Alan Weintraub

Alan Weintraub

February 2020

ECM Solution, Software, Systems, and Tools- Do you really need an ECM solution?

In the Forrester report, Choosing the Right ECM Business Partner Maximizes Value, I wrote: “ECM technology is disruptive. Many ECM projects fail due to an implementation that does not adequately address business requirements and cultural issues for adopting the new ECM solution. Unlike packaged applications such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM), ECM solutions are not always critical to the everyday operations of the organization. Users are asked to change the way they work with information. What was once a simple single operation to store a document now becomes a more complex process within an ECM system. That’s why a successful ECM solution aims toward transparency to help ease user acceptance.” 

Many organizations see Enterprise Content Management (ECM) tools and Content Service solutions as a complete replacement for the document authoring and management process. However, while this is a great goal, ECM systems have not yet risen up to this task. End-users don’t want to change the way they author and share documents; and often reject the idea of moving from an ad-hoc process to one that demands structure. When working with end-users, I often hear, “it’s not broken, why are we changing it”. 

The traditional ECM lifecycle can be easily divided into two major components, Systems of Engagement and System of Record (see figure 1).

Screen Shot 2020-02-03 at 12.46.27 PM

System of Record is the part of the ECM lifecycle that focuses on managing, retaining and archiving an organization’s records and assets. Not all approved documents are considered to be records that must be retained for a prescribed amount of time to meet compliance requirements.  Some information may be classified as an asset used to document decisions or information being kept for historical purposes. This information is typically managed by a smaller team focused on record management or historical preservation. This team is considered a gatekeeper, providing the proper controls for managing access to the information via the ECM solution.  

System of Engagement addresses the authoring process for drafting, reviewing and approving a document or other unstructured information in an ECM system. Many of us have grown up using file shares or local folders to store and manage the documents as they go through the creation process.  Migrating to an ECM solution requires end-users to be more methodical in the way they create, collaborate and approve their documents. Many ECM solutions require a change in how documents are stored, often requiring additional steps to determine the document type and add metadata that describes the documents. Getting end-users to change the way they work and become more process-oriented can be a monumental task. In my experience, a successful ECM solution requires many hours of effort focused on change management. Forcing end-users to use a new System of Engagement is the reason I believe that implementing ECM tools can be one of the most disruptive changes introduced into an organization.

I have come to the conclusion that when implementing ECM tools, we need to let users work the way they want to work and not force them into a process that seems arduous. What does “let users work the way they want to work” really mean and how does that address the document control requirements that drive us to finding and implementing an ECM solution?  

Users want to continue using their file shares to store their documents. This affects the System of Engagement and not necessarily the System of Record. Figure 2 illustrates a revised approach to the ECM lifecycle using the DocAuthority tools for the System of Engagement. DocAuthority provides users with the ability to continue working the way they want with a consistent way to access information stored across many repositories. DocAuthority’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools are key to providing users with a consolidated view of common information stored in their many repositories. Collecting and organizing common documents and information provides users with the assurance that the information they are using for reporting and making key decisions is trustworthy and requires minimal reconciliation.

Screen Shot 2020-02-03 at 12.47.32 PM

Common documents (see figure 3) are collected and organized into File Groups (see figure 4) and presented to the users in an aggregated manner that gives them a more universal view of their documents. There is a lot of information contained in the document properties that help the users find the documents that they need. These include:

  • Repository – storage location of information
  • Information owner – the person who last worked on the information
  • Last modified – time stamp on the last time the information was created or modified
  • Screen Shot 2020-02-03 at 12.48.38 PM
  • Screen Shot 2020-02-03 at 12.48.44 PM

One requirement for implementing a Systems of Engagement is the standardization of processes to move the documents through creation to an approval process. The users of the information can now make decisions on who really needs to be part of the process versus who becomes  part of the process as more of a convenience than a necessity (see https://blog.docauthority.com/the-problem-with-multiple-vast-data-repositories).

DocAuthority’s version of ECM lifecycle also includes integration with the System of Record. In this version, the System of Record provides the same capabilities as the more traditional ECM system lifecycle. Approved documents are sent to the System of Record for management, retention, archive and ultimately destruction. 

As with the traditional lifecycle, approved documents can be copied back down to the file shares for updating or use as a template for new documents. The DocAuthority version of the lifecycle is less disruptive, allowing users to continue to work in a familiar environment while providing better visibility and controls over their information.

 

 

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