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Key differences between CMS and ECM

by Canto  |  March 4, 2020

4 min. read
Workers sitting on giant monitors.

Companies are increasingly using both content management systems and enterprise content management systems to bolster their success. On the surface, these two types of software tools seem alike. However, upon further studying it becomes clear that both have unique differences that require some attention. This guide will break down these differences and give you an idea of which you should be using. First, here’s a brief rundown of the two systems.

What is CMS?

A CMS (content management system) is software used to manage digital content. CMS’ include format control, version control, search and retrieval. It’s also used to deliver content quickly and efficiently. A good example of a CMS is WordPress, an open-source system. Though it has many different uses, the most common is some type of enterprise use, usually involving web content.

Animated people working on a page.
A CMS involves handling digital content.

What is ECM?

ECM (Enterprise Content Management) is the way in which business content is stored, shared, maintained and secured. ECM helps control a company’s data, information, presentations and documents. This is due to the fact it typically involves implementing processes for projects and creation. It maps out and structures different types of content pieces for all types of companies.

Now that you have a good understanding of both CMS and ECM, let’s learn how they’re different and how they’re similar.

What’s the difference between CMS and ECM?

CMS and ECM differ in a few ways, particularly in the type of different content they each store and share. The two are nearly polar opposites when it comes to the file types and media they handle effectively. For example, things like word documents (DOC, DOCX) or professional documents (PDF), are handled perfectly by a CMS. An ECM, on the other hand, is the superior option when it comes to content such as images, audio and video files. Take note of this difference if deciding between the two systems.

People managing a system animated.
There’s many differences between CMS and ECM.

Another way these two differ is in the way they handle differently-sized companies. CMS works better in smaller-sized enterprises a little bit better. This is because it’s just an easier way to handle content in small doses. Think of it like a tiny car and a big car trying to fit into a small parking spot. The ECM, on the other hand, handles the larger companies better because of how wide-ranging its capabilities are in terms of handling content. Next, let’s check out the ways in which these two systems are alike.

What are some similarities of CMS and ECM?

A lot of what ECM does is interchangeable with CMS. They both promote enterprise content organization and solutions. Similarly, they bring with them favorable benefits to companies. One example is efficient project completion. Both ECM and CMS handle content in a way which keeps companies efficient. This type of efficiency is usually spurred by the ways in which these programs are able to provide manageable, comprehensive tools for projects.

Another way they’re the same is with their integrative capabilities. When companies use either the ECM or the CMS systems, they’re able to integrate their tools with the systems they already have in place. Think of this like someone syncing with another or meshing with them in a productive way. ECM and CMS have immense integration qualities. For example, they both integrate with the popular Microsoft Suite. This saves a lot of time, especially when first implementing these programs.

Women managing a system.
CMS and ECM have a lot of similarities.

Where does DAM fit into all this?

Digital asset management (DAM) is a part of the ECM branch, however, it’s a much more specific and focused component. This is most noticeable in the way DAM organizes, stores and shares digital content. In particular, it handles digital assets – images, videos, audio files, presentations and other digital content. Ensure you know the nuanced differences between the DAM, CMS and ECM, as it will likely come up at some point.

Dam is related to ECM because it’s an enterprise system. It’s particularly valuable when companies need a system to quickly share and retrieve stored content from a centralized location. Make sure when comparing ECM and CMS that you always include DAM into the process. This guarantees that you’re working with the best systems, or at least, the systems that best suit your company’s specific needs.

ECM and CMS are similar and different, so make sure you have a good understanding of how they’re the same and how they’re not. Chances are you’ll have to use them both at some point.