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 (www.workFileECM.com) 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.

 

Conclusion…

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…

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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.





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 https://andrewonedegree.wordpress.com/2009/05/20/true-ecm-savings-1/ 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.





Successful document capture…

14 05 2009

Well this is something close to my heart. My first ever project after leaving university was to help write a document capture application that was built on-top of the FileNET Panagon Capture platform. Ahh happy days…Though I did seem to earn the name “scan man” from then on, which wasn’t so great, as every document capture project our company then had, I had to be involved with….

Ok so how do you implement a successful document scanning / capture solution. Well it’s very simple, follow these 5 guidelines and you are well on the way.

  1. Throughput is everything. Make sure people can load the scanner and let it do its thing. You don’t want to be stopping to separate documents or batches. Make sure your software can do this and purchase a scanner with a big document holder.
  2. Ensure you maximise the quality of the images you are capturing. If this could be a problem, then make sure you get in place good quality control and re-scan technology
  3. Identify as much information as possible up-front with your software. The more a user has to do, the slower and more expensive the process will become
  4. Ensure your data captured or assigned to a document is accurate. Remember your retrieval of these images depends on the accuracy of your data capture
  5.  Your document capture is pointless, unless you release the images into your storage repository with all the correct information. Again make sure this is done seamlessly and accurately. The longer the files are in your capture process, the longer it will take for them to turn up in a customer file for example…

 

So where to start?

Well this is with your document capture software, and there are lots of solutions out there. Firstly, when choosing your capture software, have those 5 guidelines in your mind. You want to automate as much as possible (unless we are talking only the odd scanned document through the day). In addition, you don’t just want to watch a sales pitch on the actual scanning process, or the physical scanner being used. You want, and need, to see the process all the way through, and with a variety of documents.

It’s best if you can use forms wherever possible, but you will always have un-structured documents coming to you, such as letters. Now you MUST see a demonstration of how these are dealt with, then ask yourself;

“is that efficient?”

“how could that be speeded up?”

“am I happy with the way data is entered / captured?”

“now let’s find the document in the retrieval system”

I don’t want to start recommending software, as depending on your storage repository etc you may find you have a limited selection. What I will say, is that for our workFile ECM repository we use software that I have been familiar with and more than happy with for sometime, Kofax. I have worked on numerous projects with Kofax Accent Capture and with Nuerascript recognition modules (which are now part of Kofax). Kofax provides you with all the technology and features you could want to streamline any capture environment. And, more importantly, they allow you to write your own release processes into the repositories of your choice.

What about architecture

Scanning can be quite intensive for your PC. A while back, all of your “steps” if you like were carried out on a single machine, so you scanned, had the batches and documents recognised, processed, enhanced then sent on for an agent to index. However, this isn’t great, ideally you want to split out this intense processing work and let your scan station simply scan images.

Server based solutions are best, freeing up staff to scan and pull documents as and when they are ready. Your images should always be ready quicker than your staff can quality assess them or carry out indexing tasks. Oh, don’t be fooled by “thin” document capture, something has to drive the scanner and therefore it’s not “thin client”…

What about staff?

This can be a boring task, so rotate your staff to different jobs, every couple of hours. They may still get bored, but if you don’t do this, they will be making lots of errors and getting really bored. Trust me, just spend a couple of hours doing one task such as scanning and your brain can go numb…

You will also need a “champion” of the capture process. Someone who can keep people motivated and ensure they maximise the potential of the system. All too often the system capacity is not met as staff becoming lazy or complacent. This negates your investment and diminishes your return on your investment, so a champion is very important.

It’s also worth noting that from time to time, you will need someone with more experience of the scanning process, again that champion, simply because you will get issues with stuck paper, batches not getting recognised, image quality problems etc. At this point, you need someone with a little more knowledge of how things work.

 

Finally

Remember no matter how good your capture process is, your retrieval system is only as good as the quality of the images and the data associated to those images. Also, please don’t invest heavily in a great capture system then scrimp on your retrieval system. If you do this, you will find no benefit of the capture process and document imaging at all. Your first port of call is still ensuring you purchase the right retrieval / document management system. Then address the capture side of things.