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Tips for successful ECM implementation

Deploying an enterprise content management system can be hugely beneficial to employees across an organization, but success comes from following established best practices. Updated for best practices in 2021.

The ECM project has a much higher potential success when your company's employees recognize the value of the software. Then they will participate in the implementation to improve and facilitate their work. Acceptance and then adoption by employees is the ultimate goal of the ECM deployment.

Before deployment, the goals and ROI of enterprise content management should be defined. It may be faster invoice processing, improved customer service quality or more efficient processes in sales. Each department has different expectations when using ECM software.

Here are key tips to consider before ECM implementation starts.


  1. Start in the department that will benefit most from an ECM system
  2. Conduct an as-is analysis for a solid foundation
  3. Define the goals and KPIs of ECM
  4. Choose an ECM provider that looks to the future
  5. Configure the ECM solution to be employee-centric

Start in the department that will benefit most from an ECM system

To quickly demonstrate how an ECM solution improves and facilitates work within a company, start with the processes that will most benefit from the new enterprise content management features.

Identify document-centric processes that are repeated many times per day or week that accomplish specific key goals. As a starting point, think about a team’s key performance indicators (KPIs).

For example, in sales, this might be the offer preparation stage. When contracts, agreements, marketing materials, examples and price lists can be digitized and aggregated quickly, this improves the prospect’s experience and keeps the sales team focused on customer relationships. Of course, while this convinces the sales department of the value of the implementation, it also demonstrates the advantages that ECM can offer to other departments within the company.

Employee acceptance and expectations of an ECM system increase well before the introduction in their respective department.


Conduct an as-is analysis for a solid foundation

As-is analysis can clarify the details of the deployment, expectations for success, and in which order to deploy an enterprise content management system. Appoint an upper-level manager or IT leader to collect feedback from all teams to discover critical process improvement opportunities and get executive buy-in.

This person maintains a high-level overview throughout the entire implementation process and incorporates current scenarios as well as potential future challenges into all considerations. It is especially important to integrate all stakeholders into the as-is analysis to avoid user resistance further down the road. Your team will only be receptive to the new technology when the needs and suggestions of employees are taken seriously, and it becomes clear where the advantages lie.

In DocuWare’s experience, we’ve frequently discovered that core accounting processes are the ideal starting point for ECM because they are repeatable and measurable. For example, improving the speed and accuracy of invoice processing has a direct impact on profitability and maintaining positive vendor relationships.


Define the goals and KPIs of ECM 

Once you've determined the departments in which to introduce ECM, use their KPIs to define clear and measurable improvement goals. Don’t limit yourself to vague goals such as "more efficiency". Think about precise, quantitative indicators. Remove the opportunity for subjective impressions to cloud objective data.

Should the number of order confirmations sent within a certain timeframe increase by a certain percentage? How far can ECM shorten the duration of invoice processing? How much faster can you answer customer support questions?

Clarify your expectations and communicate them to the entire team. In this way, each employee knows what is expected – and you’ll avoid unpleasant surprises when reviewing the progress of your goals.


Choose an ECM provider that looks to the future

Which is better: established software that has been proven in the market for years, or providers driving cutting-edge innovations to the ECM space?

The answer lies in the middle. On one hand, a large customer base shows that the software has proven itself in the real world. But past performance is not an indicator of future performance. Your enterprise content management system must continually focus on modern innovations that keep your company working effectively far into the future.

When you’re researching vendors that are future-friendly, think about:

  1. Can you start with just a few users and then expand easily? Equally important: are there flexible integrations possible with software you use now, and future systems? Does the software support cloud, on-premises and hybrid deployments? Scalability is important.
  2. Is the vendor investing in customer experience?
  3. Clarify the financial terms for installation, operating expenses, training and upgrades. These should work in the favor of the customer. Think about the Total Cost of Ownership of your solution.

A few considerations for identifying the best ECM partner:

  • To see the top ECM providers, start with user reviews. Analyst reports can also help.
  • Research the individual company’s history: are they growing with new customers? Are they announcing new innovations?
  • Certifications can also help. For example, DIN ISO 9001 certification confirms that an ECM provider systematically upgrades the features or security of its product. This proves that it is continuously evolving.

Configure the ECM solution to be employee-centric

As soon as you begin your implementation, connect your enterprise content management solution to your email infrastructure and employees' mobile devices. One of the biggest advantages of ECM is the ability to support the mobile workforce with access to important information anywhere, at any time: their home office, on the road, the office, at the customer, or in their home office.

It’s equally important that you define digital workflows to streamline processes and accelerate critical steps. However, don't overwhelm your employees. The increasing digitization of the working world is not looked upon favorably by everyone, and careful and considerate change management is necessary to evolve not just how an organization works, but the acceptance of that new reality.

Focus on basic improvements to start and don’t expect your team to make too many changes at once. The goal is usable and effective workflows that meaningfully help the team.

Next: The top enterprise content management providers


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