“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
~Robert Frost, in “The Road Not Taken”
Sure. ’Ol Bobby makes it seem so easy, doesn’t he? He’s standing there in the woods, faced with two paths – say one to the left and one to the right. He just “picks” one so easily, with nary a thought of the consequences. For many people, however, making a decision like this is fraught with downsides. What happens if they get a half-mile down the left path and realize there’s a steep hill that they’re incapable of – or unwilling to – climb? What if they choose the right path but find it’s blocked by a tar pit around the next bend?
Decision-makers in a wide range of industries these days are facing just such a dilemma when it comes to Enterprise Content Management (ECM) systems. Actually, the decision is twofold. They’re wondering whether to invest in the technology and if so, which one is best for their organization? These are legitimate questions that deserve ample thought.
As I write this in 2016, names like Documentum, Application Xtender, OpenText, FileNET, eRoom and more might sound familiar to many of you. Indeed, document management is fast becoming a commodity. There are a number of different platforms available that are both inexpensive and easy to implement. As a result, however, different systems can pop up in different departments, divisions and locations. While this diversity speaks to its growing accessibility and ease-of-use, the plethora of document management systems can also lead to confusion and incompatibility.
Harnessing the Power of Document Management
Imagine Charlie in HR uses System A. Becky in AP uses System B. Lauren in Production uses System C. Barry in Marketing uses System D. Individually, all these systems serve their users well. What happens, though, when Becky needs some information that only Lauren has and Lauren is enjoying a month-long Caribbean vacation? What if Zachary, in AR, ends up losing an invoice that Becky in AP then fails to pay? If you think this paragraph is starting to sound eerily similar to a high school mathematics word problem and you’re getting a slight headache, you just might be getting an idea of the kind of confusion we’re talking about.
Enter ECM – content management for the entire enterprise. Think of it as a huge umbrella system that lets all those folks mentioned above access and share information easily. This has a number of benefits for the entire team – not the least of which is that it spares Lauren from Barry’s wrath. Even though he’s fictional, I imagine he has a temper.
It’s easy to envision our imaginary band of co-workers above enjoying their respective document management systems. For the company as a whole, though, it means multiple annual maintenance costs, separate service subscription fees, differing skill levels and disparate training times required when new staff is hired, and possibly different hardware requirements. Additional expenses – in terms of money and time – can be a real drain on a company’s bottom line and patience.
An organization’s information – of every variety – is its lifeblood. It is the evidence of the work it does every single day. Ensuring access to that information – with permissions, of course – is a means of ensuring that not only do employees have access to the data they need, but that they are speaking the same language. When documents are split into various independent repositories, an “ivory tower syndrome” can occur. Workers in different departments having different information can lead to imbalanced views of importance, or even detachment from the company as a whole. An organization’s data are the “facts” that it uses to conduct business. Separate individuals (or departments) may use that information differently, but they are all working with the same data.
Another important benefit of implementing an ECM system is its ability to allow for easy adherence to compliance issues. Following a single set of “rules and regulations” is a lot easier when all the players are on the same page. ECM means there is no “special system” on which lives a master version of the playbook. A single system also makes audits easier to facilitate and paper trails easier to track.
Is ECM the Answer? Decide to Decide
Kelly Green is director of ECM solutions at FileSolve. He’s seen the industry’s development firsthand and marvels at its speedy advance.
“For those organizations using a departmental storage and retrieval systems or a SharePoint system, consolidating those systems into an ECM has a lot of benefits,” he says. “The legacy Enterprise Imaging systems will benefit from the new technology solutions offering superior user experience, agile deployment and lower cost of ownership. What’s more, the painful upgrade process can be eliminated because the integrations available now are out-of-the-box and the requirements for custom scripting are minimized.”
As a business owner, lots of things drive your decisions. The desire to do good. Competition. Employee satisfaction. Profit. As we’ve seen, there are real benefits to consolidating separate content management systems under a single ECM umbrella. Making the decision to take that leap is a good move. So what’s the next step? Now that you know what an effective Enterprise Content Management system can do for you and your organization, how do you decide on the right system?
That’s up next!