Implementing ECM?

Many organizations see the value of document management or enterprise content management (ECM) but are apprehensive about the implementation process.

While there is a potential risk of business disruptions when you introduce any new business system, it’s possible to keep disruptions to a minimum.

To get the most from ECM and document management, the solution should be integrated with a variety of systems across your organization. It’s not as simple as just selecting, buying and implementing a piece of software.

Depending on the specifics of these integrations, the quality of your implementation — including lack of business disruptions — depends largely on the quality of the presale process.

If both you and your ECM vendor are conscientious about following an implementation plan, it’s a smooth process. Problems arise when the vendor just wants to make a quick sale, or the purchaser is trying to avoid spending money up front on the planning process. Trying to cut corners in the early stages results in significant problems, including costly business disruptions.

The biggest mistake with an ECM implementation is to not invest in planning and preparation. Many companies are unwilling to spend money on evaluation before they decide on a vendor, even for more complex scenarios. But if you’re able to identify a handful of preferred vendors you want to work with, it might be worth investing a few thousand dollars up front, so that you know exactly what to expect before making a final decision.

This initial evaluation is likely to save money later on, and ensure that the partner you choose is able to deliver a smooth integration process.

Here are three basic planning steps that significantly reduce the potential for business interruption with an ECM implementation:

  1. Define your current needs: Spell out your current business needs with regard to document management or ECM, and be as specific as possible. What departments, processes and document types are involved?

  2. Clarify your goals: Everyone involved in your ECM project needs to be clear about what you want to achieve. Is your main goal to reduce errors? What about saving time? Write these goals down.

  3. Decide where to start: Once you have your lists of business needs and goals, it’s time to prioritize them. Start with the problems that are currently causing the most trouble, and areas where you’re likely to capture the best return on investment. A good salesperson or consultant should be able to guide you toward the best starting point.

A good salesperson or consultant should be able to guide you through these steps toward the best starting point. This is typically at no cost for you.

If your company needs a relatively simple ECM system, a sales rep should be able to give you a quote that includes the required professional services plus licenses. Make sure that the professional services portion of the quote includes planning. Omitting the planning is a common mistake.

With a more complex system, you’re going to need a more involved development process. In this case, a good salesperson won’t be able to give you a quote up front, because he or she doesn’t know how much effort the planning will require without getting into technical details.

In a more complex ECM implementation, an upfront scope-of-work investigation is highly recommended. Essentially, you’re paying a consultant to come in and spend one to three days determining your requirements in detail.

At the end of this scope-of-work investigation, you should receive a detailed definition of your current situation and all of the steps required to introduce a technical solution. This should include a specific accounting of what’s needed in terms of licenses, professional services and training but also support from your organization during that process. This introduction plan helps ensure you don’t experience any business interruption.

You should hire such consultant directly from the company that is No. 1 on your short list of ECM vendors. If you choose this vendor, you can insist on delivering exactly the result of the investigation. If not, you should do the investigation again with your next favorite ECM vendor.

While many companies are reluctant to spend money on presales consulting, this upfront investment helps ensure that the people you choose to handle the actual implementation know exactly what they have to do. You still have the option to say “yes” or “no” to a solution, and even if you don’t choose that vendor, the process is valuable and gives you clear decision-making criteria.

Want to learn more about ensuring a smooth ECM implementation? Contact DocuWare today for a free consultation and your document management roadmap.

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