How to Implement a Successful ECM Strategy

by   |   June 2, 2015 3:00 pm   |   0 Comments

Andrea Chiappe, Director of Innovation and Strategy, Systemware, Inc.

Andrea Chiappe, Director of Innovation and Strategy, Systemware, Inc.

Enterprise content management is on the cusp of a transformation. Pressures from a range of forces – data proliferation, the Internet of Things, compliance, security, social/mobile/cloud convergence, and others – mean that ECM will change dramatically over even the next four or five years.

Recognizing this, many organizations are re-examining their ECM strategies, expanding on the myopic views of the past, and looking to better leverage one of their most valuable commodities: information itself.

Implementing a successful, comprehensive ECM environment that supports organizational goals requires an understanding of the current state of your enterprise content management program, a design that will bring you to your desired future state, gap analysis to determine what is needed to make it happen, and effective change management.

Accomplishing all this requires a cross-functional team effort in which executives provide the corporate vision, department heads share their operating goals, and the user community documents challenges in meeting their daily objectives. The same team provides insight into what the future environment could be. This, along with the documented current state of ECM, provides the information set needed for a gap analysis identifying what you have, what you need for the future, and the a roadmap to get there.

Where Are You Today?

Success in achieving a desired future state for ECM requires an understanding of the current state of ECM within the organization. Using a best-practice approach, map the end-to-end business processes currently in use across the enterprise. Document the information flow from people, systems, and applications and how that creates content in the organization. Document the inputs and outputs of the systems, as well as the delivery of information. This will provide insight into the existing information ecosystem, identifying legacy and proprietary information, security requirements, and shadow IT scenarios where the business units may have brought in alternative solutions to meet their needs.

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The most useful and least biased assessments likely will come from third parties, so it may make sense to have an ECM vendor interview your stakeholders to understand the landscape. Be sure to challenge archaic systems that have been in place for more than a decade just because “that’s the way it’s always been done.” Classify your existing systems into four categories: enterprise, redundant, underutilized, and end of life. Find out exactly what information is being stored. Determine the governance requirements. Ask yourself: How easy is this to use? Is it working?

Look at the players in the process. Are they internal and/or external to the organization? Are you dealing with internal users, customers, suppliers, and partners? What information or content do they need and use? What value-add do they bring in achieving the end goal, and do they present risk in the way information is shared with them? This is an opportunity to fine-tune operations and look at new ways of working.

A clear understanding of the connections and interactions between people, processes, and technologies – as they relate to content and process flow – is essential in creating a roadmap to develop and maintain a well-balanced information ecosystem that is secure, compliant, and meets the needs of the organization as a whole. Documenting the current state also will identify many opportunities to initiate immediate improvements, “quick wins” that will bring about early benefit gains.

What Do You Want for the Future?

Defining the scope of the overall ECM program and related projects is key to successful implementation and user adoption. When addressing the scope of the program and projects, considerations must be made for geographic and organizational requirements, legacy content (in other words, data to be migrated), information types, information classes, timeframe, and platform. Deployment considerations such as training, communication, and support are greatly impacted if your ECM solution will be delivered around the world in many time zones and languages.

An ECM future strategy – a high-level vision document in which the proposed ECM environment is outlined – is an important foundation, serving as a communications tool to share the vision for the ECM program and how it supports organizational goals. It should include discussion about organizational size, anticipated levels of consultation needed, resource allocations, and the scope and nature of the program and underlying projects.

To define and measure success, set your objectives, ensuring they align with the business vision and goals. Objectives might be improved customer service, better and faster work processes, or company commitments to cost reduction. It is not enough to simply state better and faster processes. Go further and identify how much time it currently takes to process applications, number of steps, signature cycles, etc. Once this is identified, the real objective can be stated, perhaps to reduce the current application processing time from 30 days to 10 days over a 60-day period. This provides a baseline reference of the current state, a future state objective, and a means to establish Key Performance Indicators (KPI) for measuring your efforts and success.

It is easy to say that a future ECM environment will be implemented across the enterprise over a set period of time, but if it does not support and align to the corporate vision and goals, it will lose support and fail. It is important to understand the corporate vision, identify departmental goals, and document user-level challenges in meeting those goals.

The Role of Gap Analysis

With knowledge of the current state of ECM in the organization and a strong vision for the future state, it is time to determine what is needed to move the program forward. Accomplishing this requires an ECM gap analysis in which you look at the desired future state and the requirements to achieve it, assess the current tools and organizational skills that can be applied to the future state, and identify any missing or weak areas that would prevent you from reaching the desired future state.

First, address the requirements that can be met by current systems or by making minor modifications to your current systems. If portions of the project can be accomplished without procuring new technologies, especially with existing in-house resources, it is a good use of time to proceed with these. Often, organizations will go outside to find technology they already have in house, leading to a buildup of siloed systems that are not synchronized, costly to maintain, and cumbersome to manage. Ensure that the questions, grids, and scenarios you present are closely tied to your highest-priority requirements. Label each requirement at varying levels of priority, such as mandatory, highly desirable, and desirable. Strike a careful balance between quantitative requirements with constrained answers and open-ended questions that can be informative but hard to evaluate across vendors.

Once the gaps have been identified and presented to senior management – along with estimated costs and levels of effort required – the organization now can make a decision on which gaps to address, and in which order. When presented, these must address business problems, support departmental goals, and align with the vision of the desired future state. In some cases, the cost of closing the gap might exceed the assets that are currently available and the organization may decide that some work might have to wait until a subsequent fiscal year or seek to identify an alternative approach.

Implementing the New Strategy

When it comes to ECM, change management is more than managing hardware and software version control and how they affect the network. It’s about people, culture, communications, and training. And a change management strategy is much more than a communications plan. It must anticipate user resistance and address the possible impacts of the changes to be made. It should address change impact areas that include technology, process, retention periods, version-control procedures, and other areas related to the future state of ECM. Considerations should include how it will affect employee activities and interactions as well as how it will convey the benefits of the new system, procedures, and practices, and the reasons or drivers to make this change.

Two drivers of change are common to most initiatives: economic and organizational. The main purpose of economic change is to improve cash flow, increase share value, and reduce overhead. Organizational change focuses on reducing errors, increasing productivity, and encouraging an innovative environment where staff learn and develop.

Change can be technology-led due to new applications, technologies, and upgrades to the current ECM solution. The need to improve the way work is done – process-led change – emphasizes improving operational processes by streamlining or redesigning the process itself. The key is to ensure that change, regardless of type of driver, aligns with and supports real business requirements and goals.

Andrea Chiappe serves as the Director of Innovation and Strategy for Systemware, Inc. Her current focus is on the evolving complexities within the technical fabrics that comprise information ecosystems.

With years of programming, R&D, and real-life, in-the-trenches technical and business experience, her view is simple. Andrea appreciates that with a strategy, ECM solutions can be intelligent curators of secure information for end users and systems while remaining flexible and easy.

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