Expanding the value of ECM

By Stephen Duncan

Historically organisations implemented Enterprise Content Management solutions out of the necessity to adhere with compliance policies, but in our modern digital era the question is; has this now become a barrier to innovation and is ECM actually inhibiting opportunities to extract the tangible value from information assets.

Modern ECM systems can turn what was traditionally information challenges into information opportunities, positioning ECM as an enabler to better business.

Challenge: Lack of ECM vision or does the business see ECM as a holistic endeavour or still primarily the domain of the records manager? Given that ECM implementations were once primarily driven by compliance, what is the impact for departments, IT services and C-level business users that were forced to fit their operational systems within the information governance policy framework. Now with modern digital technologies such as
mobile computing and cloud, how will these place pressure on information management policies which never considered them?

Opportunity: Refresh the business strategy and information governance policies to see if they reflect the needs of modern work environments. Integration with line of business systems and business reporting impact the ECM so it’s vital that organisations understand these might impact information governance. Information repositories are looking to move to the cloud and many organisations are now looking at hybrid models where they can control the location of content, ensuring compliance is respected. Extending ECM to mobile platforms can become a great enabler, particularly where staff are required to work with customers and constituents off-site. It’s working with IT having access to relevant content and context within a secure environment as the goal.

Challenge: User adoption AIIM continues to report that ECM adoption rate are below 25% and this directly impacts the success of ECM as an information business driver. Ask yourself; is the software intuitive for the all users? Yes, this sounds like one of those obvious questions, but a well-designed ECM solution should be so intuitive that it almost transcends the need for training. Ensuring good governance is paramount, but if a user is required to perform additional work to use their main information management system, more than likely they will bypass it altogether and discover alternate methods, which may impact service delivery and bypass governance policies.

Opportunity: Bring information to the user by surfacing it within the environments that are most natural to users; for example, extending ECM to productivity applications such as Microsoft 365, SharePoint and other line of business applications. If a user is able to open a document and view its context alongside it, not only will they be empowered to make more informed decisions, but will see governance as an enabler not a barrier.

Challenge: Collaboration and the sharing of digital content has become second nature for private citizens with the ways to manage it plentiful and easy to adopt. For organisations where content drives operational workflows and collaboration with partners is imperative, accessing and sharing of content requiring governance can be far more complex. File sharing solutions require placing content in the cloud, introducing risk to the organisation where it involves sharing sensitive and confidential information.  Consumer based file sharing solutions are typically not consistent with the overall governance and security policies as implemented within the ECM system. If audited, there is no way to prove that the collaboration process was compliant with regulatory requirement.

Opportunity: Consider a secure, integrated collaboration platform that extends ECM governance to the cloud. A platform that provides not only the mechanism to share information, but the ability to actively collaborate on documents and capture conversations and control tasks. Integrating the collaboration platform directly with the ECM system is the answer as it must inherit, rather than replicate the access permissions. It must also ensure that if policies or access permissions are updated they are immediately reflected within the collaboration platform.

Challenge: ECM systems are negatively impacting business operations. At its core, a well-designed ECM system should provide a robust business process automation suite. Where this isn’t the case organisations will be relying on moving information around manually. The other challenge is when software solutions are implemented over poor or non-structured manual systems. This not only introduces
inefficiency and increases governance risk to the organisation, but ties up valuable resources that could be allocated to other more valuable initiatives.

Opportunity: Content driven business processes are rarely cookie cutter so in the move to automated or digitised processes, the flow of tasks must be as adaptable to the myriad of changes that affect organisations and be as simple as email can be. They must also be robust, include a basis for best practice within the design and display good governance throughout the various touch points, particularly where
multiple stakeholders (including external) require secure information to facilitate an outcome. In addition, reporting is necessary including: the ability to escalate tasks, provide accountability and benchmark actions.

Ultimately each business will have unique challenges, so ECM should provide a foundation for innovation not a blocker. As technology advances, platforms must also adapt to change. The goal moving forward should be to increase usage and adoption of ECM throughout the wider enterprise. This can be done by providing users with an intuitive user experience, bringing information to the user by enabling access seamlessly within applications, actively promoting secure collaboration and developing a platform for business process management that is robust and streamlines industry requirements. 

Stephen Duncan is Product Marketing Manager at Objective Corporation.