Magazine Article | January 23, 2008

Five Steps To ECM Success

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

Streamline the implementation of your ECM solution by following these simple tips.

Integrated Solutions, February 2008

Even though the average cost of ECM software has come down over the past few years, an ECM technology deployment is still a significant investment for most companies. To ensure this investment pays off for your organization in the long run, it's imperative that you engage in a few simple practices that will help ensure the overall success of your technology deployment, promote the adoption of the solution, and ultimately, increase the rate of payback you receive on your ECM investment. Following are a few simple steps that can help put you on course for ECM success.

1. Establish An ECM Project Team
The first step to deploying an ECM solution is to put an internal team together that will play a role in selecting and implementing the ECM components. When establishing this team, you should consider which employees will be the best decision makers when choosing an ECM solution and what each employee's individual responsibilities will be. Included in the group should be someone who can approve the financial aspects of the solution (e.g. CFO, president, VP), IT staff that can ensure the chosen product will integrate with existing software and hardware, and department heads who can provide insight into the ECM software features that will benefit their teams most.

2. Examine Long-Term ECM Needs, Document Life Cycles
Many times, businesses get too focused on a single application of ECM technology in their organization rather than looking at the big picture. By evaluating the current and future ECM requirements of every department in your business, you put yourself in a better position to choose an ECM system that will be scalable enough to meet your growing needs.
Also, think about the document life cycle before beginning your research on ECM software suites. Know where the document assets in your organization are coming from (whether it be via e-mail, fax, scanning, etc.) and how quickly these assets need to be archived. Also review the processes within the company for which the ECM system will be used and all the employees that may need to access the system over time. This practice will allow you to select a product that addresses the different content mediums, volumes, and employee skill sets inherent to your company.

3. Organize Your ECM Project With Time Lines, RFPs
Businesses with the most successful ECM solution deployments take an organized approach to the project. This organization begins with the development of a time line. A time line will help you map out what information you require from vendors to make an educated decision and keep you on pace to 'go live' with the ECM solution by a desired date. Time lines typically begin with a research stage in which the ECM project team identifies which products line up best with the company's ECM needs and budget. Remember, the product features and functionalities should address current and future needs.
After narrowing the search to the vendors that can accommodate the needs of your company, send a detailed RFP to each vendor so they can prepare a proposal and product demonstration. Your RFP should include specific scripts that indicate the precise product functionality you would like to see. A specific RFP will also provide a level playing field for all vendors and make it easier for your team to evaluate each product.

4. Get Input From A Third Party
An RFP should help you narrow your search to a select few vendors. From there, it's beneficial to ask each remaining vendor to set up an on-site visit for members of your project team and one of the ECM vendor's existing clients. It is ideal if the existing client is in a similar line of business as your company or is using the ECM system to address issues similar to those your company experiences. Getting a testimonial from someone already using the ECM product or seeing the ECM product in action in a real work environment can help you make your final purchasing decision.

5. Record Your ECM ROI
Once you've selected your ECM software, it's time to implement the solution. Your time line should include implementation milestones to keep the project on track and keep the vendor informed as to what they need to deliver to you by when. Once the new ECM system is in use, it's also important to record the benefits you are receiving as a result of using the new solution. Soft ROI is noticed almost immediately in most ECM deployments (e.g. easier document access, reduction in lost documents, faster issue resolution). Hard ROI is sometimes more difficult to identify. Some companies are able to measure thousands of dollars saved in labor or storage costs in as few as three months. Other companies may not see a significant monetary return until a year passes. Whatever ROI your company realizes, it's important to associate metrics to this ROI and record it for future reference. Being able to quantify your ROI will make it easier for you to justify extending the ECM solution throughout the enterprise.