Content is useless unless it’s used for managing the business. Managers must get relevant information presented in ways that bring out its significance. Only then can they make informed business decisions, instead of decisions based on a “hunch”.
This article explores the information-presentation, or delivery, component of Enterprise Content Management.
Captured content must be transformed into meaningful information in a proper format and layout that make it easy to comprehend. The information must then be published to get it to the intended person or group, or at least made accessible for them.
Transformation and publication are thus the key elements of information delivery. We look at these in the following sections.
A number of technologies or protocols have come into the market for information formatting and presentation.
XML is a description language that provides a way to define information. XML describes input-document metadata and interfaces, including its own structure, and presents output as specified.
PDF files provide a platform-independent presentation of information that can be printed and/or distributed easily.
XPS is an XML specification that provides for a presentation similar to PDFs and has been developed by Microsoft.
Other elements associated with transformation include:
Compression: Larger images and documents can be compressed to reduce file sizes for easier and safer transfers.
Viewers: Viewers enable information in different formats to be displayed in a uniform format.
Personalization: Personalization enables users to select the functions and information that they need.
In the case of information distribution, the key considerations are ensuring authenticity of the sender and the document, and preventing unauthorized use of the published content.
Electronic signatures using keys and certificates help ensure that documents sent electronically are complete and unchanged (during transmission), and that the sender is indeed the person or organization he or she or it claims to be.
Unauthorized use of published content is sought to be prevented through such technologies as Digital Rights Management (DRM) (essentially access restriction) and Watermarking.
Users of information generated from the content created all over the enterprise typically need it to be delivered in a way that is most convenient in different contexts. For example, when they are in their office, they can access it most easily using their network connection. Out in the field, it is easier to get information using their PDAs or mobile devices. Information is delivered in several ways, including:
- Internet, intranet, and extranet
- E-mails and faxes
- Data transfer using EDI or XML
- Mobile phones, PDAs and other mobile devices
- Transportable media like CDs and DVDs
The above list contains a few examples. Other ways of delivering information already exist and new ways are being developed.
The ultimate objective of Enterprise Content Management is to make meaningful decision-support information available to business managers, in a format that is most convenient in their current context. ECM can deliver its information through technologies using IP protocols, such as Internet, intranet, or extranet, mobile devices like PDAs or mobile phones, and so on.
Content needs to be transformed in ways appropriate to the systems in use, and the context in which it will be used.