More than any other commodity, the modern enterprise is fueled by information. The onset of electronically created media has transformed our economy into an information economy, with the largest enterprises having content amounting to, in some cases, several terabytes of information. If today's Fortune 500 company had all of its information in printed form, it would take an army of file clerks just to keep track of it all.
Many organizations have both internal and external web presences, both of which may contain vast quantities of regularly updated information. Web content management is an important subset of content management, and refers to programs and equipment used to manage this Web-based content.
Content management systems are electronic systems that take data and organize it, such that it can be retrieved, searched and updated easily, and shared throughout the organization. The basic ingredient is database technology, although a CMS is more than a database; it includes sophisticated search technology and tiered storage mechanisms that may rotate content into various types of hardware-based storage (CD-ROM, tape, etc.), depending on how often it is accessed.
A CMS, because it is meant to manage all types of information regardless of format, must also offer a high level of document interoperability. That is to say, all documents, including word processing documents, spreadsheets, databases, .PDF files and any other type of file, must all be categorized and cross-referenced so that when conducting a search, all relevant information will become available, regardless of origin or format. In addition, interoperability between content management systems has become essential, so that multiple organizations and government agencies can share information when necessary, even if they are using different systems.
While sharing information has taken on great importance in today's information economy, the content management system must also take into account authorization, and provide a facility such that an administrator can specify which recipients may gain access to which content. Document access rights should be able to be set down to the level of an individual user.
Other important elements of a content management system include the ability to easily capture large volumes of documents automatically, the ability to reuse documents and reassemble them into new documents, and the ability to create a workflow that reflects dependencies of one document upon another. Lastly, many content management systems include collaborative features, which allow multiple workers in separate locations to collaborate on the creation or editing of documents, and manage changes in and revisions to documents. The collaborative aspect of the CMS will also make sure every piece of information associated with a particular project is synchronized, and distributed to every member of the project team on a timely basis.