Enterprise content management (ECM) is big business these days. There are scads of companies turning a tidy profit promising to do a competent job of managing every conceivable type of content, from records bound by regulation to Web content and freewheeling collaborative work. What there isn't as much of is sound advice from experienced professionals on how to save money when it comes to ECM.

At a time when IT budgets are tight and few can afford to spend anything they don't have to, Gartner's research vice president Tony Bell is offering some interesting thoughts on best practices for reducing costs. Here's our assessment of his tactics for increasing efficiency when it comes to ECM.

Clean House

Before you're ready to make a new ECM implementation of any kind, take the time to assess what content you have and what you can do without. Either as a team or through designated point people, find and eliminate old and duplicate content that bogs down your current solution.

Keeping content around that is doing you no good is a waste of time and resources. If content migration and integration of systems is so important, more enterprises should be paying attention to how they can alleviate the burden that unnecessary content creates.

Develop Automated Policies

As Gartner puts it, "a policy about documents takes the form of rules and metadata that allow some automatic categorization and expiration of content." In other words, creating document policies for your ECM implementation is going to help preclude the need for spending a lot of time on the need to prune old content to increase efficiency.

Automated processes are a big deal in many enterprise systems these days, but not everyone is applying their understanding to documents. That's a shame, since it's a powerful method for keeping junk out of your document repositories and file servers.

Consider Open Source Alternatives & Accompanying Services

Gartner's specific recommendation is about "content service providers" and open source. The first half of that equation refers to ECM vendors who can also provide services to augment or replace certain needs when in the enterprise. In our view this is the area that needs the most careful consideration.

While Gartner is correct that services can be a boon to your ECM strategy and help you make good choices that will reduce spending, it's not always the case that services perform as advertised. It's important to note that what we're talking about is companies that integrate services with their core business, not those who rely on a partner ecosystem to make up for all necessary consulting.

The latter half of Gartner's suggestion here is about open source. Yes open source is the kind of thing that tends to scare the enterprise. But running blindly away from a market that has become a stable alternative, complete with SLAs and adequate support, is foolish during a period when enterprises know they need to cut costs.

Leverage the Web

By which we mean stop trying to rely on in house data and content channels for everything, especially in areas where you're ferrying data from one consumer-facing location to another. It may make IT feel more secure, but not taking advantage of a faster, cheaper network that already exists for content delivery isn't going to save you any money.

Go Green

Going green isn't just about acting ethically as a business, it can save you money too. As anyone who works in the B2G space knows, dealing with a heavy paper document workload is a serious drain on company resources. Unless you've a special case, there's no excuse for not pushing hard on becoming as close to a paperless organization as humanely possible.

Get Out of the Email Business

The headline for this one was just too good not to change. Countless enterprise vendors large and small are declaring how hip they are when it comes to fighting email overload and increasing efficiency. But fewer enterprises are tackling the root of the problem by killing their on-premise Exchange servers altogether.

Even if you're not the least bit interested in "Going Google" there are now robust hosted Outlook options available. Cutting out the enormous IT overhead that email and calendaring creates is a great way to save money when it comes to enterprise content management.

The full release is available here, and you can hear Tony Bell speak on this at Gartner's Portals, Content & Collaboration Summit in September.

Photo by AMagill