Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Let's Talk About The 'Enterprise' in ECM

By Thomas Jenkins, Hyland Software

We say it every day: “Enterprise Content Management” or “ECM.” We hear folks throw out words like “enterprise” records management strategy, “enterprise” document management, and “enterprise” capture or delivery models.

But despite all the “enterprise” jargon out there, organizations often find themselves taking a less than enterprise approach. That is, they immediately start off on an initiative of strategy limited to one office, department or division. They make the argument, “We need to increase productivity and see these efficiencies yesterday.”

So we put a solution in place and let it be. But in the long run, the organization or a project management office fails to convey the results to the larger enterprise because they’ve got little invested interest from others outside of their office, department or division – or at the enterprise level.

What happens next? Someone in another office, department or division fails to get their face-time with the project, results aren’t communicated, value isn’t seen, and then they go out and seek an alternative solution or strategy to hopefully realize the same enhancements and see such efficiencies. IT is left supporting multiple applications and different platforms. We hire people to manage individual solutions. We custom code. We pay for maintenance, upgrades and support on several systems. We bring on a business analyst to find out why we’re doing all this. Systems fail, products are sunset. And we’ve now got complex and over-engineered processes and tools cluttering up our day-to-day transactions.      

Whoa!? What happened to our enterprise approach?

And in terms of ECM deployments, now you’ve got multiple ECM systems. And if you haven’t seen it before, now you’ve got multiple lines of business processing and capturing similar documentation in totally different methods. Some users are capturing and classifying directly via Microsoft Outlook. Others are dragging and dropping all over the place. Some are using SharePoint. Remote users still prefer to save documents to their local or shared network drives. And some users are even printing and scanning images back into the ECM system.

If we’re going to talk about streamlining operations and improving efficiencies; tying business and technology together end-to-end; and improving an organization’s ability to collaborate more effectively – those are bigger concepts than just one or two office, departments or divisions can solve. They require participation and a vested interest by all parties. You need to understand the overarching and individual goals across the “enterprise.” Not just wherever the hot button is right now, because with as quickly as markets and strategies can shift, so can enterprise priorities.

So start by taking a more pragmatic, “yes,” “enterprise” approach. Believe it or not, you can always make a new investment in the latest and greatest product or service. However, if you buy into a system or strategy without taking a comprehensive 360 view of how (or if) your users will adopt it, use it, and/or react to it – the benefits and your hard or soft investment in terms of cost and time – may never be realized.

Follow an approach that engages either the entire organization or a select population. Engage more than just local technical experts. Bring in business and subject matter experts, executive or senior leadership, and the frontline employees. Understand what each office, department or division is working on today and what they need to deliver tomorrow. What’s prohibiting them from doing so? What are their challenges? Their goals? And what does long-term program success look like?

So the next time you say “Enterprise Content Management,” or “ECM,” think to yourself are you really talking about Enterprise Content Management? And what can you do to ensure you and your organization are getting the most out of your investment? My answer: think about your approach. Define a strategy and a path for who, what and where to engage. And then you’ll realize the real benefits of what Enterprise Content Management and OnBase can be.

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