Content Management: DAM, CMS, or ECM?

“Content Management” can be a problematic term: it’s something that everyone needs, and yet it seems to mean so many different things. In the most literal sense, it means exactly what it says – managing content. That barebones definition can mean organizing your iTunes library, editing video footage, or even scrapbooking. But in the technical business space, “content management” is closely associated with different systems that do similar things, yet excel in particular features.

Content Management System (CMS)

A CMS (also known as web content management system) stores content in a central interface and offers organization features, but they’re primarily used for publishing and developing content. Many websites are created and published via a CMS. In terms of actually managing content, CMS’s excels in managing the development of content meant to be published. Written content, in particular, can be developed completely in a CMS.

Content Management Systems fall short in the organization and sharing departments, since those features are not their focus. Most CMS’s allow for API integration to systems that excel in organizing and sharing the content created in a CMS.

Examples: WordPress, Drupal

Enterprise Content Management (ECM)

Link the acronym suggests, ECM systems are built to handle the content management needs of large enterprises. They’re commonly used as a means for archiving content and documents in an organized fashion, with tools and features in place that can easily find content and relate it to other information. Some ECM’s tout BPM (business process management) capabilities as well, which provide guidelines for workflow management.

While ECM’s might be a solution for a large-scale organization, they’re not ideal for SMB’s or smaller teams. They also typically require a long time to implement, and because they’re built to accommodate large volumes of content, many ECM’s are known to be fairly clunky in terms of user experience.

Examples: Documentum, Open Text ECM

Digital Asset Management (DAM)

DAM systems focus primarily on content (images, videos, audio, documents) and how it’s used. Like the other two systems, they provide a central interface and a repository for assets. But unlike those other systems, DAM features are designed to accommodate everything a user would want to do with their content (after it’s been developed). They provide easy sharing capabilities, simple interfaces, and robust organization options.

DAM’s don’t typically possess the repository capabilities that ECM’s do, and they’re not designed to develop content. DAM’s do typically have API plug-ins for CMS systems, which provides a mutually beneficial integration. They also usually don’t take a long time to implement (or in Flight’s case, no time at all to implement).

Examples: Flight, Cumulus

The easiest way to remember the difference between these systems is that they have different names because they have different strengths. They’ll all manage your content, but it’s up to you to decide what “content management” means to your organization.

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