Wednesday, September 12, 2007

ECM Illustrated - Data and Content Management will blend together

Enterprise users need accurate and complete information in a timely manner to do their jobs. The information they need is often located in different content sources and with different degree of structure. To satisfy the information needs of the employees, an enterprise does not only need to integrate content in different content sources to satisfy information needs, but also integrate structured content (data) with unstructured content.

The world of Data Management has until recently been separated from the world of Content Management, with suboptimization as a natural result. The separation of Data Management and Content Management has its roots in that structured content has traditionally been stored in databases and that unstructured content has been contained in documents and files stored in file systems.

Below is a simple way to illustrate the original positions of Data Management and Content Management and how they will eventually blend together.

From a user perspective, it does not make much sense to treat structured and unstructured content as two separate things. What matters to the user is that he/she can find and access all relevant content and that it gives just enough context to efficiently extract all the information that is needed from the content.

From a business perspective, it does not either make much sense to treat structured and unstructured content as two separate things, even though structured and unstructured content needs to be managed in more or less different ways. The primary concern of the business is to fulfill its goals and to do so it needs to enable the employees to carry out the activities needed to fulfill these goals. One important aspect of this is to supply the employees with just the resources they need, such as content resources from which they can extract the information they need. To treat Data Management and Content Management as two separate things would be as dividing a football (soccer) team into a defensive team and an attacking team and let them play independently of each other. It would be an interesting game to watch, but a sure loss for the team(s).


  1. Good post - and love the graphic (can I use it if I credit you ??)

    But I do think there is a proviso here - managing structured and unstructured data together is technically very very difficult. This is the main reason the two worlds are far apart...

    A unified strategy is (I believe) essential - but though some vendors such as Oracle and IBM are working on bringing the disparate worlds together it remains a major challenge.


    Alan Pelz-Sharpe
    Principal Analyst
    CMS Watch

  2. Thanks Alan

    Yes, you can use the graphic if you credit me.

    I agree with you that it is -technically - very difficult to manage unstructured and structured content together. However, I don't necessarily mean that we need to manage structured and unstructured content with the same software. The point I want to make is that we shouldn't let differences in how we manage content create barriers that keep us from doing what we are there to do - to make sure the right person gets the right information in the right time. Too often we let software create silos - the scope of a software is allowed to define our scope of work and how we organize ourselves.

    In a coming post I will reason about how Information Management comes into this picture. Information Management could be seen as an umbrella term for Data Management and Content Management. It puts focus on the use of content (structured and unstructured) while Data and Content Management puts focus on how to technically manage the content.

  3. This is a really good articulation of the problem. I've suggested some possible checklists here: