What is Audiovisual Enterprise Content Management?

What is Audiovisual Enterprise Content Management (AV ECM)?

Lance Watsky, Alteran Technologies

The Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) International, a worldwide organization of information professionals, defined the term Enterprise Content Management in 2000. The organization has refined the term several times to reflect the expanding scope and importance of information management. 

The most current definition states: “Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is the strategies, methods and tools to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to organizational processes.”

If we specifically examine audiovisual content that is created by an organization, we can expand the general term of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) to become Audiovisual Enterprise Content Management (AV ECM), which by extension would be defined as the strategies, methods and tools used to capture, manage, store, preserve and deliver audiovisual content related to organizational processes.

When we examine the diverse ways that audiovisual material is created, and used, by a corporation, we are able to see that while some corporations create audiovisual content as a product to be sold or distributed other corporations create audiovisual content as a record of the company itself. As such, while we typically focus on content created by studios or post-production companies for public consumption, we can expand our definition to include content created for use internally within a corporation, whether the content is used to document a corporate event, share inspiring words from a corporate leader, or for internal training purposes.

The volume of content that is created by a corporation can lead to many challenges that an Archivist, or Records Manager, will have to overcome when starting to work with audiovisual material. Some challenges stem from the lack of available playback equipment, while other challenges can come from the physical condition of the audiovisual carrier, the lack of available staffing, or the lack of available funding.  

In addition to the long-standing challenges, there are new challenges that content holders are faced with when looking at audiovisual material in relationship to dealing with large-scale migration projects, these include how to determine the value of the audiovisual record to the corporation, the cost difference between boutique projects versus large scale media migration projects, and differences in file types.

The ability to access audiovisual content is important, but content must be managed so that it can be used for your corporation’s goals. Central to this strategy are the tools and technologies of AV ECM, which manage the complete lifecycle of the content, from creation to access and preservation.   

It is critical to remember that AV ECM is an ongoing and evolving strategy for maximizing how a corporation’s audiovisual content is used. It is important to match up the technology tools to address the businesses needs for your content. Technology can enable streamlined management of audiovisual content, but an underlying strategy must come first.



The key to a successful compliance strategy is integrating the idea of compliance success into your business-not viewing compliance as a project that can be completed and then considered "finished." To help limit the risk and cost, proactive AV ECM strategies must be developed within key areas, such as records management and business process management. Ensuring that the proper business practices is followed and that the audiovisual content is properly captured, stored, managed, and disposed of at the appropriate or legally mandated time. Developing a compliance initiative properly will tap many areas of expertise, particularly legal, IT, and records management; all in support of the overall business objectives of the corporation. Individuals from each of these areas must contribute their knowledge and perspectives to ensure the benefits of a sound compliance program. While compliance is not always a technology problem, information technology, and the massive growth of unstructured content, contributes to corporate exposure.



The key to strong collaboration is utilizing the set of technologies that allow work to take place wherever and whenever needed. It's good business; groups can accomplish more than individuals. Collaboration allows individuals with complementary, or overlapping, areas of expertise to create better results faster than before. With today's collaborative tools, business units and project teams can work together anytime-whether in adjoining offices or at different offices around the world. The technology can now address operational objectives like saving time, streamlining processes, cutting costs, and improving time to access. With the many different types of collaborative tools available, companies must be sure they select the correct tool for their business need.

When using collaborative tools, one must be aware of records management, knowledge capture, and compliance requirements. For some industries, all audiovisual customer communications must be kept forever, while for others there may be a shorter retention schedule.



While AV ECM can be a costly initiative, what is the cost of not properly managing your corporation’s audiovisual content? Measuring the revenue based on improved access to audiovisual content can be done as well as measuring the cost benefits of improvements in access speed. If the content is required for a presentation, or to support a project, locating the content and having it in good condition may be critical to the success of your project.


Digitizing for Access & Preservation

For the purposes of this document, "digitizing" should be understood not just as the act of scanning analog audiovisual content into digital form, but as a series of activities that result in a digital copy being made available to end users via the Internet or other mean for a sustained length of time. The activities should include:

  • Audiovisual content identification and selection
  • Audiovisual preparation (including preservation, access review and screening, locating, pulling, and refiling)
  • Basic descriptive and technical metadata collection sufficient to allow retrieval and management of the digital copies and to provide contextual information to the user
  • Digital conversion
  • Quality control of digital copies and metadata
  • Providing access to the material via online delivery of authentic copies
  • Providing online ordering for reproduction services at quality or quantities beyond the capacity of an end user
  • Maintenance of digital copies and metadata
  • Long-term archive management


Author’s Findings

Given that the cost to digitize audiovisual records is expensive, and that the continued exponential growth in the creation of new audiovisual records will only lead to large-scale migration projects becoming increasingly expensive, Archivists and Record Managers must work together with industry towards finding answers to the following key questions:

• To what extent have large-scale content holders switched from doing highly selective projects to digitization of entire collections?

• What methodologies are currently being used for large-scale projects or are scalable? What production levels are achievable?  

• Can corporate archivists and record managers partner with government agencies and industry to develop replicable methodologies for large-scale projects that include metrics for efficiency, effectiveness, and cost of ingestion and long term storage?

The author proposes that the Society of American Archivists Business Archives Section put together a task force with the goal of conducting the required research to address the “key questions” as they apply in corporate settings. The initial step in the investigation would be to distribute a questionnaire to the Business Archives Section members that would attempt to compile information on large-scale media migration projects within corporations. The results would then be compiled and lead to a report of current, and emerging practices or a session for next year’s annual conference.



Lance Watsky has been helping institutions, corporations, and individuals craft strategies that lead to the long term preservation and access of their audiovisual collections for almost two decades. His experience includes projects for the Smithsonian Folkways, Emory University, Warner Bros. Studios, the Shoah Foundation, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and others.

Lance has the distinction of receiving the first Master of Arts degree for the Preservation and Restoration of Motion Pictures and Recorded Sound, awarded in the United States (California State University, Chico, 1995).

In 2000, Lance relocated to Georgia, to work for the State Archives of Georgia as their Audio-Visual Preservationist. This position gave him the opportunity to understand the diverse ways that audiovisual materials are used by state agencies, and became a great introduction to records management.

In 2006, Lance returned to California, to serve as the Program Coordinator for the University of California, Los Angeles Master of Arts program in Moving Image Archive Studies.  

Lance currently works as the audiovisual preservation consultant for Alteran Technologies, a company located in Chatsworth, California that specializes in developing efficient workflow solutions to address audiovisual migration, digital asset management, and systems integration for any organization with irreplaceable audiovisual content.


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