ECM : State of the industry

28 05 2010

I have just been going through some of my “Friday” reading, and cam across a couple of articles that look at the May AIIM report called, “State of the ECM Industry 2010”. For a look at one of the articles, visit http://www.formtek.com/blog/?p=1331 and read Dick Weisinger quick review of the AIIM report.

Reading this got me thinking a lot more about the actual state of ECM and the businesses that use it, or who should be adopting it.

Drivers behind implementing ECM

There are numerous business drivers for ECM, and I have posted about savings and business drivers on this subject a number of times ( I have a series of posts on True ECM Savings which highlight many business drivers). But what were the “highlights” from the AIIM report.

Apparently the biggest reason to adopt ECM is to optimise business processes, which for me shows the link between ECM and BPM growing stronger and stronger. I no longer see ECM as separate to BPM, rather see the two as a single entity. It is also worth noting that this business driver was with a ratio of 2:1 when compared to compliance…Which is interesting and I believe shows the state of the economy and its impact on business thinking and drivers for investment…

Compliance came in as the second biggest driver for adopting ECM, and this is no surprise. Litigation, regulatory demands, financial reporting, audits and of course fines for non compliance means businesses have to take control of their content in a big way, and the only real way of doing this is by implementing good ECM and BPM practices.

Backing up these two main reasons as that 60% of new adopters cite “Content Chaos” as a business driver in its own right. This is in some ways a pre-cursor to driving for greater efficiency, but does highlight just how problematic varying forms of content can cause businesses, especially as they grow.

Finally, 37% cite “Green IT” benefits of ECM as a driver. Again this shows the state of the economy, not just thinking of the green benefits in the longer term, but how being “Green” can actual make real monetary savings  across any organisation.

The Sharepoint factor

Microsoft Sharepoint gets its own special mention in the report, mainly because it is the new mover so too speak in ECM, though I don’t see this as a pure ECM solution, simply because it lacks so many ECM type functions (again this is something I have posted about in the past). However, it does show that sharepoint has reduced the barriers to entry for ECM, especially at a departmental level.  Apparently 32% of companies have implemented Sharepoint in some way. It is also worth noting that only 11% of these though use SharePoint exclusively as their only ECM solution, probably due to its short comings as an outright ECM platform…

Cloud computing and SaaS

Now this is an interesting area, especially when looking at the barriers to entry into ECM and why SharePoint has seen such massive growth at the departmental level. SaaS really does provide even fewer restrictions to organisations wishing to use ECM, especially at the departmental level. So does this mean with the trend of SaaS that we will see SharePoint face stiff competition at the departmental level of implementations? My own feeling is yes….I have myself already been in talks with organisations that are looking for quick SaaS based solutions, rather than opting for SharePoint.

Apparently in the next 18months the number of companies using SaaS for Document Management (DM) will double to 12% and the number for Records management triple to 6%. I am a little more sceptical about this, especially with Compliance being the second biggest driver for adopting ECM. There are many issues with SaaS, cloud computing and compliance which means for many uses of ECM, SaaS and the cloud will face many issues….However, if you think of smaller uses of ECM at the departmental level, then yes, I can see a massive growth in the use of SaaS for some ECM type functions. Please note some…..

SaaS provides a real quick implementation of areas of ECM. However, it is very restrictive, not just by potential compliancy issues, but also by application integration barriers. If the biggest driver for ECM is business optimisation of processes, then these businesses will be looking to integrate their ECM platform with many other applications within the organisation. Doing this means, you won’t be looking to Cloud Computing or SaaS, as this really does and will limit the potential of integration and therefore the effects ECM can have on business process optimisation. So when looking at the figures in the AIIM report, you have to think of ECM in different ways, with various requirements and regulations….

Open Source

This is a surprise to me, with more organisations looking to open source based solutions. I myself am not a lover of open source solutions, I have always argued that they can never deliver the real security needed for business, and I stand by this. In addition, their cost savings are never as great as initially thought, and there are real concerns with ongoing maintenance and product road-maps. Apparently though, this won’t stop 9% of organisations using open source solution by 2012 (I am not so sure…)

The enterprise 2.0 and Social Media

Though organisations want to be seen as “Enterprise 2.0” many don’t know what this is, or have any idea how to actually go about implementing this lovely idea. Social Media technologies, well their use, is on the up within businesses, you need only look at how many organisations use Twitter and blogging tools on the web. These are key tools to an organisations marketing, communications and PR, however for many they are overlooked as actual organisational content, which is wrong.

29% of respondents view enterprise 2.0 as signification to their organisations business goals, looking at such things as knowledge sharing, collaboration and coordination, making ECM a core technology for them. However, there is a down side to Social media, and that is the negative impact it can have on productivity, with, unfortunately, many employees wasting more time on these websites than actually doing work. The only surprise knowing this, is that only 45% of companies bar access to Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and instant messaging.

A good illustration of the lack of understanding that social media interaction is still organisational content, is that 80% of companies that use Twitter and blogs, do not archive the data, nor have real access to the data from their internal systems (ECM or others).

Last word….

All in all the industry looks set to grow, and there are many newish areas in which ECM can bring new benefits to organisations, social media being the most obvious. However, there are areas where things don’t add up in the AIIM report, the growth of SaaS compared to the quest for full compliance being just one area. In addition, I haven’t read anything about mobile based ECM and the need to access repositories and content across multiple devices, something I feel will become increasingly important in the next 24 months, perhaps more so than SaaS…

No matter what, the next 24 months will be interesting within the ECM market, with lots of new drivers and solutions bubbling to the surface I am sure…

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Don’t use IT to provide SEO and SMO!

27 05 2010

Let’s face it, who hasn’t had an email stating that IT company x promises to get you No 1 in Google’s natural rankings….Its promises like these that really do give areas of IT a bad name….However, is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) something that companies should look to IT organisations to provide? In addition, should these same IT companies provide Social Media Optimisation (SMO)?

If you are someone looking at SEO and SMO for your organisation, then read this post, I think it will no doubt save you a lot of time and money, and ensure you get the right people for the job….

What is SEO?

Well first off, don’t think that investing in SEO heavily will necessarily get you ranked no.1 in Google, Bing, Yahoo or whoever. Technically it isn’t about rankings; rather optimising your website to ensure key content is picked up and found by the search engines. However, this does lead to rankings, if your valid content can now be found by a search engine, then your rankings will improve compared against a users search criteria.

The technical side of things is all down to your web design company. Technically they should be the ones who implement any SEO changes in your website. But that’s it. They shouldn’t be providing you with SEO services as many people think of them. SEO is now linked directly with trying to rank your website higher in a search engine, and this is a far wider thing than just optimisation of a web page….Here you are talking about ensuring your content matches peoples searches, and that your content gets the message across. You are also talking about building links and partnerships with other organisations, contributing to online discussions and engaging in Social Media activities. These are all things that need to be done in order to affect your ranking, and bluntly, there is nothing here for IT to get involved with. If you think an IT company, or one of these SEO IT companies can help you here, you are setting your organisation up for a fall. Website rankings is about marketing, communications and PR. You don’t let your web designers write your copy for a brochure, deal with public relations or put together advertising for you do you? So why let a bunch of IT geeks loose with your on line presence…

SEO and SMO

Unfortunately, SEO is now not just SEO, it is all about rankings and presence. In this case, SEO now includes more elements than just optimisation of your website and the marketing / communications you put out through your web presence. With the big rise in Social Media, and its effects on organisations, SMO (Social Media Optimisation) is now a massive part in aligning your organisations online presence, marketing, communications and PR. All of these things have a massive knock on to your web presence and your ranking in search engines…

Looking at the bigger picture like this, you soon see that SEO and SMO are now so closely linked that they must almost be treated as one in the same thing.

Who should be carrying out SEO and SMO?

This is simple. You need to use someone with good marketing, PR and communications experience and skills. Obviously people will specialise in online areas and these are the kind of people you need to seek out. These are not IT based people or companies; they are marketing, communications and PR specialists…

I must also point out that SEO and SMO is not something you just do once and that’s it. If you want real success this is something you need to do day in day out, ensuring your customers can communicate with you through social media sites, but also so that your web presence grows, stays up to date and constantly refreshed. This is really the only way to ever really achieve good consistent rankings in search engines now, without this level of long term commitment, you can be sure you won’t be number one…

Conclusion

If you want to improve or increase your web presence you need to invest the time and effort into it. Remember the internet is the most competitive market place out there, there is no passing trade past your bricks and mortar shop front, so you need to be constantly innovative in how you make people aware of your business and what you have to say…The tools are out there, you just need to ensure you use the right people and commit to it 100%. Only when you do this will your organisation achieve a lasting and highly ranked web presence not just within the big search engines, but in general….

If you are looking for a “quick win” and think the way forward is with an IT SEO company, then remember, you have been warned….





Change Management, simply a process

26 05 2010

In the past 10 days or so, I have had some strange conversations with regards to Change Management, what is it, what does it do, are there dedicated change management solutions out there, etc. Etc…. 

It’s weird, as Change Management does get a lot of press, it’s one of those weird IT things where something that has always been done, gets recognition and is marketed as some new methodology or software that will solve your business woes….

So what is change management?

OK, I am going to be blunt. Don’t get caught up with definitions of change management, it is no methodology and shouldn’t be seen as a single standalone piece of software that will help your organisation. Change Management is simply one of many business processes your organisation partakes in probably every day. Change management is the process of changing something internally within the business. It could be something physical, like a server, it could be something bigger, like the way in which certain processes are performed, the introduction of new software applications across the business or maybe even a change in business direction. Whatever change it is, it is a business process that starts off when change is identified, and is only completed once the change has been fully implemented…

So, Change Management should be treated no different to any other internal processes your organisation has. The only difference, and the reason why Change Management has so much press, software tools etc. is that unlike other processes, it is a “universal process” across all businesses, something that all businesses have in common…..

How to implement change management

I am not going to actually say “this is how you should implement change management”, rather I would suggest that you make sure you have a structured process in place for change management at worst, and a highly adaptive one at best. It is a little weird, as change management is a great argument for adaptive and highly flexible BPM, with initial processes being identified, only to adapt to the requirements of each individual type of change identified within an organisation. Change management, and the way the business goes about change, needs to be very flexible based on each type of change the business is undergoing…. This is why, when implementing change management, I always suggest tying change management processes into a flexible BPM solution….

The big thing to remember is, that a piece of work within a change management process (more like processes) can be very different to the next. With this in mind, take for example the upgrade of a new physical server, the things that need doing to make this happen are very different to the things needed to change the company branding (images etc) for example. These are both forms of change, and both should be managed as such, however, the change management solution needs to be flexible enough to identify the differences between the two types of change in this very basic example…Because of this, adaptive solutions are best at helping an organisation deal with change, and more importantly deal with change quickly….

There are arguments that, formal change management controls and processes, actually slow down change, and make an organisation less flexible. This can be true if your Change Management processes are highly rigid. However, with adaptive processes, the process of change itself, can become adaptive and flexible, enough to ensure change management does not slow down the processes of change, rather ensure that change runs quickly and smoothly…

Change Management tools

I am a great believer in “tools” as long as they fit into the bigger picture. There are many change management tools out there, some of which no doubt help organisations take control of the process of change. However, when thinking about tools, always (like everything else) think how does this tool fit into our business, can it integrate with current software etc. Great tools should be able to be integrated with a good BPM platform, ensuring flexibility of the change process…

 Quick conclusion…

Change management is nothing more than a process within your organisation. Just remember that this process and the work within it, may vary highly depending on the type of change that you are undertaking. Because of this, change management processes should form an important part of your BPM process members. The BPM platform you use (if you wish to implement change management through BPM) needs to be highly flexible and adaptive to your change management needs..





User features to help ECM adoption

20 05 2010

In the past couple of weeks, this has been playing on my mind quite a bit. As a vendor, what can ECM software provide to make life far easier for users to really adopt ECM and ensure as much content as possible makes its way into the repository? Now, I don’t want this to turn into some woolly post with lots of comments that really don’t mean much, and I want to steer clear of those generic sentances that ECM so often throws up, the ones along the lines of “interface simpler and cleaner yet facilitates greater functionality and efficiency”…great, what does that actually mean…

This post is more of a conversation, than your typical blog, and I want to get people involved here to really put real life ideas forward. Some of them may seem very “out there” but thinking outside of the box is really the only kind of thinking that makes radical changes. So speak up….

I have thought of some things to get the ball rolling, I don’t want to put too much into the post itself as often that seems to get people just agreeing, or disagreeing, as I said, I want people to put forward their own thoughts and ideas…

Out of the box solutions

These are tough, and are required to provide accessibility for SMEs to ECM and to also allow larger enterprises to roll out department by department with an initially low investment. However, out of the box solutions and applications often are “clunky”, so a couple of things spring to mind here….

  1. Let’s let the user configure the “look” of the application. As soon as a user can “tailor” something, they have a little more interest in it. Just look what we all do to our own Windows backgrounds and icons for example
  2. Increase application usability. Be this using things such as drag and drop or something else. I like drag and drop, but I also like context menus and intelligence in the application shown, knowing what sort of content I am working with and only providing me with valid “drop zones” or context menu options…
  3. Mix desktop and the web. I am a strong believer in using the desktop to deliver greater user experiences but we need the flexibility of the web.
  4. Ease of uploading files. Need to be able to make this quick and easy, and not have to ask a user to do a hell of a lot of indexing….
  5. Custom searching. Let’s make it easy for users to create search templates, and save them.

I am sure there are other points that should be raised for out of the box applications, but these are just some starting points. So comment away…..

Application integration

This is always a big thing for me, the more applications that ECM can integrate with, the easier it is to adopt and more of the benefits of ECM are realised within the organisation. So what are we thinking here:

  1. Easy to use ECM tools within typical office applications, such as MS Office
  2. Background integration. By this I mean, automatically reading content out of an application and placing it within the repository.
  3. Tie together key index fields with other systems key fields. Think CRM and overlap the customer details (maybe their account number) with the ECM based content. This makes integration far easier, while also allowing the two systems to work independently but with the same information
  4. XML Web Service availability so that any other application can pull in / integrate with the ECM platform. Web services are a great way of doing this, and really should become the standard for which all ECM APIs are written with….

Ok, I will stop here now. There are so many areas to look at here, and I would love to hear what people think, be you a designer, a developer, a business decision maker, an end user, a BA etc etc.

I look forward to the conversation…