There are occasions in everyday life when what you call something makes no appreciable difference. We all know a potato when we see one, but ask for chips in England and you won't get the same thin and crispy potato product you'd get in America. And in business, things can get tricky surprisingly fast if the meaning of certain terms isn't clear to everyone.
In IT, disagreement in understanding up front can make a big difference in the end result. Take the term document management, for example: In a discussion involving data and metadata and depending upon a buyer's needs or a vendor's offerings, the terms content management, digital asset management, enterprise content management, and even enterprise resource management may be bandied about almost interchangeably. Without a careful discussion to define terms in the early stages, buyers may find surprising, even unappealing, products on their plates.
Dan Ryan, EVP of marketing and business development for Stellent, is familiar with the confusion that can arise when terms and expectations don't align. "When some people say content management, they're really thinking about document management, records management, and/or digital asset management. Three customers may use one product and call it three different things."
In a Name
Ryan and executives from other content management companies are accustomed to working with customers to arrive at a common understanding. Although the terms used in individual discussions may vary, in the end Ryan says his firm likes to use "content management" as the umbrella term for managing data and metadata. For Stellent, the concept of organization-wide (enterprise) is a given. All content comes in two varieties and that's the crucial point. "We think of two buckets: active content (things that change) and fixed content (images and email management)," says Ryan.
Agilent Technologies, an international company with interests in communications, life sciences, and chemical analysis, uses the Stellent Sarbanes-Oxley Solution, an extension of its existing Stellent CMS. Agilent chose Stellent's products because they help integrate its active and fixed content so it can comply more easily with documentation and disclosure regulations.
Lubor Ptacek, director of product marketing for Documentum, says his company prefers the term "enterprise content management," or ECM. Ptacek likes ECM because he feels it reflects a trend in how Documentum's customers want to manage and use data—as one large repository, no matter what form the data was in originally.
"Documentum is of the opinion that all different types of content should be managed through one system," he says. "It used to be that digital asset management was an acceptable way to manage data that stood by itself." Ptacek explains Documentum's approach by saying these days companies want to manage more than a few kinds of information. "Corporations need to manage rich media. For example, a company doing a product launch needs sales materials, training materials, which can involve still images, text, and even video," he says. "They may also need to give other companies access to the content. The solution is the enterprise content management concept, which has been around a while but is getting hot because it's entering the mainstream."
Ford Motor Company has benefited from Documentum's take on ECM. The world's second-largest automobile manufacturer used Documentum's and Plumtree's technology to create its corporate portal. The portal provides the company with a common infrastructure that complies with the company's legal and security requirements while allowing the enterprise-wide capture, search, retrieval, and exchange of information.
The portal contains a central content repository for unstructured documents, facilitates content searches on the site and the Web, as well as providing a way to manage content for customer and dealer Web sites.