Lessons I learnt about Enterprise Content Management

Enterprise Content Management (ECM) as defined by AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management) is the strategies, methods and tools used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to organizational processes.  – See more at: http://www.aiim.org/What-is-ECM-Enterprise-Content-Management

Customer contact methods

The data in organisations is commonly either structured or unstructured. Structured data is generally well organized and can be accurately identified e.g. database tables, spreadsheets, contacts in your phone book etc.  Unstructured data is then essentially the opposite,  examples include images, emails, video’s etc.

Unstructured data has great business value and is widely used in business and social platforms. With the explosion of content and information, companies are faced with the challenge of trying to provide an efficient, effective and easy to use manner in which users can navigate and discover relevant information that their employees require.

Having implemented numerous ECM solutions into various companies both from a vendor and from a client perspectives over a period of nearly 15 years. These are the lessons that I learnt:

Provide talent management direction with a coach

1. ECM needs a business focus

There should be a clear business vision,  strategy, business architecture, business ownership and accountability. Often the technology is seen as the panacea and the implementation is left up to the vendor and the IT team, this approach has a history of high rates of failure.

2. It is harder than it first appears

  • ECM is a broad topic and there is not a ‘one size fits all’ strategy
  • The change management component and changes to business processes and workflows is often under estimated. It is important to have constant communication, information sessions and if possible prototype/pilots with all stakeholders prior to implementation. This ensures the needed buy-in to get your users on-board and excited.
  • Regulations around admissibility and record keeping need to be understood and incorporated into the solution.
  • Careful thought, analysis and design needs to be done upfront to understand how the information should be structured, so that it can be found easily and quickly by the people that need it
  • The formats, size, quality of the data that you will use needs to be considered to ensure that it can be retrieved quickly, simply and not cause bottlenecks and delays.
ECM drawing

3. Ensure there are sufficient skills available

I have found that people with the right mix of experience and expertise around content management are scarce. Often suppliers will be contracted in to assist with the initial implementation, and due to internal and market skills shortages, end up assisting with maintenance and ongoing projects. Upskilling internal resources from the early stages of the project is crucial to ensure business continuity and becoming supplier independent.

4. Implement in manageable chunks

Often the scope of an ECM initiative is very big, there is so much that you want to do because so much is possible. Trying to do to much in one iteration can often cause the entire initiative to fail or be implemented poorly, resulting in little business benefit and unhappy users.

It is important to plan when functionality will be implemented and avoid the inclination to do to much in one go. Utilising an agile approach or prototyping phases to get input and participation also helps in delivering solutions that provide real business benefit and buy-in.

5.  Data quality is critical

Capturing the data from the unstructured sources accurately is not easy. Through the years we tried automated capture, whereby information is automatically indexed based on various methods, and we also tried manual capture with hundreds of people capturing the information and neither is perfect.

If the information is incorrectly indexed, it could mean that it is not found when needed, which could have serious legal and reputational repercussions. Take time to design and build in data quality measures and controls to avoid costly delays or redesign later.

Project Coach setting Project Manager loose

If the last ten years are any guide, the amount of content that businesses need to manage will only increase as more companies adopt digital business strategies.  The challenge will be integrating content across technologies, platform and devices; managing content through its entire lifecycle and providing secure access to it.

Today’s businesses face threats, such as high costs, unnecessary legal risks, and poor productivity, when their corporate content is unstructured and disorganized.  In the current enterprise environment, business continuity and efficiency rely on organized and manageable corporate data.

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By |2017-11-11T16:15:01+00:00June 10th, 2015|
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