The Implicit Value of Content is Realized Through Business Process

As I have noted before, much of the historic discussion in the document management field has concerned the cost of producing content, or the cost of finding existing content.

But the value of a document, or any other piece of content, is seldom the same as its cost of production.

I was chatting about this the other day with my colleague James Latham. He used an invoice as an example of a piece of content that may be managed by an enterprise content management (ECM) system. James noted that, 'There is inherent or explicit value in an invoice'. In fact the value of an invoice is fairly tightly linked to the cash it represents.

A $10 bill has an explicit value of $10. Likewise a delivered invoice for $10 has a value of about $10 to an organization. Arguably it is not quite as valuable as $10 cash given the delay and perhaps uncertainty of payment, but it is close enough in most cases and will be treated as such in an accounting system.

There is a case where a $10 bill is worth much more: if it is a rare, old $10 bill, it may have a lot of implicit value (e.g. to collectors it may be worth hundreds of dollars) above its explicit value of $10.

Tangible value (explicit plus implicit) is established by sale of the item itself or the recent valuations of comparable items. But it is hard to think of invoices, especially electronic invoices (i.e. digital content), as having any implicit value.

Are there other kinds of enterprise content besides invoices that clearly have implicit value? I think so. Here's a good example: documents that support a patent application for a product with large market potential may have huge implicit value that greatly exceeds their cost of production and their explicit value at a given moment. This implicit value may become more explicit over time with the issue of a patent, together with product and market advances. At some point an intellectual property sale could attribute very significant tangible value to the documentation.

In this patent documentation example, the application of process over time helps to create tangible value. In ECM discussions we often speak of the context of content as helping to give it meaning, but clearly we also need to consider how process can give it value.