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Porter-Roth Associates
Document Management Consulting

Enterprise Content Management (ECM) Technologies and Resources

Below is a very brief overview of the "parts" and "types" of systems used for document management. These definitions are enough to clarify the difference between document imaging and document management - if you are new to these technologies. I've also included a hyperlink to a tremendous resource - the AIIM organization. AIIM is, in their own words, "AIIM is the community that provides education, research, and best practices to help organizations find, control, and optimize their information." Their website is AIIM.org

Keep in mind that you may purchase and implement a document imaging only solution or an electronic document management system without document imaging or both in one system. Generally speaking, you must have a document system to use records management or workflow.

Enterprise File Sync & Share (EFSS)

Cloud computing is the ability to deliver computing resources as a service and these resources are made available over the Internet. A basic and well known example is Google’s Gmail, in which Google owns all of the resources (hardware and software and storage) needed to deliver email to a user and the user does not own any software or hardware and either pays a fee for the service or may get it free. Cloud computing today encompasses all types of applications from simple online data storage to running highly specialized data processing applications.

We can help you understand cloud technologies and vendors. Our cloud consulting services help you to define the project and select the appropriate vendor.

Enterprise File Sync & Share (EFSS) (also known as Cloud Content Management (CCM)) is a subset of cloud computing and only exists within a cloud computing framework. More specifically, EFSS will primarily focus on the following services:

  • Electronic Document Management and Collaboration

  • Document Storage

  • Social Networking (as it relates to document management activities)

Think of EFSS as a subset of the greater cloud computing technology applications and a subset of the enterprise content management (ECM) technology group. See our AIIM Toolkit on cloud content content management systems http://bit.ly/Sen5e5 You must be an AIIM member to download the free version. We provide cloud consulting and will help you organize your options for implementing a cloud content management system.

Electronic Signature (eSign)

eSign technologies allow you to sign documents electronically without the need for surface mail, wet ink signatures, and delays in the signing process. eSignatures are legal throughout the US and Canada and in many international countries.

Electronic Document Management  Systems (EDMS)

EDMS is an umbrella term used to define a complete document management system that may include technologies such as document imaging, electronic document management, workflow, and records management. Although a system composed of just electronic document management and workflow may also be called an EDMS.

The technologies below represent the core technologies for an EDMS. An EDMS is typically a system that is used to "manage documentation," whether the documentation originates in electronic form (such as a Microsoft Word document) or originates as a paper document that has been scanned to produce a document image. "Manage documentation" typically refers to the ability of the system to assign index data to the document so that it can be searched for and to track that document through its lifecycle, among other things such as workflow and records management. As a document management consultant, I can provide a variety of services ranging from strategy sessions to feasibility studies.

See also the AIIM entry, What is Document Management (DMS)

Document Capture or Imaging or Scanning

Document capture refers to the scanning of paper documents to produce a digital image of that document - this is also called "imaging". Once digitized, the digital document can be stored in a database, index information assigned to it for search and retrieval, workflow assigned to it so that it "moves" for example from an AP clerk to an AP supervisor for approval, records management information assigned so that it can be deleted (destroyed) when work has been completed, etc. As a document imaging consultant, I can provide a variety of services ranging from strategy sessions to feasibility studies.

See also the AIIM entry, What is Document Imaging?

Backfile Conversion to Image (BCI)

Document or backfile conversion is the term to denote your "paper backfile, or your paper archives" which is all of, or a portion of, the paper documents that you keep in your warehouse, records center, department paper storage areas, or other caches of documents located throughout your company. When starting a document imaging project, one of the first and most important decisions to be made is whether to scan all of your documents into the system or only a portion of your document into the system, or to start by scanning only the most current documents (called "day forward").  Backfile conversion can be a very large and expensive project. The second decision to be made, if you decide to do a backfile conversion, is whether to do the work in-house or to outsource it to a third-party company called a service bureau.

See my Document Conversion Project Guidelines at Amazon

Enterprise Content Management (ECM) System AKA DMS (document management system)

ECM is somewhat of an archaic term because the industry has undergone many changes over the years. Originally the "content" part of ECM was meant to be inclusive of all the content in a company - not just business documents but also content on a company website and content in databases. This has since changed and the current meaning of the term is more or less limited to corporate business documents, not web content. This means that ECM is now generally used to denote electronic documents created by Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) and other document types such as Adobe PDF or photographs in JPEG format, or any other digital document type that is used for business purposes. Hence the more common term is now document management system (DMS) (which was actually the original term before ECMS was coined).

Web content, i.e., the content that is in a business website, is now managed by a web content management system (WCMS) and this content may be part of another technology system or a separate "instance" of a document management system specifically used for website building and content management.

See also the AIIM entry, What is Document Management (DMS)?

Electronic Records Management Systems (ERMS)

ERMS is a term used to denote an ancillary system to a document imaging or document management system that is specifically used to electronically control documents from a records management point of view. Records management is the ability to control a document electronically using your records management retention schedule and records management policies and procedures. The retention schedule tells you who long to keep a document (1 year, 3 years, permanent, etc.) and tracks when the document is destroyed and with what approvals. Policies and procedures, for example, may tell you what to do with a document if it is subject to litigation and needs to be placed on legal hold. Policies and procedures can be implemented electronically as part of the ERMS.

See also the AIIM entry, What is Electronic Records Management (ERM)?

Workflow System (WS) AKA Business Process Management (BPM)

Workflow is a technology, like ERM, that is ancillary to a document imaging or document management system and you may or may not include it when you purchase a system. Workflow is the ability to electronically move a digital document through a series of processing steps to complete the process. For example, an invoice is scanned and via workflow it is sent to an AP clerk. The AP clerk checks the document into to the AP system and takes action against it. One action may be to workflow (forward) it to a supervisor for approval because it is over $5000. Once the supervisor approves the document it is workflowed back to the AP clerk who then approves it for payment and it is workflowed to another clerk who writes the check.

Workflow, like the other technologies discussed above can be simple to very complex and there are a variety of vendors that include workflow with their system or you can purchase workflow separately. Workflow, while still commonly used, has also become know as business process management (BPM), and BPM tends to be used when talking about a highly complex enterprise-wide systems.

See also the AIIM entry, What is Business Process Management (BPM)?

If you have gotten this far and are still reading, you must be interested in document management and why you should consider a document management system. These systems, when implemented correctly can provide the following benefits:


  1. They can reduce operational costs and sometimes significantly reduce recurring costs such as off-site storage of documents

  2. Cost avoidance - you may not have to purchase a new file room, or you may avoid hiring new personnel because the existing personnel are more efficient

  3. Because more information (current and past) is available, it is generally acknowledged that you can better your decision-making process and make better decisions based on more available information

  4. Document management supports current regulatory compliance such as SOX and HIPAA

  5. Document management can reduce your litigation risk - documents are destroyed on time, and document that are part of a litigation are more easily collected and kept for the legal process

  6. Business continuity plan (BCP) and disaster recover (DR) are more easily implemented and executed when documents are digital and under system controls - making mission-critical documents available sooner may cut any losses significantly

  7. Provides a number of non-tangible benefits (not directly attributable to a cost reduction) such as better customer service, increased corporate image, and general worker productivity

  8. Protect intellectual assets - document security is better under a document management system and documents are less likely to be lost or compromised by outsiders


  1. Actually recover existing office space and repurpose into needed workroom or cubicle space

There are many other potential benefits to having a document management system that depend on you particular application.


Independent | Unbiased | Objective

Document Imaging | Electronic Document Management | Records Management | SharePoint

Consulting in Electronic Document & Records Management Technologies

PRA is not affiliated with any vendors, is not a reseller of any products, and provides objective document management consulting services.