Any time you’re searching for a document or storing a document you’ve created, there’s potential for wasted time and misplaced information. If you save a file into the wrong folder, or misspell the file name, it’s much harder to find it the next time you need it.
A thoughtful approach to enterprise content management (ECM) integration reduces the time spent searching and the potential for errors, while also helping you get more productivity from your existing business systems. This blog post looks at the top three systems to integrate with an ECM solution and some of the benefits of using this approach.
Here are the top three existing business systems to consider integrating with your ECM solution:
- Your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system: This system is the most important tool to integrate because it’s a conduit for all information that’s going to and coming from the accounting package. ECM integration offers many ways to streamline accounting processes.
For accounts receivable, for example, you no longer need to print paper invoices and then save the digital files separately. Instead, just “print” it virtually into the ECM system. From there, the ECM system distributes it to the client via email or a paper document while automatically storing a copy for your own records.
This helps save time when making collection calls because the caller has all relevant information at their fingertips: invoice, proof of delivery, original purchase order and initial quote. This ease of access reduces errors and speeds up the process, which tends to result in shorter time to payment and a better cash flow.
For accounts payable, ECM integration offers an efficient way to get information into your ERP system. For example, during your AP approval process, you probably already captured a lot of information, such as the supplier name on the invoice, the invoice number, the total amount and so on. If your systems aren’t integrated, someone typically needs to then manually key this data into the ERP system.
Instead, ECM integration makes it easy to upload this AP data into your ERP system. This improves productivity as well as accuracy, helping to ensure that you only pay for the goods and services you ordered and received.
- Your customer relationship management (CRM) system: Connecting CRM and ECM platforms improves efficiency when storing and retrieving customer documents, such as letters, emails and invoices.
Imagine you’re working in the CRM system and have to create a letter. The CRM system probably has a template ready that generates a Word file with the proper layout and uses the customer’s record to automatically fill out various fields (address, customer name, etc.). Once the letter’s done, it’s time to print it or send it electronically to the customer, and to save a copy.
If you print the document and then try to use “save as” to store a copy somewhere else, there are opportunities for errors. You have to worry about saving the copy with the right file name into the right folder, and maybe even copy it two or three times to store it in different locations.
If you’re relying on employees to manually type in metadata, you tend to lose consistency. One person may type “ABC Corporation” in the CRM system but then abbreviate it to “ABC Corp.” when saving the file. This inconsistency results in problems finding the documents you need.
With ECM integration, all of the archiving and indexing is done automatically, in the background. The ECM solution saves a digital copy while printing the paper letter and automatically indexes the document for easy retrieval, capturing the company’s name, invoice number, etc. With ECM, you’re creating a reliable digital archive with consistent metadata, without any additional work by employees.
- Your email system: If your company uses Microsoft Exchange or Outlook, each employee’s email folder is an information silo. They can’t easily share the information that’s in those emails other than by forwarding them to everybody who may or may not be interested. Ideally, emails that are relevant to the whole organization should go into a central document pool, where they would be readily accessible.
ECM integration with your email system allows users to selectively archive both inbound and outbound messages. For inbound email, you would simply drag an email from your inbox into a special folder within your email client. This folder is monitored by the ECM system, and automatically stores and indexes the email.
For outbound email to customers, ECM integration adds a “send and archive” button to your email client. When you click this button, it simultaneously sends the email to your customer and stores it in the ECM system, where it’s available for other colleagues to search, depending on the access settings.
In the end, ECM is more than just a centralized repository for all of your documents and business information. It’s also a tool for efficiently capturing, retrieving and sharing that information. Integrating your existing business systems — especially your ERP, CRM and email — offers important benefits across your organization.
To learn more about using ECM to improve efficiency and productivity, download our FREE tip sheet, “5 Steps For Integrating ECM Into Your Organization”.