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 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…

Integration is Key (ECM / BPM / Social media)

11 11 2009

For many years I have waved the banner for single application experiences for end users. If you can deliver a single application that allows the end user to carry out all their work, gain access to all the files they require, interact with many other LOB applications (without knowing it), just think what a positive impact that would have on any organisation. Think how better informed that user will be, how much improved their decision making will be, how much customer services will be improved along with customer satisfaction, and also, think how much of a gain that organisation will make in efficiency, productivity and ultimately profitability…

Integration has long been the key to this ideal, and ECM and BPM often show how this can work, integrating with key LOB applications.


The problem is that people want everything to integrate without putting any effort in. This means that organisations spend a lot of money in getting applications to integrate with other companies applications and software. While this can be great for the customer (if you have the same selection of applications and software) it isn’t always practicle. Throw into the mix different operating systems, different versions of software and the daddy of all, different business requirements from that integration….All of a sudden you see how muddy the water can get and just how complicated system integrations can be, and why that single application experience is so hard to achieve…


With the bright invention of XML has come a whole host of ways of integrating applications. It has provided the bridge between old COM and COBRA components, interopability between application components, and most importantly, delivered us XML Web Services and Service Orientated Architectures (SOA).

I love XML Web Services and the capabilities these alone can open up to organisations. If applications deliver good APIs through web services, then integration is made so much easier, be it integration “out of the box” with connectors, or more efficiently through actual developers and professional services.

Is Social Media leading the way here?

Yes…There you go, a nice short answer. Basically Social Media is leveraging web services (especially RESTful services) to allow integration between web sites / applications. Take the recent joining of forces of LinkedIn with Twitter. LinkedIn can now pull in your “tweets” and have these shown as status updates within your LinkedIn profile. Now think back to a business environment and you can see how using one application therefore effects data / content on another application / area of the business. This type of seamless integration is what adds real efficiency gains across an enterprise.

One Degree of Separation

When I founded One Degree Consulting, one of my main aims for the consultancy was to be able to provide consultancy services and solutions that delivered a single degree of separation between the end user, the data / content, and the functions they required to do their job. This may sound a little idealistic, but it can be achieved and should be the goal of business decision makers in all organisations. To be blunt, to achieve this, application integration is key and should be at the forefront of any decision making when it comes to IT based projects and solutions.

If Social Media sites hadn’t have seen how powerful joining forces could be and had maintained a closed API that couldn’t easily be integrated, then the whole point of Social media and sharing may well have been lost….Businesses, take a leaf out of their book, think integration for everything…Its key….

ECM barely being used?

10 11 2009

Today’s post has been inspired by some web reading I have been doing earlier this morning. Open Text, (one of the largest ECM players) have made claims that ECM is still only in 20% of the available market, and that tools just aren’t being used by corporations. From my experience, this is probably true, and of the 20% that do have ECM, I would say 10% of these, just don’t use their ECM capabilities correctly if at all.

Is this a worrying fact for ECM?

Well probably not. ECM in some form or name (Document Management, Image Management, EDMS etc) has been around now since the 80’s, however, it is still an immature sector, and still seen as a very niche market place. Often customers of mine state ECM hampered by far too much jargon and far too much emphasis on out of the box connectors across the complete enterprise. This “enterprise” view, can often scare organisations away from looking at the benefits ECM can bring to each department for example.

Back to basics

Organisations and more importantly their users, sometimes don’t get how to use ECM correctly, and it’s not surprising. Many of the users, and business decision makers, will think nothing is wrong with saving files down onto their local machine (or network share), and organising these folders in a logical way. In addition, users when on their home PC won’t really be using anything that resembles ECM, though there are plenty of reasons why perhaps they should…

This is where education of what ECM can provide is really needed. The whole profile of ECM within the corporate world, and small business world, needs to be raised. Because of this lack of understanding or profile if you like, it is often hard to communicate to businesses just what a positive effect ECM would have for the overall running of their organisation. Of course over time, more and more businesses will grasp the many benefits and real world savings ECM brings to businesses, but hopefully this will not be so far down the line that the market place has only a few massive players left.

The large players provide really powerful solutions, and very powerful demonstrations, backed up with great consultancy work and number crunching to illustrate ROI and future efficiency gains and savings. However, sometimes you can take a good thing too far. Often the case for ECM should be a basic one, leveraged at a departmental level, as opposed to the complete Enterprise. By addressing an organisations needs, department by department, you vendors ensure real business requirements are met immediately and that they are not lost in the mass of other requirements when looking at an enterprise as a whole. It’s also worth  noting that organisations purchasing ECM will not be so worried about implementation complications etc. when only looking at an individual department, things are simpler.

Going forward

As vendors, let’s keep things simple, let’s try to raise the profile of ECM and its benefits, let’s try to remove some of the jargon behind ECM and let’s sometimes step back from the concept of a solution for the whole Enterprise. If we do these things, business decision makers will find it easier to grasp the many benefits of ECM and when this happens, ECM will be being used in many many more organisations. Correctly I hope…

Document and file retrieval metadata

28 08 2009

Far too much focus is made today on providing complex retrieval fields within ECM solutions, and far too much is made of them from customers. For sure, inherited values and properties can be of great use, but when you start to look at your actual requirements, far too often retrieval fields are simply made too complex.

Points to remember

When designing your retrieval fields, metadata or indexes (whatever you wish to call them), keep in mind just what a user will want / need to do to actually locate this file / document. Here is a quick list to help you:

  1. How much information will the user have on a file?
  2. How much time do you want to allow them to enter search information
  3. How can your metadata fields actually assist in this
  4. What sort of results will be brought back and how clear will these be to the user (clear as in how can they quickly see the file they want)

Many systems recently spend a lot of time on very accurately identifying files, however, by doing this they also make it very complex at the data capture stage (scanning and indexing) and also require the user to spend longer setting up their search.

Keep it simple

When designing / identifying metadata fields for files, always try to make and keep things as simple as possible.

First things first, identify the types of files you are storing. This doesn’t mean pdf, word, tiff etc. rather it relates to their type within your business. So some examples may include personnel files, expense claim forms, insurance claim form, phone bill, customer details etc. (dependent on your business).

Once you have made this identification, we get onto the point of retention. How long will a particular file type stay “live”, then move to an “archive” then be completely deleted. When doing this you may find that you logically have some separation of files appearing. NB only create a new classification of file type if it is needed. Don’t do it as some logical separation, rather classifications should only be created to separate either groups of metadata or address such issues as migration and retention periods.

The tricky part is to now identify the metadata fields associated with your types of files. I would always suggest you try to keep these as simple as possible and try not to use more than 7 fields to identify a file. This is where often designers get carried away using inherited fields from different objects within the repository. This is all well and good and can really help in displaying search results back to users (or a heirachyy of files back to a user). However what I try to do is the following:

  1. Imagine you don’t know if there are other files out there in the system (nothing to inherit from)
  2. Identify at least one key field (policy number, customer  number, telephone number etc)
  3. Provide a list of options to the type of file it is (Date of birth certificate, driving license, claim form, phone contract, interview, recorded conversation etc)
  4. Only provide other fields that help logically identify this file from other files of the same type, or they help identify, for example, a customer entity within your business
  5. Provide as many “drop down list” options as possible. This ensures data is accurate and not reliant on spelling or interpretation
  6. Identify any metadata that may be “shared” with other file types. For example a Policy Number may be found on multiple types of files within multiple classifications of files. In addition Policy Number is unique within the business so therefore it can be used to tie together a number of files to a particular policy holder.

If you stick to these 5 principles you will find that 9 times out of 10 you will not have any call for using complex inheritance or complex storage concepts. You more than likely have also identified your classifications in full. Please note that your file types along with classification will also 9 times out of 10 provide you with enough criteria to accurately assign security information to these files.

Once you have identified how information is to be retrieved, think about what information could be automatically captured at the data capture side of things. This sometimes illustrates fields that could be used to help identify files at retrieval; it also sometimes identifies fields that really aren’t appropriate.

Showing results

Often your retrieval system will display results of searches in a format which isn’t always that great to you or your business needs. This is why there are so many “professional services” offered to customers of such systems. As a customer, linking objects together, even showing them in a “tree view” type fashion can help the end user. However, this isn’t a call for inherited properties, rather a call to logically display business related information.

Also remember different types of searches can require different ways of displaying search results. This is sometimes overlooked by designers and system providers to the detriment of the user experience.

Finally, always think past the retrieval process. Once a user has found the file they want they will need to interact with it in some way, this could be to simply view its content or to pass on to another user etc.


I am a firm believer in keeping things as simple as possible and often adopt that IT term the “80 – 20” rule. Far too often IT tries to deliver too much, and in doing so it over complicates areas of the system or worryingly the business. When this happens more often than not a project can be seen as a failure, when really, by delivering less the customer gets more.

When putting together metadata for the retrieval of files remember to try and keep things as simple as possible. Identify key fields and not get carried away in capturing too much retrieval data. Also, always keep your end user in mind, so that’s the end user at the scanning and index stage and end users searching for files. Sticking to these simple rules will ensure you deliver a file retrieval system that works efficiently, quickly and well for your end users and your business…

True ECM Savings…#5

20 07 2009

This is my penultimate entry in this series of posts, and in this post I will be looking at Content Security in terms of not only access, but what happens to content in the case of flooding or fire (something that is often overlooked).

Flooding and Fires…

Not the nicest of titles, but it’s something every organisation must think about, “What happens to our content if the whole building goes up in smoke, or we are flooded out?” This is a question that is more often overlooked than you may think. I have visited many “large” organisations that really haven’t taken such disasters into consideration.

When storing files (especially paper) you will be amazed how often fires do crop up, simply do a search online and you will find examples of fires destroying organisations documents and content, including governmental records. A great example of disasters destroying content can be found looking at the after effects of hurricane Katrina. Warehouses full of content and documents relating to criminal prosecutions were lost, leading to hundreds of criminals being released, simply because the content couldn’t be retrieved electronically.

Now think of the actual cost to your organisation if you lost all of that content and documents. Not only may you be looking at issues regarding compliance, but no doubt massive costs will be incurred not to mention potential loss of business.

If all your content and documents are stored electronically, within a good ECM platform, these issues just aren’t there. Sure in some cases you may still want to store the physical paper, but this can be done off site at dedicated centres (outsourced). You still have access to all that content, even if the physical paper is destroyed. You can also distribute your backups of content easily; having backups at multiple sites ensuring that content is never lost.

And to think, I haven’t even mentioned theft of content…

Our content is secure without ECM?

Well no it isn’t. Paper is the most insecure form of storing content, think, if I can get physical access to the location of a file, anyone can read it, or worse, photo copy it and re-distribute as they choose. It really isn’t hard to open a file cabinet, pull out a file and start reading. Content security is more than just ensuring the office is locked at night, or having locks on the HR file cabinet.

It’s imperative that content is secured, in many cases for compliance, but in general, you cannot have employees looking at information they should have no access to. Think of the issues that may arise, loss of business to competitors, stolen ideas, staff suffering identity theft, I could go on.

Though many of us have watched Hollywood films with computer hackers gaining access to lots of sensitive information, and many of us have read about online hackers gaining access to our personal details, the reality is that electronic content is far more secure than paper.

With a good ECM solution, your content is secured in a number of ways, allowing you to grant different levels of access to content, dependent on individuals or their roles. You can also track just what files have been looked at and or any interactions with that content a particular user may have. No one can tamper with or replace a file, leaving you with false documentation. Such ECM solutions ensure content security is therefore controlled by the organisation itself, and not left open to any form of abuse.


ECM speeds up the way in which people work, by providing them with access to content when they need it. This remains true in the cases of natural disasters and theft. ECM also protects your organisations content and access to that content, reducing many content related risks.

This post can be seen as a post about highlighting the “potential” savings of ECM in times of crises. With this in mind, think of ECM as content insurance. You hope that none of these situations arise for your organisation, but if they do, you will be safe guarded and rewarded for your prudence, and save a lot of time and money.

True ECM Savings…#4

29 06 2009

In this post I am looking at collaboration, and how ECM saves money and promotes collaboration.

Getting everyone together

This is exaggerated when your staff are spread across multiple departments and locations. In todays global markets, talented individuals can often be spread out across the country and the globe. If this is the case, then your staff will have to travel and really set aside large chunks of time to get together.

Typically what happens in any size organisation, is that an eMail is sent with a number of files attached. This is usually some form of agenda and any documents that may be looked at during the meeting. People then decide a date, and get together, thrash out the discussions and changes, then someone types up the results and modifies the documents accordingly.  More often than not, such meetings take up large chunks of time, simply because everyone has to “get together” to collaborate. Such getting together results in some over-night stays, nice restaurant food, nice hotel and of course all on expenses…

Where are the savings?

Well first off, before I look at the complete obvious, let’s have a quick look at the IT side of things with what’s happening here. By sending a mail to multiple people with files attached to it, you actually use up a lot more space on your mail servers and place additional strain on your network. Why? Well this is because each file is copied for each recipient, something that your eMail providers wont like. By using ECM you can “share” content without you needing to attach a physical file. You simply attach a link into the website, this takes up no space and therefore frees up your mail server and network of the additional strain of copying and sending lots of physical files.

In the same way, everyone (with the correct security role) has access to the content required for the meeting. They can all view it electronically at the same time and even update files. So is there a need to “get people together”. Well yes, but not physically.

ECM provides the capabilities to collaborate and work in teams. A number of ECM platforms actually come with collaboration tools and virtual meeting type software. This means that ECM allows people to get together over the internet, and work on the files together from their own offices. You can if you choose still get everyone together, but in a virtual environment. Alternatively, this may not be a requirement, and people can still collaborate and share information without an actual meeting, real or virtual. Remember collaboration isn’t just about meeting and discussing, it’s about connecting and sharing, and in today’s web environment this can include the use of social media.

The savings

Well there are the savings on your IT infrastructure, bandwidth and mail server. These are hard to measure and pretty small, however, they are savings.

The big savings are around time and travel. Firstly, your staff don’t need to allocate large chunks of time to a single meeting, simply because they can collaborate through ECM. This means they can work more efficiently and spend greater time on actual work tasks rather than travel. Secondly, they don’t have to travel to the meeting. If travelling a long way, this saves greatly on travelling expenses and of course your organisations carbon footprint. Thirdly, overnight stay expenses, hotel fees, restaurants etc. All these add up, and by using an ECM platform you remove these additional costs on your organisation.

Finally ECM provides a real platform in which collaboration in all senses can take place. You don’t need to push physical paper around from department to department and even across countries. Teams don’t need to wait for other teams to finish with files, nor do they need to physically meet to discuss projects / move forward. ECM provides a platform that allows everyone to collaborate which raises efficiency, saves money and lowers an organisations carbon footprint…Now that’s a lot of savings over the course of a year…

Deploying ECM across the enterprise

23 06 2009

I was keeping the world up to date with my day on Twitter, when I read quite an interesting article based around an organisation looking to invest in ECM and deploy it in one lump across the whole of their enterprise.  The article was looking at the “main” players in ECM, so Oracle, IBM and EMC Documentum. It really highlighted the problems these companies had in pitching to the client, demonstrating their product and trying to show how this would work across the complete enterprise…

Having worked with all of these companies in some form in the past, I remembered just how great their platforms are, but also how heavily entrenched they are with marketing and hype. Putting together a demonstration was never a 5 minute job!

Deploying across the enterprise

This is a lovely idea, but in practice unbelievably hard to achieve (don’t listen to sales banter). I really don’t see how it can work well.

Let’s look at some of the basic challenges of deploying a single ECM solution across the complete enterprise in one go:

  1. Scale – If your enterprise sprawls across the UK, or even Europe and the world, think of the challenges you have of implementing the system, allowing access and dealing with distributed performance…None of these are show stoppers, but remember a lot of logistical work will be needed
  2. Training – Ok, how you going to train hundreds maybe thousands of users for a go live date?
  3. Individual requirements – different parts of your business will have different requirements / needs from their ECM platform and BPM
  4. Administration – again logistical challenges
  5. Support – you need to have in place vast support services

None of these points will stop a project; however each one requires a lot of thought, a lot of processes to be put into place and more importantly a lot of people with drive to ensure everything runs smoothly. However, point 3 (individual requirements) is potentially a show stopper, and it is this point that the large players in the ECM platform try to address with management, configuration, integration and mapping tools. These all demonstration well (when the sales agent gets it right) but actually require a lot of “professional services” to get them working to meet your actual requirement.

Delivering for everyone

It looks great in a demonstration, the presenter simply clicks on a wizard, answers some questions, fills in some datafields and hey presto, your system is integrated and reading in data from a third party. Wow. Likewise, the presenter clicks on a nice processing map, drags some icons onto the screen, joins them up, again ads some datafields and hey presto, you have a workflow….

Now this does look great in a demonstration. And in simple cases, this will work for you. However across the complete enterprise? Will it be flexible enough to meet everyone’s requirements? Are the simplish points of integration shown so well in a demonstration going to work like that for your organisation…….I am guessing a strong NO here is the answer.

These sorts of tools are great for demonstrations, even great for very simple integrations and maps, however the price you pay for such tools far outweighs their actual benefit to your organisation, unless of course you leverage some “professional services” to ensure the system meets your businesses complexities.

The investment…

So to achieve a massive roll out of ECM across your enterprise, you are looking at a massive investment in both time and financially, and then no doubt you will need to address individual units of requirements….All of these factors make it harder for your solution to succeed and deliver that promised ROI.

How would I go about things?

Well first things first. My ECM platform / purchase would not include fancy integrator and mapping modules. For me these add vast costs to the initial purchase and licensing, on top of which you have to purchase additional “professional services”. In my experience, it would work out cheaper to just pay for “professional services” to develop the integration (for example) with your other systems from scratch. Essentially this is more often than not what happens under the term “Professional configuration services” or something similar. However, you have also made a purchase for that integration module license in any case….

This is one of the reasons why I stopped working with the big ECM players, and decided to invest time and resources into our own ECM platform workFile ( We have not wasted time nor money investing in complex integration tools and modules, that look great in demonstrations, but fail to deliver real business benefit. Rather, we develop the integration you require specifically for an organisation, meeting 100% their requirements, based around our open XML Web Services API (something you should insist your ECM provider provides). The same applies to our business process maps, workFile utilises the development platform of Visual Studio to design process maps. Why? Well a developer has so much freedom here, so much so, they can code complex business rules, algorithms, calculations, integrate with numerous other systems and make the workflow work seamlessly for the end user, basically ensure the process map is the power behind the actual solution.

Secondly, look to deploy your ECM unit by unit, or department by department. Each department will have a different requirement, and each department requirements need to be looked at seriously. An enterprise wide ECM solution will only work if each department takes it on board and uses it correctly. This is only going to happen if the system meets their requirements and is championed by the staff.

By implementing ECM unit by unit, you ensure that requirements are not lost, you ease the load of training, administration and support, while easing new processes onto the organisation a step at a time.



By working in a unit by unit basis you not only identify all the requirements needed across the enterprise, but you also ease your implementation headache and keep costs down (often removing the need for fancy enterprise integration modules). For sure, your ECM provider will try to make you go for a “big bang” implementation across the complete enterprise, and no doubt, show you some wonderful tools that make it all seem so easy. But there is nothing stopping you striking that enterprise wide deal, then addressing the implementation on a unit by unit basis, re-negotiating cost if needs be as you go.

Remember fancy demonstration tools may look great and promise the earth, but almost always won’t meet 100% of your requirements. So you need to know what you are looking at for “professional services”, again on a unit by unit basis…

True ECM Savings…#3

9 06 2009

So this is now my third post on this, and in this post I will be looking at people time management, well, more specifically how organisations waste employee’s time, and ultimately money…

Our staff really are busy…

Many organisations are happy if their staff appear busy, they believe this is a good indication of the organisation itself being busy / productive. But being busy is not a great sign of anything. You have to know what your staff are busy doing, is it higher valued tasks or are they struggling to manage their time because so much of it is wasted on lower value tasks.

It is understood that professionals can spend up to 50 percent of the time looking for the right information. That’s an awful waste of resources and money, and is a great example of diseconomies of scale for enterprises. This means that an additional 50 percent of a professional’s time could be spent on higher valued tasks, such as looking at business opportunities, dealing with customer enquiries, help improve customer satisfaction and reduce the time it takes to do their actual paid work.

There is also the issue here of employee satisfaction and moral. As an employee, you will feel a lot more satisfied, valued and productive if all your time is spent on valued tasks rather than wasting 50 percent of your time, getting frustrated looking for information.  This in turn has an impact on performance, and therefore could quite easily increase efficiency and productivity of your workforce further.

The savings to be made?

Well with Capture software and a good ECM solution, your content and information is stored so that staff members can quickly search and locate the correct information they require. This drastically reduces the time spent looking for that information. This in effect, gives back to your staff up to 50 percent of their time, allowing them to be more productive and for your organisation to run more efficiently. There are also the added benefits of increased customer satisfaction levels, which are always hard to measure, but are one of the most important keys to maintaining a customer base and being successful.

Quick conclusion…

Staff are paid for their time, and you want your staff to deliver as much value to your organisation as possible, so why pay them and have them waste their time searching for content. That is simply poor management and poor organisational systems, both of which continually hurt an organisation year after year.

A good ECM solution gives time back to your staff so that they can get on with their work; it’s as simple as that.

ECM functionality, let’s expand…

3 06 2009

Those of you who follow my blog posts will already know that my company has its own ECM platform, something we have worked very hard to write over the past 4 years. We are currently working on a new “out of the box” interface and upgrading the core ECM product itself with additional features….

This work has got me thinking quite hard about additional features and functions that our ECM platform could deliver, offering something different and more to what we already provide.

Expanding ECM functionality…

So, what features and functions fit into an ECM world, or what could fit into an ECM world? Well there are lots of options, many of which I won’t discuss here, but I wanted to see what other people thought, so I posted out into the Twitter universe and got a lot of interesting replies. Very interesting. If you use twitter, is well worth following: , , and with a more BPM hat on



I have already had a number of discussions with Sandy Kemsley ( about Wikis and ECM (see my post For me, Wikis are an obvious feature to include into an ECM platform, after all they deal with content and ease of access. I like the idea of them being incorporated into an ECM platform because ECM brings to the wiki so much more in regards to security, retention periods, management etc etc.


Well with Twitter, we all know how popular micro-blogging has become, and how useful it can be. Within an enterprise there is definitely place for micro-blogging functionality, helping keep people up to date with things happening around them. Again, by incorporating this functionality into an ECM platform, you gain all the benefits ECM solutions can deliver. There is also nothing stopping the end user interface from pulling in content from such sites as Twitter too, allowing users to review more public tweets along with private work based posts…

Discussion threading, forums and collaboration

Collaboration tools are already quite popular with ECM vendors. However, is the content that is generated in such collaboration sessions stored? Are discussions and discussion threads stored and managed? Not at the moment…There is great benefit in storing this content, especially as it can provide reasoning and arguments for why something was done. For example, why does a particular publication have these images selected? Wouldn’t it be of great benefit to see / listen to discussions that took place while in meetings, real or virtual, about that publication?

By storing such additional content against files, the ECM platform delivers additional knowledge and insight, something that could prove invaluable for the lifecycle of any content.

External web sources

This is something I like. I am very aware that many users leverage the web to gather information. More often than not, such users carry out research on x number of websites (often not diverting away from these). Users often visit each website checking for updates, or they view feeds to check for these updates. However, this isn’t searchable as in the sense a user may search for something from Bing or Google.

By storing external content from websites for users, users can search that content whenever they need, with the ECM platform updating this content at specified periods.



ECM platforms have the potential to encompass so many other functions that are performed currently by other types of software, and “do it better”. In today’s enterprises and climate, it’s more important than ever to maximise staff and business process efficiency. ECM solutions are ideal for doing this, bringing together different software features and functions into a single, manageable enterprise wide solution…

For those of you who may be interested, our ECM platform is workFile ECM. Our workFile Vision offering is not yet available, however all of the features looked at in this blog are on our product roadmap and will be delivered via our workFile Vision solution very shortly…(Thought I had better mention that)


Have your say…

I am always interested in reading what others have to say on this, please, please post your own comments on features and functions that you would like to see in an ECM vendors platform.

True ECM savings…#2

28 05 2009

So this is part two if you like in my look at savings ECM solutions can bring to your organisation. In my first post I looked at costs associated with a number of typical tasks, such as filing documents, locating them etc. In this post I want to look at issues with replication of documents within an organisation and some green credentials of ECM.

Typical replication costs

How many times does a particular document get printed out? According to statistics this happens on average 19 times per document! Now that’s a lot. Let’s think of some quick costs associated with that:

  1. Physical paper
  2. Printer toner
  3. Moving physical paper around the world
  4. Environment
  5. Security

Physical paper costs, well if you are printing the same 10 page document 19 times, that cost starts to add up. Now let’s say you store in excess of 100,000 documents, each with just 2 pages (I know, many documents will have a lot more than 2 pages). That’s some 200,000 pieces of paper. What’s that physical paper cost alone to your organisation?

So, how much toner are you using if you are printing on some 200,000 pieces of paper, just for document duplication? Again, that’s not cheap.

It’s also worth mentioning that a lot of this document printing comes around internally within the organisation. It’s not a by product of scanning correspondence from customers for example. More than 80% of documents printed in offices come from digital environments, such as Microsoft Word. This is an awful fact, something that ECM solutions can remove.

Let’s start thinking about costs regarding moving that paper around. Just think if you had to move only a third of that paper we were duplicating, so that’s some 66,666 pieces of paper. How much would it cost you to physically move that around? How much to post that for example? With postage you can see a real actual cost associated, but what about the cost you have to pay for people in your organisation to move it around. How much is that in time, and as a proportion of salary?

Now we come to something that is hard to measure, the environmental cost. All this cutting down of trees for paper alone is a pretty big impact. It is estimated that 768 million trees are cut down each year for paper production alone! Now how much energy is used turning those 768 million trees into paper and what’s the carbon footprint of that alone? This “footprint” continues to grow when you look at your toner and the fuel associated to move that paper around the world.

What about the security cost of that paper? Document security is always something in the background when talking about physical paper. Why? With physical paper you are so much more vulnerable to content being read when it shouldn’t, content being lost or shared when it shouldn’t. What cost can you place on particular documents and their content? One obvious cost is that of not meeting compliance for your industry. But what cost could it have to your organisations if that document content was shared when it shouldn’t be?

The ECM savings…

This will be simple. If you store documents electronically, in an ECM solution, and then share and distribute them electronically, almost all of the costs above are removed from your organisation. You can enforce these savings by limiting who can print what content. This may sound “harsh” but often users are used to just printing files to read them, then bin them. This isn’t a good practice and is expensive to your organisation.

Not only are there lots of savings to be made, remember that these savings automatically promote efficiency gains and additional productivity. With an ECM solution, your users can quickly access the documents all of the time.

When we look at document security, there is a wealth of security features available with all ECM offerings. Though these savings may not be as easy to calculate, they are none the less there.


Quick conclusion

You can make massive cost savings by simply removing paper replication, and while making these savings you promote increased efficiency and productivity throughout your organisation.

Finally, a massive reduction for your organisation and in general is that made to your organisations carbon footprint. By removing the dependency on physical paper and the associated costs (such as trees being felled, fuel to move trees and turn them into paper, fuel to move physical paper etc) you drastically reduce your carbon footprint and impact on the environment.