If your organization is like most, you probably have some kind of DM (document management) system in place where paper documents such as invoices, bills of lading, advanced shipping notices, purchase orders, loan applications, injury/accident reports, or other documents are scanned and saved to a repository. Also, within your organization your IT staff and marketing personnel may work together to publish content to your Web site via a WCM (Web content management) system or maybe through a less glamorous manual process. After an initiative from customers to bring images online, you come across a solution that promises to integrate your DM and WCM to automate the process of pushing the right content from your enterprise to several channels - including the Web - without having to add to your IT staff. Whether you're just starting to look at these solutions or you are one week from rolling one out, make sure you can check off the following steps before going any further into the realm of ECM (enterprise content management).
Determine What's Not For Public Display
In your quest to make your enterprise run more efficiently, don't neglect the initial step of categorizing your content. Because DM and WCM have different focuses, proper categorization is necessary to marry the two concepts. "With DM, more is never enough," says Al Cutter, founder and CEO of The Cutter Companies (Lebanon, NJ), an ECM vendor. "DM might include such things as classified documents or internal memos - content that must be stored, but is not for the world to see." WCM on the other hand is about publishing content for an audience to view. Blindly integrating the two systems together could prove to be a recipe for disaster, including but not limited to a lawsuit. Public companies, for example, which are governed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), have to follow strict guidelines regarding releasing revenues and other information related to company performance. If a publicly traded company mistakenly publicly publishes unauthorized information about such matters, it could find itself paying large fines. The first step that must be determined by any enterprise before implementing ECM is what data is designated for public use and what data is for private use only.
The second step for content categorization deals with content life cycle. How long will a press release be posted at the company Web site or how long should a Quark document be published to a particular file folder? After content reaches a certain expiration date, it can be moved to an archive folder and made available online or it can be archived offline. By automating this process and keeping newer content on the home page or the latest version of a document saved in a particular file folder, you will avoid the navigation problems that a cluttered environment creates.
Keep Your Content In The Right Hands
Prior to implementing ECM, your disparate DM and WCM solutions had their own built-in security. Anytime someone wanted to move content from the DM side of the business to the WCM side, several people were involved with the process, which may have included a department manager and IT director. With ECM, these manual security checkpoints are going to be automated. There are four things that you can do to make sure your data is viewed and changed by proper personnel, and that it's protected:
1.) Set up DM to feed WCM
2.) Incorporate open standards
3.) Use workflow functionality
4.) Don't forget version control.
"The ECM solution should be set up to pull data from the DM system and migrate the data to the WCM system," says Cutter. "After it pushes the appropriate data to the WCM, it can disconnect from the DM, thus minimizing the possibility of a hacker getting access to sensitive documents in the back end of the system." Additionally, IT administrators should look for ECM solutions that support open standards. "Open standards assure that investments in content integration and distribution are protected," says Art Sarno, VP of alliances for Gauss Interprise (Irvine, CA), an ECM vendor. "More than ever, companies are looking to integrate back office document-centric content, application-driven content, and unstructured Web content. Without open standards to achieve integration, total cost of ownership and downtime increase significantly."
Some enterprises will need to incorporate workflow functionality into their solutions. An example of how workflow works can be seen in the following example of a human resources (HR) manager changing the company's policy on sexual harassment. The president of the company, the HR manager, and the corporate attorney may be the only three individuals authorized to make edits to the sexual harassment policy. A workflow module would ensure that the document goes from the HR manager for review, then to the president of the company. Afterward, the document would be routed to a review board that could ask questions or make suggestions but would not be authorized to make any changes. Next, the document would go to a proofer to check for grammar and spelling, and then finally to the corporate attorney for final review. Without the automated workflow in place, the document might go to the corporate attorney and then back to the president and HR manager. Either one could make changes that might nullify the policy, which could compromise the company's chance of defending a sexual harassment case.
Another security measure that ECM offers is version control. A manufacturer, for instance, uses engineering drawings that detail how a particular part is to be machined. Machine operators drill and grind the parts according to blueprints or online drawings. The engineers are responsible for making any specification changes to the drawings, and distributing new drawings to machine operators. If a new drawing causes parts to be scrapped, version control allows engineers to go back to previous revisions, find out what changes were made, and make the corrections. Without this feature in place, you might find false accusations and poor recollections about exactly what drawing specifications were changed. ECM takes the human element out of the equation and helps solve the problem quickly and objectively, thus minimizing downtime.
View All Content Through A Browser
After solidifying content categorization and security issues, there is a third issue to consider: viewing content. This brings us back to the issue of standards once again. "Whether the content is for publication to the Web or not, it should be available through a Web browser," says Gartner (New York) Analyst Lou Latham. "Web browsers use established standards such as WebDAV [Web-based distributed authoring and versioning], XML [extensible markup language], and JAVA which provide controllable access to content." Another benefit of using Web browsers to access enterprise content is that they enable employees to access content from anywhere, which is especially important for companies with field workers. Check out the "Content Management Convoy" article in the July 2002 issue of Integrated Solutions magazine to see how R&L Carriers' truck drivers are using their Web portal to wirelessly transmit scanned documents to a centralized location, and updating their content repository in real time.
According to Edi Feldman, VP of technology for iKnowledge (Lexington, MA), an ECM solutions provider: "Solutions that are written in proprietary languages can be integrated to other solutions using JAVA, but they require the use of programmers adept in the vendor's proprietary markup language to make the system work with other enterprise applications. This is something the buyer should check into before the purchase because these extra integration and programming costs can raise the total implementation cost by more than 50%."
Is ECM All You Need?
For enterprises that need to be able to drill down deeper into their content and edit content after it has been moved away from its original environment, specialty tools may need to be added. But, like many enterprise-wide installations, these tools can be rolled out in a later phase after the initial project is up and running and any glitches have been worked out. Following the aforementioned steps will help reduce any such glitches and enable your enterprise to run more efficiently than ever before.