Content and Assets and Documents – Oh My!

Once upon a time, workers kept documents in folders in file cabinets with drawers that open and close.  It was not unusual to have these file cabinets managed by an administrative assistant who assigned categories, typed labels, pulled content as needed, and refiled content once the user finished.  Workers may have kept a few key files or personal files in their own desks or workspace.

Filing Cabinets in 2014

Workers today still use physical files, but they also store content digitally on enterprise servers, individual desktop computers, mobile devices (tablets, smartphones, thumb drives, laptops), and in “the cloud”.  These options add tremendous value in terms of convenience and access, but they also complicate knowledge management.

How are workers adapting to this new reality?  While individuals develop local solutions, the marketplace has responded with new categories of tools and software solutions.  Category names continue to evolve, thus creating a landscape that can be ambiguous and confusing.

In order to bring clarity to a recent conversation on information management solutions for a particular situation, the parties agreed on the following descriptions of enterprise content management, digital asset management, document management, and reference management.

Comments welcome.  Do you agree or disagree with these characterizations?

A Sampling of Knowledge Management Tools and Software 

Enterprise Content Management

Enterprise content management (ECM) solutions reflect the need to wrangle the content that an organization creates or obtains from outside.  ECM solutions are the industrial strength tools that address organizational processes.  They enable an organization to help make information findable and deliverable.

For example, banks use ECM solutions to scan and store canceled checks making them searchable and viewable.  In manufacturing a company has used ECM tools to improve access to product specifications and design documents to reduce time to market on new products.

ECM is the big gun in knowledge management software.  It usually encompasses many other tools including capture, scanning, search, digital asset management, and document management.

OracleIBM, and SAP have developed ECM products.

Digital Asset Management

Digital Asset Management (DAM) focuses on making stored files findable. Digital assets include but are not limited to documents, videos, photos, music, and databases. DAM systems make these files findable by applying standard library and information practices to electronically stored content.  Tactics include cataloging (applying taxonomies and metatags), annotating, systematically organizing files for storage, implementing processes for content acquisition and disposal, and standardizing methods for content retrieval and distribution.

Marketing departments use DAM systems to manage product literature and all its versions, logos, templates, and branding materials.  Photo and video libraries use DAM for archiving content.

WebDAM and Widen are examples of DAM software.

Document Management

Document management (DM) systems differ from digital asset management in their emphasis on version control.  DM systems track objects through the lifecycle, enabling collaboration, compilation, and tracking of changes.

Organizations creating new content that requires input from a variety of stakeholders often use DM systems.

Pharmaceutical companies preparing complicated submissions to regulatory agencies often use DM tools.

Documentum and Alfresco are examples of DM systems.

Reference Management

Reference management tools (also called citation mangers or bibliographic managers) address a specific knowledge management need.  These products offer the means to track references that describe published and unpublished literature so that these references can be searched, cited in papers, shared with collaborators inside and outside the organization, linked to full text, and annotated.

Scholars, authors, researchers, and the organizations they inhabit, generally need access to some kind of reference manager.

EndNote and Quosa are examples of reference management software.

Resource List

AIIM Glossaryaiim-logo

In explaining and understanding the landscape of knowledge management tools, writers often cite definitions derived from the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) Glossary. You will often see AIIM Glossary definitions in Wikipedia articles and product reviews.

Capterra Software DirectoryCapterra logo

“Find the Best Software for Your Business”.  Capterra offers a searchable database of over 2,000 software products organized in 300+ categories including knowledge management and document management.  Product listings often include reviews.