By Manuel Barbero, Vice President and Marcia Douglas, Senior Manager Businesses are constantly challenged to design, deploy and optimize technology solutions that improve operational efficiency, enable business decision-making, promote the customer experience and contribute to revenue generation and profitability. The effort to become more agile and flexible in the alignment of business and technology has driven companies to re-examine how to leverage solutions within the enterprise infrastructure. Establishing content and process management software technology as infrastructure components increases their overall value to the business. Recognizing this factor is essential to successfully deploying content and business process management tools.Overview of Content and Process Technologies Content and process management technologies, now labeled Enterprise Content Management (ECM), have been actively used within organizations for well over 10 years. Many organizations began by introducing document imaging. The ability to scan and digitize paper documentation enabled fast, simultaneous access while reducing costs and risks associated with paper record keeping. Content management software has matured over time to include products such as document management, web content management, digital asset management, e-mail management and computer report management. Collaboration software can also be considered part of ECM as it enables the capture and management of much "tacit" knowledge (i.e. discussion threads, tasks, white boarding, etc.).Workflow systems facilitate the electronic routing and processing of content. Workflow tools manage routing all forms of electronic content and are primarily "content centric" that is, workflow processes are either initiated by creation\/receipt of a document and\/or result in the production of a document. The need to use documents (unstructured content) within data (structured content) driven business processes led to the marriage of business process management (BPM) technologies with traditional content management tools. BPM tools enable system-to-system movement of information, removing the need for human interaction (i.e., re-keying), improving cycle times and minimizing error.Content and process management are inextricably linked via records management. Records management focuses on defining when content becomes a business record, how long each record must be preserved, when the record can be expunged and who has the authority to expunge. Greater emphasis on accountability, visibility and new regulatory requirements has driven the application of records management principles to all electronic records. Further, the exponential growth of electronic information has demanded automated retention management in order to reduce organizational impact and ensure consistency in policy application.Industry analysts consider ECM a growth segment for technology investment over the next few years. The reason for this upsurge in ECM investment can be attributed to the convergence of a number of factors:Ever increasing volume of content in a variety of formatsNew regulatory and compliance requirements that demand auditability of content and processesNeed for content security and recoverability as demonstrated through the disasters such as September 11Optimizing the InvestmentContent and process management technologies are often deployed as point solutions. Specific business areas such as loans processing, mortgage application and renewal, new account openings, insurance claims processing (life, health and property\/casualty) and accounts payables\/receivables have been candidates for content and process enablement. Traditionally, each business area would initiate a project, define requirements, select software and implement it - completely in isolation from other projects. The result is that numerous similar software products are used throughout the organization. This leads to a number of issues, including:Higher costs for software maintenance and support;Inability to share development and support resources across business units;Increased costs for end user and IT training;Increased difficulty-sharing information across business units;Increased complexity and cost for integrating systems;Higher data integrity risks;Reduced ability to leverage corporate infrastructure, particularly storage.To optimize the investment in content and process management technologies requires recognizing these tools as fundamental infrastructure components for the enterprise. This means providing a common platform within a services oriented architecture for content and process management. Content and process management become available to all areas of the organization and development efforts leverage common service components. Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) is an approach to development of re-usable system components and frameworks. These re-usable components or services are assembled together using loosely coupled communications to form applications and solutions. SOA is a natural complement to process management in that SOA allows the definition of a library of components that can be assembled and orchestrated by the business process to form business solutions. Discrete service components such as check-in, check-out, create version, etc. can be created and re-assembled as needed within various business applications. This facilitates future change in the business process without necessarily requiring change in the services. The net result of increased agility and reusability of components is reduced development and maintenance costs for content and business process solutions.Defining ECM as an infrastructure component means defining an Enterprise Reference Architecture that recognizes this service-oriented approach, establishing content and process components within the appropriate tiers of the infrastructure.Further integrating content and process management into the infrastructure must encompass linking ECM with Information Lifecycle Management (ILM). ILM is, as yet, an embryonic set of technologies intended to enable content to be moved through a continuum of storage media. The objective is to meet business service level needs for storage access and retrieval at the lowest possible unit cost for storage. ILM can be enabled according to key content parameters such as content age, date last accessed, content size, etc. But to truly satisfy business needs while ensuring data integrity and meeting compliance\/retention requirements demands weaving ECM and ILM technologies together into a cohesive, strategically configured infrastructure. The storage infrastructure must be cognizant of the value of business content. And value goes beyond age and date. The challenge is to automate the ECM\/ILM infrastructure to ensure that content is continuously monitored, recognized and acted upon so that "valuable" content effectively leverages a tiered storage environment. The "knowledge" about content contained within ECM tools is the key by which ILM can automatically understand business value. ECM tracks key business value attributes for every object, such as metadata, classification, retention periods, authorship, update frequency, etc. Establishing ILM rules built upon business value attributes and automating the process for enforcing those rules effectively links ECM and ILM into a comprehensive infrastructure platform that is economical, flexible, scalable and compliant. A holistic strategy that meshes ECM and ILM will yield a higher return on investment for the business both economically and functionally.SummaryEffectively aligning technology to business needs enables organizations to improve operational agility, improve efficiencies and reduce operating costs. For content and process management technologies to be maximally optimized demands that these components be integrated within an organizations computing infrastructure. Leveraging content and process management as common services reduces development and maintenance efforts. Further harnessing ECM as the backbone for ILM efforts results in a scalable, flexible, compliance enabled framework for critical business applicationsAbout the AuthorsManuel Barbero is a Vice President with BearingPoint, Inc. (NYSE:BE), one of the worlds largest business consulting and systems integration firms. Barbero also leads BearingPoint Financial Services Technology group. Marcia Douglas is a Senior Manager with BearingPoint.About BearingPoint, Inc.BearingPoint, Inc. (NYSE:BE) is one of the worlds largest business consulting, systems integration and managed services firms serving Global 2000 companies, medium-sized businesses, government agencies and other organizations. We provide business and technology strategy, systems design, architecture, applications implementation, network infrastructure, systems integration and managed services. Our service offerings are designed to help our clients generate revenue, reduce costs and access the information necessary to operate their business on a timely basis. Based in McLean, Va., BearingPoint has been named by Fortune as one of Americas Most Admired Companies in the computer and data services sector. For more information, visit the Companys website at www.bearingpoint.com.All information provided is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavor to provide accurate and timely information, there can be no guarantee that such information is accurate as of the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future. No one should act upon such information without appropriate professional advice after a thorough examination of the particular situation. The views and opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of BearingPoint, Inc.