Document, Content, Knowledge: Part 1, Document Management

Information is every organisation’s most valuable asset and managing this information is essential. The amount of data and information within an organisation is growing dramatically. Efficient management of information can result in better customer service, improved internal communication, better decision making and enhanced productivity.

Information management systems provide the foundations to turn corporate data into intelligent, shared information by providing a central information source accessible to all. These systems have changed over time and evolved to meet various business requirements, such as remote working.

Document Management Definition: “Document Management is the process of managing documents through their lifecycle. From inception through creation, review, storage and dissemination all the way to their destruction” (Document Management Avenue).

Document management systems started to appear in the mid 1980’s. The original aim was to develop a system to enable the paperless office. Scanning all paper documents and retrieving them electronically was about as complex as it got. These early file and find systems were simply electronic filing cabinets.

The document management market has been revolutionised over the past 10 years by technological advances. Now document management systems capture almost any type of document not just paper but electronic documents, HTML, e-mails, EDI, XML, etc. They still allow you to store, search and retrieve documents, but the retrieval is now instant from anywhere and the search options much wider.

Another major enhancement to document management was the introduction of workflow. Workflow is defined as “an IT technology which uses electronic systems to manage and monitor business processes. It allows the flow of work between individuals and/or departments to be defined and tracked” (Document Management Avenue). It has become an integral part of many document management solutions and meant that it was possible to progress from simple file and find systems to a solution that could ‘manage’ documents; tracking the process of distributing documents, and monitoring and controlling work. The Internet is transforming the way that workflow is used and has led to a new term: eProcess. Research group Ovum defines eProcess as “workflow for the e-business. e-Process extends the concept of process automation to include a company’s partners, suppliers and customers”. Instead of monitoring organisation-wide processes, eProcess is extended to include any external organisations. For document management this means it is possible to effectively integrate documents with their partners, suppliers and customers. This increases collaboration between organisations and improves the efficiency of the supply chain.

Version Control

The definition of document management includes the ability to manage a document through its life cycle from creation to archive. While a document is live it may need to be worked on and altered by any number of people. Version control ensures you do not have clashing versions of documents. Version control gives “control over exactly who can edit documents and enter new documents into the system and avoids any update conflicts” (Cimtech). This involves checking out any documents that are being edited and locking them, allowing users to either save as newer versions or over-write old versions.

“In the future, document management will become established as a vital business tool for all organisations looking to share information on an enterprise basis” (Document Management Update)

Summary of document management:

  • Manage all types of document
  • Workflow and eProcess
  • Version Control
  • An evolved technology that forms the basis for content and knowledge management
  • Fast becoming a must-have for competitive business

Content management and knowledge management systems are basically extensions of the document management concept and this is where a lot of the confusion arises.

Content Management

Definition: “a set of tasks and processes for managing content explicitly targeted for publication on the Web throughout its life from creation to archive” (Ovum).

Content management solutions are essentially an extension of document management that includes managing web content. Some vendors simply re-badged their products without actually adding any functionality, but the true vendors of content management have added valuable capabilities that continue the scope of document management, beyond the confines of one organisation.

An area of much discussion in the market currently is personalisation of content. The prolific use of the Internet and the growth of customer relationship management (CRM) have made it much easier for companies to offer a personal service to customers. Content management systems often incorporate personalisation capabilities although the degree of personalisation can vary greatly, from referring to every user by name to offering the same content to a specific group of users. The technology involved today makes it possible for organisations to replicate the dialogue that a local shop owner might have with its customers, even though they may have many millions. A content management system can also be used like a document management system for capture, distribution and retrieval of information. Enterprise Content Management is a new term that is applied to a system that includes both content and document management capabilities. Content management solutions collect data or information from all required sources, organise it for ease of retrieval and deliver it using a web-compliant system. This can either be over the Internet or Intranet.

A content management solution is commonly used to keep a website up-to-date; it is likely to include web-based publishing, format management, revision control, indexing, search, and retrieval. A content management solution captures paper, media, graphic images, email, voice, video etc, and although it is usually associated with managing for the web it can be extended to include any structured and unstructured content for any channel.

Another vital difference between document management and content management is the way in which documents are classified. Document management is concerned with the external classification of a document, the index fields and keywords used to refer to it. Content management however, is concerned with internal classification methods such as author, date and time of creation and context.

Content management systems have become an essential part of a company’s IT infrastructure and this looks set to continue:

“Content management growth is slowed, not halted by the IT recession, while much of the IT industry is in recession, Strategy Partners analysis shows the CM market as continuing to display strong growth of 34.5% for software and services in Europe 1999-2003 after accounting for September 11th and current recessionary factors. This is faster than the worldwide market (29.5%)” (Strategy Partners, 2001).

Summary of content management:

  • Manages all content but usually focuses on managing web content
  • Web-publishing
  • Personalisation
  • A growing market that is becoming more established

Knowledge Management

Definition: “The process of capturing value, knowledge and understanding of corporate information, using IT systems, in order to maintain, re-use and re-deploy that knowledge” (Document Management Avenue).

Knowledge management aims to capture all the knowledge in an organisation, from paper documents, web information, electronic reports, employee knowledge or knowledge gained from informal meetings and discussions. Content or document management systems are often the backbone of knowledge management but there is a vast difference in the scope of information captured.

Knowledge management allows employees access to intelligent information and includes features such as collaboration, business intelligence, just-in-time e-learning and CRM. On an enterprise-level, knowledge management carries the largest change to the working practises of an organisation. IT solutions of this nature almost invariably require a change to the working environment. Knowledge management, is highly complex and Implementing a knowledge management solution brings about a large culture change at all levels within an organisation.

Interest in knowledge management has grown recently for several reasons; the Internet has raised users’ expectations of immediate access to relevant information; organisations are realising the value of their corporate knowledge; the shift in employment patterns, with people spending much less time in a company increases the chance of losing knowledge with an employee – it has been said that NASA wouldn’t be able to put a man on the moon now, as the knowledge was not captured at the time.

Knowledge management has a strong link with CRM, (customer relationship management) and a knowledge management system that contains all customer data can be used as a CRM system. This has made these systems especially popular in call centres. The ability to answer a customer query on the initial call not only saves time and the cost of a call back, but also improves customer relations.

Knowledge management systems are expensive and notoriously difficult to cost justify. The main reason for this is that a lot of the benefits are intangible. Improving efficiency, productivity, employee access to information and customer satisfaction are difficult to calculate. The benefits can be vast but the financial outlay and cultural change can be off-putting and hence the market is growing slowly:

“The KM market is projected to be worth between $1,500 and $4,000 millions in one to two years’ time, based on in-depth user surveys” (Strategy Partners).

Apart from the very largest of organisations, there has not been the take-up of knowledge management systems to match the hype.

Summary of knowledge management:

  • Manages all knowledge in an organisation
  • Often thought of more as a concept then a system
  • Strong links with CRM
  • Difficult to cost justify
  • A new market that is growing but slowly

Summary of Document, Content, Knowledge Management

Document management systems are now the definitive answer for efficient management of documents. The introduction of content management systems provided the ability to manage web content. Whereas knowledge management extends this concept to manage all knowledge existing in an organisation. So while all three manage information using similar methods, the scope and purposes remain quite distinct.