Adaptive capabilities deliver content as an asset

14 01 2011

I have spoken about adaptive capabilities quite a bit in the past 8 months, but today’s is a high level look at why adaptive capabilities will help ECM & BPM deliver content as an asset to an organisation, and why as an asset, this can lead to greater innovation within the organisation.

The current state

The current state of ECM and BPM within organisations is pretty good. In 2010 I believe we saw many more organisations starting to understand the potential capabilities of both of these technologies (probably more so BPM). However, there are reasons why both ECM and BPM aren’t rolled out across more departments within an organisation (let alone the complete enterprise). Most of these focus around the rigidity of both solutions, in terms of how they work, and how an end user can choose to work with them.

Because of this, content as an asset does get lost when looking across the complete enterprise. This means as an asset, a business is not seeing the whole picture, which means innovation based on a particular asset (content and process in this case) is simply never found…

Rigid definitions

Both ECM and BPM need some investment upfront (in terms of time to define elements of the solution). For ECM you need to invest time and effort with key staff (and probably a consultant) in defining rigid class definitions, ways in which you want content to be stored and accessed by. With BPM this time investment is far greater, as key staff along with a BA in most cases, need to identify work, how different types of work are processed and all the things that user needs to complete work.

The problem here is that while for departmental implementations this can be annoying and time consuming, these annoyances escalate with each department and with the maintenance of the solution. Though the business defines this content and processes, and in many ways its value, it is unable to do this quickly and easily at all times.

If our ECM / BPM solution is far more adaptive, then the business has a bigger ongoing stake in what’s going to happen with content as an asset. This means the value of content has increased, and because of this, and the adaptive capabilities, ECM & BPM is then deployed into more and more departments. With greater deployment comes greater value from content as an asset, which ultimately leads to more research into what to do with that asset, and how it can be used as a valuable and ongoing asset to the business. Adaptive capabilities here really then unlocks the door to greater innovation within the organisation.

Adaptive adaptive adaptive

Adaptive capabilities allows the business to rapidly adapt their systems in terms of content definitions (ECM) and how the organisation works with that content (Process definitions – BPM). With an adaptive solution, especially one that takes a far more holistic implementation (merging CRM, ECM, BPM into a single silo), the business can manage the content asset far more easily and have far more visibility of that asset from all directions. Because of this, rolling out the solution is made easier across the enterprise. The business stake in content as an asset increases with each departmental roll out.

An ECM & BPM platform is there to help organisations become more efficient and to allow them to innovate. An adaptive platform will allow businesses to innovate around how they use content as an asset, simply because they have far greater accurate and flexibly control over that asset and the processes that relate to it. From here innovation becomes more obvious, easier to implement and businesses can reap the rewards of understanding content as an asset.

So while there are many obvious technical and business benefits of adaptive ECM and BPM, the adaptive capabilities open up yet more doors to organisations in managing and leveraging content and processes. Adaptive solutions increase the value of content to any organisation…

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Convergence of BPM and Case Management

7 12 2010

In the past weeks I have talked and tweeted quite a bit about bringing together silos to deliver better solutions and experiences to business. The big silos I have spoken about are ECM, CRM and BPM. However, some people have pointed out that I haven’t spoken about Case Management (our technical director is one of them), and he / they are quite correct. So why haven’t I?

Well it’s quite simple, number one, I simply forgot (takes a brave man to admit that doesn’t it) and number two, though I always state Case Management isn’t BPM, the two really should be seen as one from the business perspective…Which means my silos being brought together, should be ECM, CRM, BPM and Case Mgmt. Phew…

In the past I have banged on about Case Management not being BPM, and have had a good moan about those vendors and consultants that push case management as if it was / is. However, in my vision of the future (especially that of workFile), I believe business should see BPM and Case Management as the same thing…Oh, and if you’re not sure, case management is not just for law firms, rather case is just a term for a process / work that has to be done…

Case Management isn’t the same as BPM

Case Management isn’t the same as BPM, well not the same when you look at case management and BPM vendor solutions. BPM is far more structured, follows process maps (more often than not) and is used for clearly defined processes. Case Management is used for more ad-hoc and “loose” processes within an business. So they aren’t the same…

If you look at BPM as a practice, you will also find it doenst fit with Case Managemetn theory. Rather BPM as a practice is all about mapping and understanding flows of work, putting together processes etc etc. Case Management is more about just identifying work, and lumping it together in a case…

Case management and BPM are the same

Ok, here we go…Forgot vendors, forget lengthy definitions by technical or marketing people trying to sell you something. Case Management and BPM are the same thing. BPM is, Business Process Management. It’s all about managing business processes in a structured, more controlled fashion. So what is case management? Well it’s all about managing business processes in a structured fashion…So you see, they are the same thing, its just our “practices” and software interpretations that make them very very different.

Bringing BPM and Case Management together

There are many good points for both as individual silos. For example, BPMS works great for simplish, highly repetitive, medium-high volume business processes. It can raise efficiency and streamline work. However, thats only for a handful or processes within an orgasnisation, hardly enterprise wide is it (don’t let anyone tell you it is). So for those processes that are still high value, but not so simple or repetitive we have an issue…

On the other hand, case management has no real flow of work, no steps or structure for each step along the process, so it isn’t great for areas where BPM can excel. But, Case Management is great for ad-hoc type processes, or exception processing, which is exactly where we see many case management implementations (sometimes even tied to BPM implementations).

But what of those processes that are complex, highly collaborative, require an adaptive approach, still require some form of structure. These types of processes can be found right across the enterprise…Well that the big problem isn’t it…What do you use…

My vision is for a single silo approach (ECM, CRM, BPM and Case Management). If you take the best from BPM, and the best from Case Management, and ditch the areas that are restrictive (strict case and work definitions, BPM structured flowchart maps) then you are well on the way to a solution for the enterprise…

Case and BPM Evolution

Our own product, workFile, is to incorporate the good points of our BPM platform, and to remove the rigid restrictive areas (namely the flowchart map). In addition, build on the flexible components of Case Management, while removing the rigid definitions of a case and work that makes up a case.

Here you can see that our BPM is moving towards Case Management, and Case Management is moving towards BPM, it’s almost like evolution of the two bring them together as one, quite naturally. Though I aim to speed this evolution up at least within our own company, I don’t fancy waiting millions of years for this to happen. Even in IT evolution can take its time, simply because we have x number of vendors sticking to their definitions and solutions, x number of consultants doing the same and x number of businesses not understanding the benefits of something new…

With workFile Vision we aim to implement this evolution though. However, we will throw into the mix real adaptive capabilities. And by that I mean adaptive processing and process definitions, allowing agents to update the process, allowing agents to define and update the type of work that is done within processes and allowing agents to discover and create new ones. The only way of truly being this adaptive and flexible, is to bring Case Management and BPM together, and throw away anything rigid. Its almost a case of unlearning what we come to expect from BPM and Case Management solutions, vendors and consultants…

Finally, lets take things further and ensure our solution understands CCS (content, context, status) of all its components at any moment in time. To really ensure that, you need a single silo to incorporate your content (ECM), to incorporate your customer relationships (CRM) and your working processes (BPM and Case Management).

The benefit here is a solution that can be used for every process within an organisation, right across the enterprise. It’s a solution that gives staff some form of empowerment and say in how work is done. It’s a solution that provides structure, ensures process efficiency and ensure compliancy and accountability, all while delivering flexibility and agility to an organisation…

Conclusion

BPM is Case Management, and Case Management is BPM…Well it should be with a little evolution…With a little more evolution, you end up with a single silo for ECM, CRM, BPM and Case Management, and its not that hard to see why…





Why BPM, ECM and CRM struggle with Social Media

26 11 2010

There are a number of reasons why individual projects struggle with social media, hell there are many reasons why organisations continue to get social media “wrong”, but in this post I want to look at why these three “silos” fail to get to grips with social media….

Very much individual silos

Now this may at first not seem to be a bad thing. But when you think more on the subject you start to see issues. There are big areas of cross over amongst these three, massive even, yet they still are considered individual (and they should be for the time being, because almost all vendors see these as single silos).

Social Media though is very flexible, and the end user (customer) expects to be able to interact with the organisation via Social Media (especially Twitter and Facebook), and what’s more they expect whoever communicates with them to understand their “account”, or “details”. But this form of interaction within Business at the moment still wants to be highly structured. The comment may be viewed as content, but the process that may be kicked off by that interaction is very much in the BPM world of things. So immediately you have twigged that all three, ECM, CRM and BPM are required to deal with a single interaction…

So the first big problem here is that ideally, each “silo” (BPM, ECM, CRM) should know and understand what I term as CCS, and in this case of the other silo as well as itself.  CCS being “Content, Context, Status”. As individual silos though, this is hard to actually do. Sure we can put together some costly integration, but this integration is at certain points and offers certain information, so does this type of integration understand CCS?

Too structured too rigid…

Let’s now through into the equation that all three, ECM, CRM and BPM are very rigid. ECM requires that you know the type of content and often that you state its “type”. However, social media means we could be talking about anything, so a tweet could go over any number of “types” within our ECM platform, or it may warrant a new type, a new classification. This is where we have an issue, ECM is too rigid to adapt to the new requirement, that our agent has discovered there and then. This leads to a hell of a lot of content being dropped into rather large, and not that useful classifications, probably “Social Media” as its type…Great use…But this is nothing compared to the issue we now find with BPM…

BPM enforces strict processes on our agents, they follow (almost all vendors do this) a flow chart approach and as such, means we cannot move away from that process. How frustrating is that for an end user? Knowing that something different needs to be done, but having to allow the social interaction to trigger off a very strict process flow which could be completely wrong…

Finally CRM. Our CRM silo is often at this stage completely unaware of anything at all. If it is integrated it may have a “tab” for “Corres” which means a big old list of correspondence with the customer that is documented. That’s fine for 10 years ago. But now imagine the number of “corres” records stored that may make up a rather simple interaction between the customer and your business. You could have any number from 1 or 2, up to hundreds, and that’s just on a single topic being raised via social media….

The solution?

Here I have a couple of pointers for a far better solution….

A Holistic approach. As a business, demand a holistic approach, not just for social media requirements (though it serves as a great example of illustrating the problem), but in general. With a holistic approach, the solution delivers far more accurate information to the agent. It empowers them with all the information they need. Think of all the customer information they may need to have to hand to understand the customer, all the related content, the context and of course the status of the interaction. Now think of the variety of work this form of interaction could generate. What the problem could be? Is it a problem or a serious complaint? If a complaint, what areas of the business does it relate too? (The potential for work is huge, which leads me onto my second pointer…

Adaptive work processes. Note I haven’t said BPM here. BPM I feel is far too restrictive (based on the version of BPM put forward by most vendors and BPMS as a practice). However, we are talking about processes that the business executes. In this situation the agent needs to understand what process to kick off. However, it could be a brand new one. In this case that agent needs to be able to identify that processes, the work that needs to be done and then, kick it off.

Single Silo for ECM, BPM and CRM. As a business, a great opportunity arises to use vendors that provide a single silo for ECM, BPM and CRM. Not only does a single silo provide a far better solution to deal with Social Media, but it provides a far better solution full stop. A single silo will understand CCS at all times, be you in a process, simply looking at content or reviewing customer details. A single silo also simplifies the agents experience, while delivering flexibility to them to allow them to do their jobs. There are of course other big benefits, think of savings on licensing, think of savings on administration and think of savings made on integration costs / development / that classic which so many vendors term as config (which is development).

Conclusion…

Social Media has shown a real weakness in the way we currently structure a business in terms of delivered IT. We use IT now very much on a “product” basis. Business purchases a product for x, a product for y and if x and y need to talk, look at integration. However, a bespoke solution would have been better, one that incorporated x and y…But bespoke just isn’t something business wants to hear (probably because they cost more and because businesses have been burnt with bespoke development in the past)

…The solution is for “products” to deliver more and merge x and y itself. A break away from single silo approaches is required, and ECM, BPM and CRM are very obvious silos that should all be as one, the social media problem illustrates a bigger issue…





workFile Vision. A change in direction

12 11 2010

Today’s post is very much centred on Business Process Management (BPM), Enterprise Content Management (ECM), Customer Relationship Management (CRM)…

 Some of you may keep an eye on the news from my company, One Degree Consulting. If you have, you will know that our workFile ECM & BPM side of the business (platform) will be going through a transition phase in the coming weeks and months. We have effectively torn up our existing road map for version 2.0 of the workFile Vision product, and put together a new one. This new one with some big, well massive, changes to how we see the future of IT in business, the future for business solutions, the future for SMEs access to solutions and consequently to the Vision solution itself…

In the coming weeks, workFile and One Degree will publish more information on the changes, and the effects these will have on the Vision suite, and how these big changes will provide benefits to business.

In this post though, I want to give a quick outline to what some of these changes in thinking are, what the changes are in the Vision product, and what the drivers are that led to this drastic new thinking…

Single Silo…That singular degree of separation

workFile is, if you didn’t know, an ECM and BPM platform. However, it also allows records management and with that, the ability for CRM to an extent. Other business focused modules are built on top of the records management capabilities. However, all of these are very separate modules and silos, only aware of small fragments of data that can be shared between the two, effectively linking that content and making it of bigger use to an end user…

So what’s the big idea? Well the big change is to move away from a multiple silo approach, and to bring these different elements closely together, effectively delivering a single silo solution for ECM, BPM, CRM, Records Management, and dynamic content processing and capture. The CRM module will be a thing of the past, and a dedicated customer focused section of workFile built (not on top of Records management functionality not seen as a separate module).

In essence, ECM, BPM, CRM etc will become modules of the past, superseded by a new way of looking at how we work as individuals, teams and as an organisation, and also how your organisation communicates and engages with its customers…All of these elements seen as one…

So how do we achieve this with the new version of workFile Vision?

Through state awareness, user empowerment and adaption. The concept here is to ensure true state awareness between the user, the customer, the content and the process. BY process, I don’t mean a rigid path, which work must follow, rather a process guide, which is highly adaptive to the content needs, the needs of the customer and the needs of the user.

In addition, the singular UI and underlying capabilities of workFile – to allow real team working on items of work, makes life a lot easier for the agent to collaborate and process their work. This may not sound like anything that new, but it supports newer ways of working. We have a vision that people will work more as teams on individual pieces of work, effectively pulling together on items of work, not in a collaborative fashion but in a real sense of working together. This is a big move away from BPM and Case Management as it is today, with the concept that we work as individuals and move work along at the centre of work / process thinking.

Max J Pucher has a great article on the future of work, in which he talks of users “swarming” to do work. In it he also states that by 2015, 40% or more of an organisations work will be non-routine, which is currently at 25%.  Take the time to read his blog, it is very informative… Have a read of his article, http://isismjpucher.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/the-future-of-work/ )

More than a single silo…

A single silo that supports content, customers, additional records and the process information is the best approach. In addition, interconnectivity and multiple feeds of data will mean not only will users need greater perceptive skills, but their software needs to be able to deliver this to them in an easy to identify and work fashion.

workFile though provides real flexibility in terms of content, status and structured data. This allows the flexibility to teams to create new structured data records on the “fly” and in essence joining them directly to their work (which could be content based, customer based etc.) This may all sound complex, but essentially it is quite simple…Its how we would naturally work without the rigidity of structured processing…(BPM).

Distribution…

Though we are moving to a single silo, this doesn’t mean a centralised solution. On the contrary, we believe that departmental distribution is key to freedom and success. So workFile will support a greater level of distributed processing, with departments being able to create their own content guides, their own process guides, rules etc. But, this doesn’t mean we are allowing duplication. Commonality between departments will be identified and illustrated, and wherever applicable (and suitable) shared between them.

It’s a team approach

Working in “swarms” sounds quite fun, but in essence it means tightly knit teams, working together quickly and efficiently. Traditional BPM presumes we work on pieces of work as individuals, then move it along to the next person. Sure occasionally we will allow “branches” in the processing, or splitting of items of work, but it doesn’t support multiple people working on the same piece of work at the same time. So, with this in mind, Vision 2.0 will support a more team approach to working, and will ditch the rigidity of its traditional BPM platform, which was used for defining how users work.

Social Media

While social media is taking off, organisations either see this as some wonderful marketing tool or as something they need to get control of. However, social activities and social media sites, conversations etc are becoming increasingly part of a team’s working day. These conversations and interactions aren’t carried out at a set time, they aren’t structured in their content and don’t form strong ties between you as an organisation and your customers. In addition, they are often disjointed, with an organisation not being able to tie social media engagement with a customer, to a customer record for example.

So the trick is to ensure interactions can be processed by the right people, that the right people provide good information, and that Social Media is seen as a form of engagement and conversation, not just free marketing. In addition, the content generated from these interactions allow a flexible way of working, after all, the customer may send requests that don’t follow a strict pattern, and as such, the user must be able to facilitate these requests flexibly. This content should also be recorded and brought into the solution, so that other team members have all the information they need to help….

workFile will become a lot more social, interacting with typical social media websites, and allowing users the freedom to interact in an expected fashion.

Flexibility, adaption and yet accountable

Organisations and management want to have full control, however, if they do, things become too rigid, too centralised and ultimately inflexible. So, the solution is to trust our workers, to empower them and let them do their jobs. Sure we need to ensure quality, service level agreements etc. but this can be done through guidelines and empowering users. Accountability will always still be there, with solutions recording all interactions and use. But the point is, the user has the power to process the work how they wish (to an extent obviously, certain rules have to be in place for compliance).

The big winners of Vision 2.0

So who is workFile Vision to be aimed at? Well the big winners at first will be SMEs, simply because workFile is used mainly by organisations that fall into the SME category (with the odd exception). The new version will be able to drive the cost of IT and these types of solutions down for SMEs…

However, larger organisations can easily benefit from this new way of thinking and working. If anything, while SMEs will see benefits due to a smaller investment, larger organisations will not only share in this benefit, but will also see dramatic increases in productivity and efficiency. All of this with the reduction in administration and licensing costs…..See, we didn’t call it Vision for nothing.

Finally, a change in name…

Finally, the workFile ECM & BPM platform name will be no more. Though Vision is the product suite, both the terms ECM and BPM will be replaced from the workFile company name. Why? Simply because workFile will offer a lot more, and it deserves a new description of what it delivers…The marketing people can think of something I am sure….





NHS needs to get efficient…It needs ECM and BPM

14 06 2010

Let’s face it the NHS is a great example of diseconomies of scale, and a great example of the lack of administration efficiency is shown with the amount of paper that is getting generated and pushed around. In the past 2 years, the boards of NHS trusts, created at least 22 million paper documents over the past two years. If that figure itself isn’t a little worrying, then just think, we are only talking about documents generated for communications to senior managers and to each other! The South West Essex Trust alone generated 333,000 documents, that’s just mad…

The department of health spent close to half a billion pounds in fees to external consultants in the year 2009-2010, so why has no one in the NHS really adopted ECM on a large scale? Just looking at these paper figures alone, it is very clear that each NHS trust should be using some form of ECM solution.

So just what could ECM do to help make savings in the NHS and raise efficiency? Well for starters, it can remove the majority of the paper costs, increase the efficiency of sharing knowledge, rationalise communications through knowledge and content sharing and increase collaboration.

I don’t want this post to turn into a long list of all the benefits of ECM, I have written many other posts on these and there are so many out there, rather it was just to highlight the fact that the NHS should be embracing Enterprise 2.0 concepts, ECM and BPM.

I will leave you with this thought, the health watchdog, the King’s fund, reports that while the number of staff rose 35% from 1999 to 2009 (to 1,117,000), the number of managers rose by 85%! Now please someone find me any example in the public sector where this kind of in-efficiency and top heavy organisation is a success….I bet you can’t, because any organisation in the private sector that was run in this fashion would be long bust…The NHS needs to get efficient just like any private sector organisation, it needs BPM, ECM and hell of a lot of dead wood removing…





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…





Can we help business users engage more with ECM

23 04 2010

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….

Habits

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.

Becoming adaptive

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….

 

Quick conclusion…

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…