From The Editor | March 22, 2007

Manage ECM Change

No matter how technically sound your ECM (enterprise content management) system is, it won't succeed unless you've properly prepared your employees for how the solution will change their existing work environment.

Integrated Solutions, April 2007

Do you repeat the same routine every morning? Do you shower, drink your coffee, and brush your teeth in the same order without fail? And if something outside your control interferes with this morning ritual, does it frustrate you and set the rest of your day off course?

If you answered yes to these questions, you're not alone. As human beings, we are, by nature, creatures of habit and resistant to change.

Keep your morning routine in mind if you are planning to implement ECM technologies in your organization for the first time. Your reasons for installing the technology are probably noble enough — you aim to increase the productivity of your organization by reducing the manual labor and repetitive processes engaged in by your staff. However, even if your investment in ECM technology is intended to help make life easier on your employees, they may view it as an unwelcome intrusion. While you or your executives may have deemed existing paper processes ineffective, the people who execute those processes on a daily basis have probably become very comfortable with the way things are currently done. Successfully changing these habits will require a lot more than simply implementing the latest software packages and scanning hardware listed in this ECM solutions supplement. In fact, this technology will likely collect dust from lack of use if its purpose isn't clearly communicated to staff members, and end users aren't properly trained on the technology.

To be effective, communication about why an ECM solution will be implemented must initially come from the top levels of the organization. End users must be clear that the ECM initiative is valued by corporate leadership and that the technology being implemented is not a threat to their jobs. This communication should be ongoing and should take many forms (e.g. e-mails, staff meetings, posters, etc.). Feedback about the ECM initiative should be encouraged, actively collected, and acted on before, during, and after all technology deployments. This will help employees adapt to change by making them feel like they're involved in all facets of the process rather than having the change imposed upon them.

Implementing the ECM solution incrementally, beginning with the departments where current paper processes are the biggest burden, can not only help you manage solution deployment, but also facilitate your training and communication efforts. This approach allows vendor or VAR representatives to train a few qualified individuals on the ECM technology being implemented. These individuals can then act as internal champions of the system and can be used to train others throughout the company. This approach also makes it easier for training to take place in the environment where the users work, rather than a classroom setting, which helps accelerate adoption. Once a single department has implemented and used the ECM technology, it can be used as a case study to further communicate the benefits of the technology. An internal success story carries more credibility than testimonials from unknown users and will get others within the company excited about using the ECM system for their own gain. However, be sure to communicate failures as well as successes in your internal discourse. Openly discussing technology challenges and how they were overcome ensures other departments won't repeat the same mistakes and will help them uncover other opportunities for change and improvement — all of which helps foster user adoption.