Regardless of the Enterprise Content Management application stack you choose, you want to be sure you’ll be able to make the most of your investment for many years to come. Outside of your ERP system, there is no other technology which has the depth and breadth of impact on your organization than enterprise content management. A properly implemented ECM solution reaches across departmental boundaries, respects workflow and management hierarchies, and fits in seamlessly with your structured data systems.

Creating a strategy for a successful, long-term implementation of ECM applications requires:

  • Commitment from the line of business executives, IT management, and other stakeholders to the project from a strategic, big picture perspective, rather than a narrow focus on small goals;
  • Seeking buy-in from the organization to treat management of unstructured content not just as a technology objective, but as a transformational business imperative;
  • Gathering input from different business functions in order to identify how the ECM solution can best be adopted by their individual units, as well as integrated across departmental boundaries;
  • Investment in the resources — both technical and human — that are required to maintain forward momentum of the ECM ecosystem over many years.

If your organization has been hesitant to embark on an ECM journey because you can’t achieve one or many of these requirements, teaming up with experienced ECM consultants who have been in the driver’s seat can help you manage a successful long-term project for knowledge management.

A University Loses Its Way – Case in Point

ECM projects fail for many organizations across all industries and business sizes, and despite best intentions. In the case of one Canadian university, purchasing an ECM solution in 2008 was treated as buying a set of tools, rather than as adopting an overall information management strategy. The Alfresco product they purchased was originally acquired for a specific business function — to distribute and develop course curriculum content. Various teams within the university with their own content management requirements tried to hop on the project bandwagon, without mandates or planning for an interdepartmental solution roadmap.

Scrambling to deploy the Alfresco solution throughout the organization without proper management, the university was unable to take advantage of the features of the application that would have made the system easier for end users to adopt. The complexity of the solution and its taxonomy drove users to use unapproved, insecure systems to store content, compromising information security requirements. When the Alfresco project was deemed a failure by university executives, a new mandate to adopt Microsoft SharePoint as an ECM application was introduced.

Before beginning the SharePoint project, the university contracted with Christian Walker, an accomplished independent information management consultant. Walker advised the university to rethink the decision to throw out Alfresco and start over the ECM process with another tool. Though SharePoint is a great collaborative document management system and could possibly meet the customer’s overall requirements, the university’s issue wasn’t a software issue. The challenges the university had were:

Lack of (an) internal champion(s) to move the project forward, and the resulting absence of project governance in which no one wanted to take ownership of or responsibility for making the project a success;

  • Poor user acceptance as the result of poorly led solution design, brought about by the university’s attempt to design the user experience, organize the folding structure, and deploy the solution without guidance;
  • Readiness to blame technology for project failure rather than consider that the information management initiative could have been adversely affected by human error;
  • Unwillingness to invest in consulting, implementation, and integration services from the start to ensure the project’s success.

These technology challenges are common with projects that don’t have effective guidance, preparation, and/or design from the outset. In some cases, there are mistakes made with application selection; but even the best software applications and solutions will fail if not properly architected. Ultimately, the university did well to contract with a Certified Information Professional, who could:

  • Take an unbiased, detailed Fit/Gap analysis of the history of the Alfresco solution’s implementation and maintenance;
  • Recommend a way forward (in this case, keeping the solution in which they had already invested many years before);
  • Assist in the remediation of the shortcomings of the original design, as well as the deterioration of user confidence and organizational commitment.

Now you’ve read about a scenario where an information management project failed. Let’s take a look at the history of a successful ECM project.

Document Management and e-Filing Success

In 2011, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) contracted with General Networks to implement a solution which included:

  • Document Management
  • Records Management
  • e-filing solution
  • Web publishing of documents for client/auditor self service

They needed to meet compliance requirements and ensure records were prepared for audit and web access. Through collaborative design, structured architecture, and a vision for long-term project success, the CPUC has been able to:

  • Take ownership of the project from a strategic standpoint, while leveraging General Networks as a strategic advisory partner;
  • Implement a scalable and secure solution which safeguards the CPUC’s reputation, increases productivity, and reduces administrative requirements for customer file requests;
  • Maintain client and stakeholder confidence by implementing a mature Open Text solution based on General Network’s years of experience, gleaned from overseeing many successful implementations;
  • Establish goals to be achieved over the lifecycle of the CPUC’s information management evolution, not just at individual points in time.

Enterprise Content Management, according to Chris Walker writing for AIIM, is “a marathon, not a sprint“. You want to establish a roadmap for the project, not individual milestone goals over short periods of time. Walker wrote,

Developing an ECM strategy is like renovating your house; it seems like a good idea when you start, but 11 years later you’re not so sure (’cause if you’re like me you still haven’t finished). However, unlike my house renovations, I’m certain that an ECM strategy is a good idea.”

The long term preservation of electronic content through ECM solutions is best achieved by:

  • Ensuring systems are flexible enough to withstand changes in business processes while also protecting documents from being lost, deleted, or duplicated, either accidentally or on purpose by those who shouldn’t have access to them;
  • Being mindful of the discoverability and integrity of archived information over the course of many years;
  • Consistently maintaining, fine tuning, and tracking your ECM project against your original goals and strategic objectives.

You may not have even taken the first step of your ECM journey. You may have had an ECM solution in place for several years, and don’t think you are achieving the objectives you laid out when you first invested in your application. Either way, before you begin deploying new software, or throwing out what you have already put in place, contact the General Networks team to define the best way forward for your enterprise information management journey.