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Want to understand and speak ECM? Here is the cheat sheet for those of us not yet steeped in the complexities and technicalities of enterprise content management but who want to hold our own in a conversation. This dictionary should help you decipher phrases, terms and buzzwords so you can speak ECM with confidence.


software feature that is used to add important business information, such as an approval notification, sticky note or redaction, to documents electronically without altering the original.

What it really means: retain the value of adding notes to documents without needing a pen

authoring support

the ability of ECM software to apply document management functions (e.g. capture, indexing and version control) to files that are created using other applications.

What it really means: Documents, spreadsheets and all other files users create can be managed, updated and shared easily in a single, organized environment.

digital signature

a legally binding, electronic version of a person’s signature that authenticates the signer of a document and verifies the integrity of a signed document’s content.

What it really means: no need to print, sign then scan a document for it to be legal

document imaging

software product that makes it possible to capture, store, organize and reproduce unstructured data electronically — scanned paper, e-mail, computer files, multimedia, XML and hundreds of other types.

What it really means: less paper, paperwork and file cabinets; more access, business efficiency and office space

document lifecycle

the journey of a document from creation to destruction or archival, every step of which is tracked electronically by ECM software.

What it really means: know and manage the complete history of every business document

document management

software product that enhances information accessibility, promotes document collaboration and provides content accountability with features such as version control, digital signatures and more.

What it really means: create, update, share and access documents easily in one organized, secure environment


software product that enables the online entry and collection of information – such as names and addresses –­­ into electronic forms that are accessible from web sites and portals.

What it really means: an easier way to enter, store and use raw information

enterprise content management (ECM)

the strategies, methods and technologies used to capture, process, collaborate on, protect and access documents and other content within the context of an organization’s business applications and practices.

What it really means: an electronic system that improves business routines and increases efficiency by providing the information you need at the moment you need it

library services

an administrative software feature that works behind the scenes to support check-in, check-out, version control and other document management functions, protecting the integrity of content and tracking all versioning activities for future auditing.

What it really means: Track exactly who did what, when, where and how for every document stored in the ECM system.


the underlying architecture of a software product that facilitates integration with other systems and determines a product’s network performance, expansion capabilities and technological flexibility.

What it really means: ECM requires a technical foundation that is fast, open, reliable, scalable and secure

records and information management (RIM)

software product that securely manages the electronic capture, storage, organization and disposition of important business records and information according to organizational and regulatory requirements, such as how long it is kept and if and when it is destroyed.

What it really means: managing the lifecycle of content to reduce risk, strengthen compliance and conserve resources


software feature that enables users to mark out content electronically, concealing sensitive or personal data contained in a document, while preserving the state of the original.

What it really means: a way to ensure that confidential information is never seen

seamless integration

the integration of a new application, routine or device with an existing system that works smoothly without causing any errors or complications.

What it really means:New software can work in tandem with existing programs without a hitch.

Software as a Service (SaaS)

deployment method that delivers software and its functions to users over the Internet on a subscription basis. The software and associated infrastructure are managed and operated by the software provider in an off-site data center.

What it really means: all of the software benefits, none of the IT hassles

version control

the ability to monitor, manage and identify changes to documents and electronic files. These versions, or revisions, are associated with a timestamp and track the individual making the changes, and can be compared, restored and even merged.

What it really means: a record of who changes what and when


software product that simplifies business routines by automatically and electronically distributing documents and information across an organization for processing, approval, auditing or other purposes.

What it really means: faster, more organized and more accountable business processes