needed is rather small and simple. The overhead of the umbrella access (in terms of cost, admin, maintenance etc) is far greater than spending a little time and utilising good import processes into your ECM platform. Most ECM platforms support large scale imports quite well, though more often than not you will need to ensure your VAR can deliver. In addition, once you get all those files into your ECM platform, the benefits are there and those benefits again outweigh a “mixed” approach…

17 09 2010
Lindsey Niedzielski

Great post Andrew. Thank you for pointing out how critical it is for IM professionals too keep on point with their communications. We definitely don’t want people to fall asleep. We have a community for IM professionals ( and have bookmarked this post for our users. Look forward to reading your work in the future.

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