by Scott Kirsner

Merging Document Management Tools

Jan 15, 20022 mins
Enterprise Applications

Traditionally, document management has been about managing offline documents, such as purchase orders or benefits forms. Content management tools, on the other hand, grew up around managing websites and the thousands?or even millions?of pages they can contain. To facilitate workflow, most document management systems revolve around a centralized storage area that allows for distributed editing and authoring. As it happens, that’s also the basis for most content management systems?and the similarity is one reason the line between the two markets is growing fuzzier by the day.

Both types of tools also manage lots of pages and their elements (such as images and meta-data) have version control to keep new files from being overwritten and to allow users to access and retrieve documents. Since most document management systems shared core processes with content management, some document management vendors, such as Documentum and FileNet, were quick to seize the opportunity. They tailored their tools for Web-based content delivery by adding customer personalization capabilities and a Web front end.

The merging process has even let some CIOs avoid the whole definition debate and simply use the terms and tools interchangeably. Dave Bush, CIO of Atlanta-based transportation fleet services company LeasePlan, for instance, uses IBM’s Content Manager Portfolio to manage the huge volume of documents associated with leasing vehicles. But while the tool has Web management features (and Bush does use it to post some documents online), the product’s document control features are the key. “We’re really in the paper management business,” Bush says.

Though the two terms may seem synonymous, a line between document management and content management still does exist. Even with Web content delivery capabilities, document management systems generally succeed only in putting document management online, but many don’t let users focus on site management or Web publishing. For now, “document management is a subset of enterprise content management,” says Connie Moore, a vice president with the Giga Information Group in Washington, D.C. But as content management moves toward embracing enterprisewide content, including paper documents, which term you use could become moot.