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Friday, October 12, 2007

The Role of an Enterprise Content Architecture

The role of an Enterprise Content Architecture (ECA) is to structure, describe, organize and harmonize content resources within an enterprise so that they can be managed and delivered as content products to end users according to business needs and requirements.

One of the main drivers for establishing an ECA is to reduce the costs for producing and managing content. Simply put, an ECA will bring valuable content resources to the surface so that they can be accessed and found. The reverse scenario is that you don’t find the content resources you are looking for and need to re-produce them. Furthermore, if a content product needs to be delivered in different ways – such as via different channels that require different format and structure for the content product - the ECA makes sure that the content resources from which the content product is built can be reused.

What is even more important than reducing costs is that the ECA provides the foundation that enables users (humans aswell as machines) to exchange and share information and knowledge. Is does so by semantically integrating content resources of different formats, structure and types which are otherwise living on their own islands (or kept in silos) somewhere in the enterprise. This is also where the ECA meets the Enterprise Information Architecture (EIA).

While the ECA is primarily focused on supporting the effiency of enterprise content management processes, the EIA is primarily focused on supporting the information needs within the enterprise - to provide the right information at the right time to the right user. Is does so by defining, organizing and describing content products in ways that it supports how different users in different usage contexts look for information and how they want / need the information delivered to them. It goes without saying that need to have both an ECA and an EIA and that they need to harmonize while still being allowed to be different.

An Enterprise Content Architecture semantically organizes content resources that may be of different granularity and be more or less structured. The architecture – relationships between content following certain rules – is created with the use of metadata, such as taxonomies. The ECA also addresses how to structure, describe and store content resources for optimal production, management and delivery of content products to content workers and end users in the business.

In an upcoming post I will look at what kind of questions you need to address when defining and designing an Enterprise Content Architecture.


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