ECM vs. EIM

  • Written By: Yu Chen
  • Published On: May 1 2009



The IT industry is constructed of three-letter acronyms (TLAs). However, the total number of possible three-letter abbreviations using the 26 letters of the alphabet is only 17,576. This explains the stars-wearing-the-same-dress types of incidents in the IT world. When Sherry Fox discussed ECM and EIM, the acronyms represented enterprise compensation management and enterprise incentive management respectively. In this blog, the two “dresses” are worn by two different stars—enterprise content management and enterprise information management.

In Sherry’s blog post, the two TLAs are logically parallel. The concepts of enterprise compensation management and enterprise incentive management are both from the area of human resources (HR), with perspectives that overlap as well. In this blog, ECM and EIM, however, are on two different levels. To be more specific, the concept is that ECM is an important building block of the broader EIM perspective.

So, What Is Enterprise Content Management?

The Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) 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…

According to this definition, content and documents are the objects being managed. This factor differentiates ECM systems from most of the other management systems. Not quite clear what I’m talking about? Taking a look at the two categories of data in the enterprise environment will help.

Not very precisely (but practically), data is divided into structured data and unstructured data (for more information, see Wikipedia's entries on structured data and unstructured data). Different types of management systems have different coverage of the two categories.

For example, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems generally focus on structured transactional data. On the other hand, ECM systems have more focus on managing unstructured data (e.g., natural language text, images, videos, documents). In addition, there are also systems covering both—for example, product lifecycle management (PLM) systems. You can find out more about ECM by visiting TEC’s Content Management System (CMS) Evaluation Center.

And, What Is Enterprise Information Management?

Compared with ECM, EIM is more difficult to define, due to a lack of consensus in the industry. Wikipedia defines EIM as “a field of interest… in finding solutions for optimal use of information within organizations.” So, understanding “information within organizations” is a prerequisite for understanding EIM.

In today’s enterprise environment, information is hidden behind both structured and unstructured data. Let’s take a look at a simplified example. In order to make a decision on an advertising budget for the next season, a marketing manager will probably need the following information:

  • a sales analysis based on sales history data (structured data)

  • a production plan based on manufacturing planning data (structured data)

  • demographic information in the database or in a document (structured or unstructured data)

  • a report from a marketing consulting firm in PDF format (unstructured data)

  • sales and marketing meeting notes in Microsoft Word format (unstructured data)

  • and so on…


This list could go on and on, but the main idea here is to show that decision makers (as well as people in daily operations) need information from different sources.

On the structured data side, thanks to business intelligence (BI), today’s business users have a powerful and efficient way (relatively speaking) to navigate through the vast data generated by the many management systems in use and receive good quality information.

For unstructured data, ECM is the usual tool of choice.

Simply speaking, EIM is another layer on top of BI and ECM, or an integrated combination of BI and ECM that facilitates the generation and use of valuable information from various data sources.

Besides ECM and BI, other technologies (such as master data management [MDM], metadata management, and enterprise portals), IT infrastructure strategies, and IT governance are also parts of the EIM equation.

Is EIM Just Another Marketing Buzzword?

Anyone who answers "yes" has probably had the experience of seeing a vendor use EIM as a marketing tool to repackage ECM or BI offerings. This reminds me of a similar situation where a product data management (PDM) vendor switched its label to PLM overnight without changing the actual offering.

Although there are different opinions about what EIM should be, it is certain that ECM (or BI) alone are not sufficient to meet true EIM requirements. Similarly, simply packaging the two together will not make a good EIM solution. Here's my take on EIM:

  • EIM is a requirement due to the way the enterprise information environment is constructed—different technologies in use, multiple systems covering fragmented business processes, communication barriers creating information silos, and so on.



  • EIM is a strategy that affirms that data connectivity and transparency will enable users to obtain more valuable information in order to improve business insight.



  • EIM is a process that combs through massive data sources and ties together all the relevancies where and when they are needed.


For further reading, I recommend Enterprise Information Management: Information Virtualization for a Unified Business View. Created by EMC, this is one of the best EIM documents I have found on the Internet.

Now for a little fun. In the IT world, are there any interpretations of ECM or EIM other than the ones Sherry and I have discussed? Please let us know in the comment section of this blog…
 
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