New regulations on content distribution and electronic document management require IT executives to keep enterprise data readily available and stored properly. In 2004, network managers will be able to choose from more options when it comes to managing content.A recent report by Geoffrey Bock, senior vice president and senior consultant at Patricia Seybold Group, outlines how companies of all sizes are facing the same problem: managing unstructured enterprise content. Enterprise content can include text-based documents, e-mail messages, scanned images, pictures, illustrations and tables needed to run different parts of any given business. The variety of content and the differing means of management can cause a lot of pain and productivity bottlenecks for many companies, according to Bock."What companies need in 2004 is to have content delivered in context," Bock said when speaking recently at an event sponsored by the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM). "When employees are in the midst of working with content-centric applications, a good content management system would deliver them more resources based on what they are working on."These content-aware systems can not only boost productivity and optimize the search process for employees, they can also ensure an enterprise company remains in compliance with new regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPAA. "Companies need to build content delivery networks that have some sense of what the company, groups and individuals are working on," Bock said.These types of intelligent content delivery and storage systems will alleviate the pain many enterprise companies feel today when trying to keep relevant data available and store the necessary documents appropriately as well. The pain is obvious for vendors such as Documentum (being acquired by EMC), FileNet, IBM, Interwoven, Merant, Microsoft and Stellent.In his report, Bock argues in favor of implementing an enterprise content management (ECM) platform that will stand the test of time. In his review of vendors, Bock explores the business strategies and product directions that vary, and gives a few tips to potential buyers on how to choose the right ECM product for them. Basically, Bock advises to plan for the long run because "you are making a strategic decision about your enterprise application infrastructure."Next time: More specifics on Bock's take on the vendors listed above and general tips on choosing an ECM strategy.