The Difference Between ECM and WCM

Mar 09, 2013


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All content management is not created equal. There are any number of sub-genres of content management, but two of the biggest are Web Content Management (WCM) and Enterprise Content Management (ECM). At times, these two may overlap but they are not the same, and each discipline has its own set of tools, concerns, and best practices.

What is Web Content Management?

Web Content Management is the type of content management that is, probably, most familiar to the average person. Anyone with a blog or website is using some type of WCM system. But it isn't always as simple as choosing a content management system (CMS). (The difference between WCM and CMS is a whole other issue.) As Eileen Mullan wrote:

"Web Content Management is the process of authoring content, be it textual, visual or aural, and posting that content to a website, often through a Web Content Management System. There are a number of key components that need to be considered when tackling content management online, such as how a website is laid out and how to organize content into various categories for easy navigation, just to name a few."

But as devices proliferate, and users increasingly demand content when and how they want it, WCM becomes more complicated. (For a more in-depth look at the intricacies of WCM.) Content prodcers need to have a content management strategy in place in order to efficiently produce and distribute your content to the ever increasing number of platforms and devices, or risk alienating readers.

The good news is there are a number of WCM systems out there to help you manage the demand. As Real Story Group's Jarrod Gingras wrote for EContent:

"In your search for a CMS package, you will find an increasingly confusing array of technology players. Despite persistent predictions of industry ‘consolidation,' the web CMS marketplace remains extraordinarily fragmented, characterized by a wide swath of mid-sized vendors and a sturdy set of open source projects."

Increasingly, WCM systems are not just allowing you to store and schedule your content, but are incorporating more capabilities giving way to a new age where web content management and user experience go hand-in-hand.

What is Enterprise Content Management?

Even the experts have a hard time defining ECM. Unlike WCM, ECM is not a new discipline. For as long as there have been large companies, there has been ECM. It just got infinitely more complicated (or easier, depending on your outlook) with the rise of digital information. And with that change, came tools to help facilitate the management of enterprise content.

According to Prescient Digital Media ECM is, "the technologies 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."

The issues of content lifecycle and governance are among the biggest concerns for knowledge management professionals. Enterprises produce an enormous amount of content, not all of it can be saved - and not all of that which is saved can be kept forever. As with WCM, having a strategy is important, because, as Wikipedia points out, there's so much to consider:

"As ECM solutions have evolved, new components have emerged. For example, as content is checked in and out, each use generates new metadata about the content, to some extent automatically; information about how and when the content was used can allow the system to gradually acquire new filtering, routing and search pathways, corporate taxonomies, and semantic networks, and retention-rule decisions. Email and instant messaging are increasingly employed in decision-making processes; ECM can provide access to data about these communications, which can be used in business decisions."

One of the biggest drivers behind the ever-increasing amount of digital content to be managed, is web content itself and many companies must decide whether they want a pure-play WCM system or an ECM system with WCM features. Most enterprises now have web presences that include company blogs, social media profiles, and more. Those are all types of enterprise content that need to be dealt with.