Implementing the Ideal ECM System: 10 Steps to Success

07-19-2017

Implementing the Ideal ECM System: 10 Steps to SuccessAsk anyone what life at their company was like before they had an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) system in place and how it is now that they’ve implemented a solution, and their response will likely start with, “Oh, my goodness…” They’ll then proceed to detail the many ways their ECM system has had a positive impact on their operations. You can expect that they’ll talk about:

  • Increased efficiency
  • Improved accuracy
  • Deceased storage costs
  • Better decision support
  • Greater confidence in business continuity capabilities

And much more. If you weren’t sold on the importance of an ECM solution, or what is also called an intelligent information management (IIM) solution, before the conversation, you will be after! Then, you’ll be eager to have the answer to another question: “What now?” It’s understandable that you’ll want to start getting all the advantages of bringing an ECM system online. However, in order to ensure that your initiative is successful and your solution delivers all the benefits you’re looking for, you have to be sure to take your time and do the implementation right.

A Proven Process for Crafting the Perfect Solution

An IIM implementation requires a significant commitment of time, capital, and other resources. Consequently, you don’t want to just dive in and “play it by ear.” You should follow a time-tested methodology. The process we’ve used with great success with our clients at Buddha Logic involves 10 steps:

  1. Identify your business drivers. Why do you want to implement an ECM solution? Your answer is important for two reasons. First, if you’re not exactly sure what’s driving this project, you may want to reconsider it. Second, the drivers that you identify may help you set your priorities for the initiative. For example, it might be more important to your organization to automate the processing of incoming communications than to simplify the accessing of scanned and stored data, so you’ll bring more resources to bear on the front end initially.
  2. Document your organization’s current state. People will sometimes be reluctant to perform this step, feeling that because their organization has been doing what it does for decades, the implementation team is confident that it has a comprehensive understanding of how each department handles its tasks. However, more often than not, that confidence is replaced by statements like “We had no idea” when team members see the long, long lists of data types and forms and processes and workflows produced by each functional group.
  3. Define the project scope. After your initial research is complete, you may decide that this IIM initiative will involve the entire company. Or, you may decide that you should limit it to certain departments in order to ensure it is successful. Considerations like how quickly you need to roll out the new system, upcoming business obligations for the different departments (e.g., accounting will not want to implement an ECM system as tax season approaches), and the amount of resources you can commit to the project are all  factors here.
  4. Clearly articulate your objectives. It’s not enough to say you want to increase efficiency. By how much? Over what period of time? And how does this tie into the organization’s overall strategic goals. You need to know what your targets are so that you can measure your progress toward hitting them and adjust your implementation process as needed.
  5. Develop your detailed roadmap. An ECM initiative may involve anywhere from a few to a few dozen or more separate projects that get woven together to produce the comprehensive solution. Your roadmap needs to include details on each of those projects. This can include everything from assessing the viability of existing technology, to creating an organization-wide content taxonomy, to developing a template for how metadata will be applied consistently to materials, to evaluating data security needs.
  6. Design the system. Having done your homework in collaboration with an experienced ECM provider like Buddha Logic, it’s now time to actually design the system. A solution created specifically for your organization’s needs will perform far better than an “off the shelf,” generic system.
  7. Procure the appropriate technology. The next phase of the project involves getting the technology you need to build the system that has been designed. It’s worth noting that this is Step 7 in the process. Too often, companies get excited about their IIM initiative and want to start issuing purchase orders as a way to bring their new system online faster. That can lead to the purchasing of incorrect or unnecessary software and hardware.  
  8. Implement and test the system. Once the system is online in test mode, it’s critical that you run each of its components through every conceivable scenario to see how it performs. Ideally you will go through multiple rounds of testing and tweaking to ensure that the system is optimized before you make it live.  
  9. Provide system training. In order for your ECM implementation to be successful, you have to ensure that everyone in your organization who interacts with the system is comfortable with their role in relation to it. It’s far better to provide more training than is needed, than to not provide enough.
  10. Deliver attentive support. Finally, once the ECM system is live and people are using it, you must be ready to provide efficient and effective technical assistance. Nothing will generate a backlash faster than leaving users “stranded” and unable to do their job when a problem arises. And, despite all the testing and tweaking you’ve done, issues will come up. Be sure your users know that that is normal with any type of enterprise-level system implementation and is not a reflection on the ECM system or the implementation process.

Communication is Key

Each of the steps above could (and probably should) conclude with, “Explain what is happening to all stakeholders in this step.” Clear communication is key to a successful intelligent information management implementation. Without it, you run the risk of everything from minor misunderstandings about the process to major misgivings about the initiative in general. When everyone is kept in the loop about the changing scope, revised timelines, etc., you’ll find that people are much more accepting of the hiccups in the rollout and ultimately much happier with the end product.

About the Author

Meet ECM expert Charlie Weidman

Charles Weidman is the Founder and President of Buddha Logic. Charlie has over two decades of experience in the design, development and implementation of enterprise content management, business process management and enterprise resource planning solutions. He founded Buddha Logic with the idea that well-architected digital document capture and management processes are both beautifully simple and powerfully logical. Find and connect with Charlie on LinkedIn.