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Editor's Note: Part I of this series offers an introduction to enterprise content management (ECM) and cloud computing. In Part II, leading industry analysts discuss the promises and pitfalls of cloud ECM.

As cloud computing sweeps through enterprises, it brings with it expectations that complex, expensive systems and software will suddenly be available on the flip of a switch.

Nowhere is this hope more pronounced than with enterprise content management (ECM) systems, which have long promised to bring enterprises' far-flung compilations of documents and unstructured data under control, making them more accessible to decision-makers.

However, to date, prospects for progression of ECM into the cloud have been a mixed bag. That's because ECM courses down many avenues, requiring different types of strategies that call for different types of cloud-computing engagements.

ECM's enterprise-wide evolution

ECM is based on several different technologies, serving numerous needs and constituencies within enterprises. First, overall, ECM provides an integrated and unified service layer for search, e-discovery, and records management. Beyond this core mission, however, ECM means different things to different industries, and even to different departments within the same organization:

  • Publishers and media companies look to ECM solutions to archive and index media files, such as video and audio, to outside customers.
  • Financial services companies focus on generating and storing contracts and financial statements for later analysis.
  • Insurance companies look to ECM solutions to reduce paperwork and manage workflow.
  • Human-resources departments in many companies use ECM for functions such as resume management and benefits tracking.

ECM has seen plenty of ups and downs over the past two decades as new generations of solutions have evolved, from centralized repositories to distributed systems to Web-based systems. Among the challenges faced by ECM implementers seeking to digitize their content and workflow processes has been the complexity of software and enterprise systems requiring application development, integration with existing enterprise systems and system maintenance and upgrades.


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