You’re ready to reassess the way your organization shares and manages content. You’re ready for enterprise content management software.The normal office environment – passing around documents using in-trays and baskets while storing documents in filing cabinets – no longer suits the strategic needs of your organization. Instead, you want information to be controlled and flow over your network while ensuring documents are stored and shared securely throughout the entire organization.
Enterprises are championing ECM software for its strategic benefits along with improving productivity and cutting operational costs.
But, what considerations have these successful enterprises had to make when implementing ECM software into their current network and IT infrastructure?
When ECM Software Enters Your Enterprise
A content management system is much more than the electronic storage of documents. As you’ve likely seen through your old method of storing documents, electronically adding documents to folders in a shared digital space does not necessarily create organization or efficient retrieval.
Content management metadata – including date of storage, document owner, document type, access rights and more – is assigned to uploaded documents and content files to enhance and simplify the retrieval process.This information is recorded automatically when the files are saved and used by the system’s search database during searches.
When a document is retrieved, it may be viewed as a thumbnail and launched in its intended format for further use.
This document lifecycle management and electronic cataloguing process is what makes enterprise content management systems so powerful for companies looking for content organization and accessibility.
The Drivers Behind ECM Software Pursuits
Enterprises that pursue content management software usually do so for two reasons: strategic competitive advantages and tactical savings.
These competitive advantages may include:
- Better customer service
- Ability to enter new markets
- Improved regulatory compliance
- Stronger inter-organization collaboration
- Sharing and distribution of institutional knowledge
Tactical savings seen from ECM software include:
- Elimination of bottom-line operational costs
- Faster revenue collection and increased cash flow
- Utilization of corporate digital content templates
Opposition usually takes the form of questioning whether the investment is worthwhile when it could be used for another initiative. However, documented use cases and the initial risk analysis should provide enterprise organizations with the information to suggest what might happen if the software is not purchased, such as hiring more employees to handle additional business and extended exposure to compliance risks.
Where IT And ECM Infrastructure Meet
Enterprises researching an ECM software initiative need to consider how they anticipate running the software:
- Is the software standalone or a hosted solution?
- Is it running across the existing network?
- How is remote access secured?
- Is data being stored on physical office services or an offsite data center?
Outside of considering how to run the software, your IT team helps with the actual network, systems and data integration. It provides role-based security that passes credentials from one network and system to another. Your IT team also ensures that navigating between systems – ERP and CRM systems, accounting and HR software, etc. – is as fluid and easy as possible.
When IT Sees Software Red Flags
As you consider various ECM software packages, involving your IT team helps ensure there are no hang-ups at the outset.
Typical scenarios that IT teams help enterprise companies avoid include:
- A complicated installation process
- Extensive customization
- No out-of-the-box integration capabilities
- Restricted API access
- Systems architecture that is not services-oriented
The most common mistake prevalent in the ECM space today is when companies buy software on price, thinking that all systems are the same. These companies frequently end up with software that needs to be updated in pieces, often using different versions of code, making earlier versions of that code expensive and time-consuming to maintain over the long term.
The reality is that integration should be simple from the start. If you have to do a lot of work, you’re already heading in the wrong direction.
The Role Of IT In ECM Software Selection
In terms of your organization’s technology strategy, your IT team is there to provide functionality on core business applications that results in lower total cost of ownership. IT’s role is to focus on extending core technology capabilities for specific use cases and leveraging application builds for strategic business purposes.
In helping to increase the value of your ECM software investment, your IT team also:
- Helps lay the foundation for good metadata to ensure users find the correct documents when they need them
- Understands how your organization may best use different content types and how various users in different roles may gain secure access to the content
- Ensures the software checks out in terms of scalability, architecture, security and mobile access
IT’s Impact On Your Enterprise Content Management Strategy
With a content management system comes information architecture, and leveraging your IT team’s technology expertise in shaping that architecture reduces redundancy and risk, increases user satisfaction and technology adoption, increases productivity, and cuts costs.
- Redundancy: Your enterprise may have different technologies at different locations or in different departments, so it’s important to ensure the ECM system does not overlap with current technologies and instead centralizes them. The new software should eliminate silos of information through a central content management system with an interface for user access and orchestration across your organization.
- Risk: With centrally managed content comes the need for improved security, since multiple copies of the same document will no longer exist. Instead, a central version of that document will be accessible by anyone needing access. This suggests the need for security features that allow for managed access without inhibiting it. IT holds the key for making sure content policies and processes are upheld and enforced by the system.
- User Satisfaction And Productivity: Determining information architecture influences the search functions of the software, and ensuring the interface is intuitive increases the satisfaction of the employees using the system. This not only makes them more productive at their jobs, but it also increases the likelihood of adoption. A lack of user adoption, as we’ve mentioned before, is one of the biggest hurdles to successful ECM implementations.
- Costs: In some ways, ECM software eliminates the use of older and redundant technologies which naturally impacts the IT costs formerly associated with software support and maintenance.
Other Ways IT Lends A Hand In Software Selection
If you expect your IT team to play more than a supporting role in your software selection, some tasks associated with vendor selection may be:
- Content management opportunities prioritization
- Information architecture audit
- Application walkthrough and stakeholder survey
- Technical due diligence checklist
- Evaluation of how ECM software aligns with business needs
- Systems integration/migration needs assessment
- Software user adoption workshops
An all-inclusive ECM strategy that incorporates the items above is essential for a smooth transition to the optimal ECM technology environment that supports the content, people, and workflows of the organization.
Why ECM Implementation Success Is Dependent On The Entire Team
While involving IT in your software initiative is essential, no single department holds the key to strategic ECM software implementations.
Because ECM systems bring together disparate bits of media – paper and digital documents, internet and intranet sites, online systems and emails – that have never been centralized before, senior management needs to document all use cases tied to the media being centralized in the content management system.
Successful implementation strategies involve all departments to ensure all workflows and processes tied to the various content types are captured and represented in the new system. Anything less than an all-hands-on-deck approach will not yield the kind of future-proof ECM system your enterprise deserves