8 Reasons to Revisit Your ECM Strategy

NEW YORK — Enterprise content management (ECM) technology is moving into the mainstream. However, it's the factors impacting enterprise information that are changing so rapidly. "We are at a tipping point," said John Mancini, the president of the AIIM Association. New developments outside the industry are seriously impacting the way we do business, he told attendees at this week's AIIM ECM Seminar in Manhattan. "The piece we don't often realize is that for all the changes that have occurred in computing, we have had the same dynamic in the storage and in the bandwidth area - maybe even more rapidly than in computing," Mancini said.

The convergence of developments such as mobile devices and anywhere Web connectivity is creating an incredible challenge and dramatically changing information management, Mancini said.  The focus and the goal today with ECM is to bridge together what Mancini called the "ECM Triple Crown."
Successful ECM initiatives involve an intersection of:

  • Collaborative thinking, 
  • Process thinking, and 
  • Control thinking.

As an industry, we spend most of our time thinking of last two, the president said. However, organizations are now beginning to put very collaborative tools on employee's desktops. It's new technology -- but also a new way of thinking. Mancini said with that comes a question of how to manage the intersection of all three ways of thinking. "The bottom line is that we have been in an environment where a lot of organizations have winged it when it comes to this stuff," he said. "They apply technology and manual brute force strength to fill in the gaps." However, Mancini stated, manual intervention will only get your organization so far.    

He labored the point, "You need a strategy." Mancini then went on to provide eight reasons why organizations need an updated ECM strategy:

1. The tidal wave of information. 

Mancini pointed to an IDC study about the digital universe that indicated between 2006-2011, digital content would grow at a ten-fold rate. The research showed that it's not just Generation Y adding to the volume. In fact, 30 percent of that growth will come from businesses and organizations. 

Despite the amount of information available to business people, Mancini said, the industry needs a massive educational curve. To illustrate, he pointed to an AIIM survey question that asked both AIIM conference attendees and those not related to the AIIM organization, "How important is the effective management of electric information in your organization?" The majority of respondents - both AIIM and non-AIIM -- said "important" or "extremely important." A follow-up question, however, asked, "How confident are you that your organization could demonstrate that your electronic information is accurate, accessible and trustworthy?" Interestingly, only 25 percent of AIIM attendees said "very confident" or "quite confident," whereas, 63 percent of non-AIIM respondents expressed confidence. This demonstrates that a lot of evangelism still needs to go on, Mancini said.  

2. Computing is everywhere now.  

"Information is a true commodity now," Mancini said. With inventions of mobile devices and hardware such as Netbooks, people can access information basically anywhere.  

3. Everything is becoming social. 

There's a big generational difference coming into the workforce. Add to that statistics indicating that visiting social sites is ahead of personal email. "When I think about how people in the executive suite are viewing social media, for a lot of them it's a scary phenomenon," Mancini said. However, he encouraged attendees to reframe their thinking about social media and draw parallels to how we used to view email in the enterprise. 

"Executives need to understand there's a difference between goofing around on Facebook and building a collaborative infrastructure within their organization," Mancini stated.  Keep in mind the implications of not establishing collaborative knowledge sharing. Employees are highly skilled on the Web and won't hesitate to go outside of the organization to find knowledge if they can't find it in the internal systems.

4. Collaboration without governance is a recipe for disaster.

"We have created digital landfills without clear thought of what to do," Mancini said. With the influx of new collaboration tools -- Mancini mentioned Google Wave, IBM Lotus Quicker Team Collaboration, and the upcoming release of Microsoft SharePoint 2010 -- organizations must look at the bigger picture. "These tools are really powerful and cool and very easy to deploy," he said. "Your job as architects of information is to figure out ultimately what we want this stuff to add up to."

A scary fact is that when asking AIIM survey respondents if there is an executive-endorsed plan in their organizations in regards to where collaboration will and will not be used, about 76 percent said that there is no plan in effect.

5. Information management software from an end-user standpoint is too feature loaded.

Mancini showed attendees a screenshot of a Word application with multiple toolbars and menu options -- basically the kitchen-sink view. He then showed the simplistically designed iPhone. He suggested that content management needs to be more akin to the latter. "If we are going to deploy this stuff, it's got to be idiot simple. It's not going to work if it feels complicated or disruptive," he said. 

6. The tree huggers' time has come.

Green business practices have been pushed to the sidelines, Mancini said, but expect the importance to rise again soon. The role paper plays in organizations is still gigantic, he said, and represents a huge part of productivity. Although the ROI of going electronic can be significant, many are nascent to do away with paper methods. For example, Mancini said, the ROI of electronic invoice processing is enormous, yet today only one in five invoices is electronic.

7. You can't do things manually.

 "Organizations that insist on a hybrid of manual and technological strategies are going to get into trouble," Mancini insisted. Just think of the hard cost of manual efforts. Often it can be $20 to re-file a document, or up to $200 to replace a lost document, he said. The average file is photocopied 19 times and professionals spend 5-15 percent of their time looking for information. "Automating those processes is critical," he said, reminded the crowd that by 2011, the digital universe will be 10 times the size. 

8. Information mismanagement risks are rising.

According to AIIM, 20 percent of organizations would take more than a month to produce documents for a legal process. "The reason the control part of this equation is so important is that the costly part of this is the physical review of the information in a discovery process," Mancini said.  

If you can help your organization reduce that funnel, keep less, and find the right information, that has a direct impact on the bottom line, he said. Often organizations tend to isolate information risk from the overall risk management strategy; however, Mancini encouraged attendees to think about the trifecta when it comes to information management: collaboration, process, and control.

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top; to contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.

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