The Collective Power of Enterprise Content Management


Do-It-All ECM is not Science Fiction

Any “Star Trek” fans out there? Those who are will immediately recognize the above photo. For the uninitiated… the photo depicts a “Borg Cube.” It is one of the most intimidating technologies in the “Star Trek” universe. It houses, naturally, “the Borg,” a cyborg-like population that shares a single consciousness and abhors individuality. There is power, they posit, in uniformity. Any expression of individual thought is “absorbed” by the whole and ceases to exist on its own. It is heady – and disturbing – stuff.

We humans, on the other hand, love our autonomy… sometimes to our own detriment. Take enterprise content for example. There are still those people out there who are hesitant to embrace Enterprise Content Management (ECM). For some of those individuals, it’s the idea that departmental information is sacrosanct – a sort of “keep your eyes on your own paper” mentality. The feeling seems to be that information shared with too many people is power lost. These concerned souls see very real similarities between their organizations being able to access certain kinds of information with a loss of individuality – of departmental power, if not personal power. It’s about protecting fiefdoms. Unfortunately, in some people’s universes, that’s fact, not science fiction.

All the information a company produces belongs to that company. In that sense, like the Borg, it is about “the collective.” Where it differs, of course, is intent. In my last blog entry, I talked about the reasons why making the decision to invest in an ECM system might make sense for your business. Things like access, control and adherence to compliance were cited as three major positives. ECM’s benefits are clearly grounded in reality.

The next question, though, is even more important. How do you decide which ECM system to purchase? No one can make an informed decision without the facts.

Let’s Start with the ECM Essentials

According to AIIM (the Association for Information and Image Management), there are five components to an ECM system. They are:

  • Capture – creating, corralling and organizing information
  • Manage – how you process, modify and use information
  • Store – determining the criteria you’ll use to store information in the short term
  • Preserve – determining the criteria you’ll use to store information in the long term
  • Deliver – accessing and using stored information

The increased incidents of data breaches and the growth of individual content management systems have made the critical need for ECM ever more important. A strong ECM system collects information from various departments and systems within your organization and assembles it in such a way as to facilitate easy sharing, staunch security, and rigorous compliance adherence. After all, you cannot manage what you either cannot see or don’t even know you have.

Extra Features Equal Extra Functionality

So if every ECM system worth its salt has the above capabilities, how do you decide which one is for you? Here’s where we get to something that The Borg would very much disapprove of; namely, individual proclivity. On its face, saying that “every ECM system has the above five components” is true. Of course, you could also say that every car has four tires, a steering wheel, interior seating and an engine. But can you imagine every driver in the world slipping into a beige Smart Car? Uh-huh. Thought not.

While every car buyer wants to know that the vehicle he or she is purchasing has all the essentials, a lot more goes into a buying decision. Color. Power. Features. While there are certainly drivers out there who prefer Smart Cars, there are many, many more who would rather choose an Audi A8, a Toyota Camry or a Chrysler sedan. Without question, personal expectations of – and experiences with – a vehicle matter. The same can be said about an ECM solution.

ecm graphic

The right ECM solution easily integrates with popular systems and applications, including Microsoft Office, Outlook, SAP, Oracle, McKesson, SharePoint, PeopleSoft and many more.

In the above illustration, we’ve selected four departments (at the four corners) as examples of the kinds of departments that traditionally have information kept in their own “silos.” The reasoning for that sort of hoarding isn’t always about pride or even security. Often, it’s simply that the policies – sometimes even the language – of one department is completely foreign to that of another. An effective ECM implementation creates “conduits” that build communication bridges.

What makes an ECM solution a keeper? It comes down to its ability to do three things. The first is to deliver a positive user experience (UX). A system is only as good as the number of people who use it – and the amount of support it gets from the manufacturer. Second is its ability to integrate with existing software. This is tightly tied to UX, as the latter often makes the former more likely. Many ECM solutions tout their ability to seamlessly integrate with the programs that employees are already using, including Microsoft Office and Outlook. Third – a natural result of the first two – is a system’s ability to help create and maintain policy enforcement across the organization. The creation of a single set of standards and strict policies about how to do certain tasks or store certain kinds of information are critical to building compliance adherence.

Properly selected and implemented, an Enterprise Content Management System has benefits for Accounts Payable, invoice automation, personnel record keeping, line of business functioning, and so much more. ECM’s main accomplishment continues to be its ability to foster more open, more complete communication within organizations of diverse varieties. The systems that do the best job at personalizing that experience are the ones who end up in the driver’s seat.

ecm system quote

It All Comes Back to Making Informed Decisions

In a universe of seemingly eternal choices, making the ones that improve your business process workflow can be among the most critical. In 2016, the ECM software solution that’s right for you is out there; it’s not science fiction. It is precisely because we humans value individuality and freedom of choice that characters like The Borg are so interesting, right? The idea of not having choices is an oddity for us.

Deciding to decide is not always easy. Deciding on the move to ECM – and to the right ECM system for your organization – is no small matter. One thing that’s for certain, though, is that making that choice armed with the right information can move you and your organization worlds ahead at warp speed.

Posted by: Eric Schwabenlender
This entry was posted in Electronic Document Management, Enterprise Content Management and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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