Enterprise Content Management (ECM) enables organizations to go beyond traditional document management by providing an integrated enterprise platform for managing the complete life cycle of information, automating content-centric business processes and enabling records management.
“Companies are using ECM in a wide variety of ways to solve diverse business problems. New technology innovations are rapidly increasing the capabilities of ECM, making it an even more useful tool,” says Prashant Kothari, head of ECM practice for HTC Global Services.
Smart Business spoke with Kothari about ECM and how it can help organizations manage ever-growing content and information.
Why ECM is important?
An ECM platform can help organizations to gain better control of content and information. It also helps streamline business processes to increase productivity and efficiencies, thereby reducing costs. An ECM platform brings all the information together in a way that helps knowledge workers to make decisions faster.
What types of businesses can benefit from using ECM?
It can benefit nearly every business that deals with content in both forms – paper and electronic. Content could include documents, emails, faxes, multimedia, transaction records and other digital assets.
ECM is critical for any business that is dealing with challenges such as large volumes of content that need to be made more accessible and usable, inefficiencies in completing operational tasks that require content for decision making, or regulatory compliance mandates that require greater control over unstructured information within the organization.
How does business process management tie in, and what benefit does it offer to a business using ECM?
Business process management (BPM) enables automation of manual business processes. It provides a comprehensive set of workflow capabilities for the end-to-end automation. This helps automating task assignments, triggering tasks on a specific event or decision making using predefined rules.
It integrates content with business processes, thereby helping an organization to make timely decisions using the most accurate information available. Such capability can reduce cycle times and improve productivity across the entire organization and deliver significant return on investment.
What is the process of setting up an ECM system for a business?
The ECM platform provides software components that can be used in standalone mode or with other components as a unified platform. At a high level, these components can be grouped by functionality for imaging, content and data capture, content management, process management (workflow), records management, electronic forms, collaboration and business rules management.
The process starts with the assessment of content management needs and process management needs (if any). Identify the type of content that needs to be managed and the format of the source content. How and who all will need access to the content once it is stored in a repository?
This assessment is then used to identify the ECM software components that will be used to implement the solution. Once the ECM components are identified, hardware and infrastructure requirements are defined.
The solution is then designed by defining configuration for content capture, management of various content types, users access, user roles and security, system integration, storage for repository, and reporting. The software is then configured and customized as per the design.
There are several ECM software products in the market to choose from, and these products can be procured and set up in-house, or hosted by external vendors. Some ECM vendors are now offering their software via cloud (or SaaS) model as well.
Typically, to setup an ECM environment, one has to set up ECM software components and database software on appropriate hardware (server/s). Configure storage devices such as Storage Area Network to set up content repository. Configure network administration and a security server such as Active Directory for setting up user authentication and defining access privileges. Configure content ingestion tools to import content from various source such as email, fax and online. Set up scanners and/or multifunction copier machines for scanning paper documents.
Implementation of advanced features could require configuring workflows, deadlines and content retention policies. Some products provide features to define search templates that can be configured for each business group to enable easy way to search, retrieve and view content.
What should a company expect to invest in an ECM system as far as time for installation, training employees to use the system and updating and maintaining it?
That varies depending on the size of the organization and its needs. Implementation of a basic system requires minimum time and training. Users can easily learn the system within a couple of days. However, if it’s a complex solution that incorporates business process management, then the implementation and training could take few weeks.
From a support perspective, these products are very stable and don’t require significant effort to maintain and support. However, periodically, one has to review database growth, and storage needs to handle the growth in content and transactions. Manage user accounts and also monitor logs for transactions occurring within the system and verifying users accessing the system.
What is the return on investment?
It increases as you move up from basic imaging and document management features to advanced workflow automation and legacy integration to electronic discovery and content analytics features. However, for a business that primarily relies on paper for all type of information could achieve significant ROI with just a basic system. This basic system could address challenges of managing paper, content sharing and delivery, disaster recovery, business continuity and regulatory compliance.
ROI is calculated on a case-by-case basis by considering factors such as the current cost of information capture, information management, storage, sharing, processing, and communications management. Typically the efficiency gained by implementing ECM goes from 20 percent and beyond.
Prashant Kothari is head of ECM practice for HTC Global Services. Reach him at (248) 530-2555 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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