TIMAF best practices – a collection of how to’s

The Information Management Foundation collected 19 best practices in their first book from various areas within the information management domain. The book’s editors are Bob Boiko, one of the leading authorities on Content Managemnt, and Erik Hartman who among others organises the Hartman Event in The Netherlands. The cases are written by various authors that have many years of experience in their respective area. This is one of the first books that I have encountered that presents independent cases of real life situations. The are also a few more generic topics described for example the lessons learned from the Dublin Core Meta Data Initiative about setting and maintaining standards or how to develop your governance.

The independent cases is the strength and the weaknesses of this book. You gain insights into their specific challenges and how they went about this. At the same time this also limits the reach of the book because the cases do not cover the full breath of the information management domain. The focus is mostly on the content management side of the domain with a bias towards web content management and related topics for example meta data and search that are also more broadly applicable.

I hope that they will follow through with publishing more books, or perhaps a website that continuously collects best practices, where other topics such as records management, document management, email management, business intelligence, master data management, etc get more attention as well.

The book is great if you are looking for a proven approach how to go about projects in a specific area. If you are looking for actual solutions or architectures as a reference or as inspiration for your situation, I do not mean specific technology as such, then this book will provide you with little answers.

Do these limitations make this a bad book? Not at all! I will just have to keep looking to gain more insights into what organisations have actually implemented succesfully and why they decided to do things their way.

Can someone know everything about Enterprise Content Management?

Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is a term that has been around for quite some time now. I myself have been working with ECM components from the start of my career although I would not have been able to classify this as ECM at the time…

There are various definitions about ECM but most seem to agree that ECM includes subdomains such as:

  • Document Management
  • Records Management
  • Workflow Management
  • Web Content Management
  • Digital Asset Management
  • (Enterprise) Search

There are various other domains such as Collaboration, E-mail Management or Business Process Management that could be added depending who you would ask.

Each of these can be used in numerous ways separately or combined to fulfil the needs of users, departments and businesses. For example an external facing corporate website could be managed with a WCM system, have a search engine attached and the images and videos presented could come from a DAM system. Typically the publishing process would be tightly controlled by the Public Relations department or a Communications department.

Another example could be the storing of matter file related documents by Legal Counsels using a Document Management system* to provide the need for secure storage, document collaboration, access control, and basic progress tracking.

The last example, to demonstrate the fast possibilities for ECM technologies, is the use of an Enterprise Search tool setup to provide a unified search function across different repositories to help users find information they need for their work such as templates, process descriptions, wiki pages containing relevant knowledge, etc.

In each of these examples and each implementation there are different business needs fulfilled, different users are involved, different business processes involved and different types of content is being stored and managed. These subdomains would not have been lumped together if there were no similarities.

For example all content is likely to have a defined life cycle, there workflows involved**, in order to manage the content there is a need for meta-data to be collected, etc. Due to these and other similarities it is possible for experienced persons to extrapolate their previous experiences to other subdomains and may still being able to be effective. Especially if they involve ECM technology and process specialists.

Document Management and Records Management have many similarities if they are related to Documents as content. However Records Managers are also very much interested in records that are not documents such as e-mail threads or Instant Messaging conversations. These are not just other types of content but also require different tools to capture.

“Can someone know everything about Enterprise Content Management?“

My answer is “No”,however in order for someone to be able to be effective in the application of ECM regardless of their roles:

  • A person needs at least a good understanding of the different subdomains
  • A person should be aware of his/her knowledge limitations and use ECM specialists for the subdomain you are dealing with (if you are not that person)
  • A person should be aware of persons that claim they know everything about ECM and are likely to have a preference or sweet spot regarding one or at best a few subdomains.

So where do I stand? I do not know everything about ECM either!!! I have touched almost every ECM subdomains in my consulting career to varying degrees. With respect to ECM I am the most experienced with Document Management because in all my projects this topic has been either the main focus or was a component to be used (even in my non-ECM projects). A good second is Web Content Management.

*) There are also specialised systems
**) automated or manual