Four Initiatives Driving ECM Innovation

Scott Craig, Vice President of Product Marketing, Lexmark Enterprise Software
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Scott Craig, Vice President of Product Marketing, Lexmark Enterprise Software

Reports of the death of ECM have been greatly exaggerated. ECM is alive and well, but the needs of the market have changed dramatically in the last ten years. There are some macro trends that are driving adoption and usage, and some micro trends that affect which products and solutions are right for the customer.

Business-critical content continues to grow

Most CIOs I speak with acknowledge that information is continuing to expand exponentially within their organization. They only have to audit their storage costs to see it happening. But the diversity and decentralization of the creation and management of that content is rapidly growing out of control. Most traditional ECM systems don’t handle video, audio and social content, but this is where the dynamic growth is happening. Ask yourself if these are examples of business content that should be managed: customer service audio recordings, video of a car accident, or monitoring Facebook for customer complaints.

The average knowledge worker does not have time to watch a complete video, listen to an audio track or even scan a Facebook or Twitter feed. Advanced content analytics can create a transcript of the audio, optically recognize and identify important visuals, and help narrow search results to a particular place and time in the content. Content analytics also applies to unstructured and semi-structured content as search technology is pushed to the limits when terabytes of information live in multiple repositories. It is critical that IT leadership has a plan to address both the unique storage and management needs of rich media as well as the content analytics and usability of this information.

  Organizations that embrace this modern approach will have productive and happy end users 

A micro trend in the explosion of business content is the growing obsolescence of a single repository. It sounds great to consolidate all content in one place, but it isn’t practical or useful for most organizations. Instead, providing insight to knowledge workers through powerful search and content aggregation tools is more cost effective and productive. Insight engines can even find content for end users without having to conduct a search.

Cloud technology drives content-based solutions

The cloud is driving both changes in the technology and adoption of content-based solutions. As organizations are developing a strategy to migrate software and services to the cloud, most CIOs understand that a hybrid approach is required.

ECM is moving to a repository-agnostic environment. This has already happened in the healthcare industry with the migration of PACS images to vendor neutral archives. ECM should be focused on putting content in context of business process and tools. ECM should not be viewed as a particular repository. Cloud storage can provide cheaper, geographically distributed and highly available options. But, depending on the industry and needs, organizations may want to keep critical and regulated business content in on-premise servers. Your ECM system should adapt to this hybrid model.

A cloud-based architecture can also allow for usage of micro-services to enhance an ECM implementation with analytics, capture and output capabilities, and process and content intelligence in addition to storage options. The definition of ECM must be broadened to include using these micro-services either from one or multiple vendors to truly service knowledge workers.

Finally, the cloud is also driving new user experiences for end users. It isn’t enough to simply provide mobile and web access to content. ECM is about context and process. Mobile and web content apps must also expose the business process decisions and related content and annotations. Role-based applications that are tailored to a specific end user can be a highly effective tool for reducing training needs and errors, and improving adoption of content-based solutions.

Manage the process, manage the cost

Common knowledge and experience says at least one-third of IT projects don’t meet their goals. According to some industry experts, as many as 50 percent of ECM programs fail. The real cost of implementing an ECM system is the execution of a business process. As an example, if you are considering implementing a content-based solution for insurance claims, the majority of the work will not be in installing the software, but in designing and implementing the solution. IT organizations must approach the implementation as a business process engineering project and have the appropriate change management, training and enablement as any business process change. This is common sense, but many IT organizations focus on the technology and not enough on the business process and training aspects. As mentioned above, role-based apps and tools can also help with the adoption of content-based solutions. Finally, strong IT leadership is required to shepherd a successful project to completion.

CIOs should think of ECM as an orchestrator of content

Content in the information age is diverse in both type and location. Without context, this content is unusable, accumulating dust in a distant archive. When properly harnessed, business content can help knowledge workers make better, faster decisions and result in higher profits and revenue.

The mistake an organization can all too often make is to think that providing open repositories is enough. Enterprise File-Sync-and-Share (EFSS) applications are incredibly popular and useful tools, especially for collaboration and sharing. But if that content is not curated, open to business process, integrated with your core applications, and managed for compliance and retention, it is merely a Band-Aid that will become as obsolete as the fifty SharePoint instances running in your departments.

A modern approach to content management makes EFSS a vehicle for content creation and collaboration, even storage, but it must be integrated with the ECM system to handle all of the lifecycle and process management activities. Organizations that embrace this modern approach will have productive and happy end users.

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