I have posted a number of times about the benefits of ECM solutions and what a positive impact they can have on any business, be it small or global. However, ECM is still a hard sell, and for many, even once they have a good system in place, they don’t really get the end user engagement that is required to make ECM really work well for an organisation.
So why is this? Why is implementing an ECM solution so hard to ensure real user engagement? What are the problems?
The easy part
When we talk about ECM and even demonstrate it, the first thing or the easiest thing to show is the retrieval of content. This is always easy for business and end users to grasp. “So you’re looking for a particular file, well, do this, this and this and hey, there you are, there is the file you want to work with…” This is great, and in essence, is the heart of ECM. However, retrieval is always the easy part. The problem is ensuring that the content we are looking for is actually in the repository….
Content that should be in a repository is everywhere; it can be in the form of a business contract document you are drafting, or in the form of an email etc. Now for the actual user who is working with this content, ask yourself, what do they do with it? I think most of the time you will find that, if a file, it is more than likely to be sitting in old reliable “My Documents”, wait, maybe even a “My Documents” on a server in some cases. However, its name is more than likely to be something meaningful just to that user, oh, and that is the only distinguishing part of the content…..So what of our eMail content in this example. Well, if you are a small business and are using POP3 mail then it’s just on their machine now. If you have a mail server (such as exchange) then it’s sitting on or in that mail server.
So, when using my ECM solution, I can’t actually find that content I require, because it simply isn’t in the repository. This means no matter how good your ECM system is, it is pointless because it isn’t holding the content you require….
Increasing scope and engagement
The only way to get all content into your ECM repository is to make “capture” processes easy. I am not going to talk about scanning of physical paper here (see other posts I have made on this), but capture of content that is already in digital format. This has to be as simple as possible, and include easy access from a multitude of other applications.
By making this easy, and more important, almost part of their current working habits, then any ECM platform will perform and give back more to an organisation, simply because it will hold more of the relevant content within it. This is the key to a good ECM platform, and getting all those efficiency and productivity gains ECM promises to deliver.
I have spoken a little about being flexible and adaptive; more so with regards to BPM, but the same arguments are valid here for ECM. Typically capture processes and the way in which users are expected to work with ECM is very rigid. This needs to become more fluid and adaptive to their needs and requirements. How many times do we see a user wanting to engage and add content to a repository, only to find that, well it is hard to assign properties and values to a piece of content because it doesn’t fit within the designed and rigid system parameters. Let’s become flexible and allow the user to update these parameters so that the content can be stored correctly and accurately. This is to the benefit of everyone involved.
In addition, as an organisation, you need to ensure you chose an ECM platform that can adapt to your requirements. A key part of ECM is application integration, and it is no good utilising a platform that you cannot integrate easily with other business applications, or more to the point, with business application you are yet to purchase….
If ECM can fit into end users habits, almost seamlessly, then engagement of users is going to be far easier and greater. If we take this further, and provide ECM solutions that are more adaptive, more flexible and more readily and easily available to users, then ECM will become the cornerstone of any business, as it should be… It is thinking like this that has made me push for our own ECM platform and is why my company is working hard to get the new workFile ECM Vision platform ready. ECM has so much potential, the key is unlocking it for users – which ultimately benefits business…