Enterprise Content Management: Corralling Content

Valuable information often roams wild in a midmarket company. Enterprise content management software can tame the data beast.

As a midmarket real estate company that owns and manages more than 500 shopping centers throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and Brazil, Developers Diversified Realty Corp. relies on a lot of documents to conduct its business. "A huge majority of our information comes from documents," says Lorraine McGlone, vice president of IT at the Beachwood, Ohio-based company. "Leases with tenants, agreements with lenders, closing information -- all of those are in documents."

To get a handle on the volume of material, McGlone didn't implement a standalone document management application aimed primarily at centralizing documents along functional lines. Instead, she turned to an enterprise content management (ECM) system from Open Text Corp., a platform for interdepartmental workflow, data reuse as well as document centralization and document management.

McGlone opted for ECM because she views the challenge of managing content as one that is best tackled at an infrastructural level rather than with an application approach. In essence the ECM system will provide the backbone on which Developers Diversified can build future business applications rather than simply a point solution for document management. "ECM is a strategic initiative for us," McGlone says. "The power for us will be reusing the content throughout the company."

The sheer amount of content streaming through midmarket firms is creating a need for managing it, and ECM is viewed as one way to do that. It's not only a question of facilitating content reuse and sharing among departments; effective content management has implications for compliance, legal discovery and cost savings. Those are big reasons why CM has morphed into ECM.

For many midmarket companies, ECM is especially important. "Typically in a midsized company, there's no control over content and documents," says Alan Pelz-Sharpe, a principal analyst with CMS Watch, an IT advisory firm based in Boston. "There's all this content just hanging around on shared drives all over the network." Maintaining such a storehouse of content is both expensive and inefficient; Pelz-Sharpe says it's not unusual for 90% of the unstructured content found on a network to be redundant or irrelevant. There's no way to weed out the junk without investing in some aspect of ECM.

This was first published in April 2007

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