The proof of the pudding is in the eating, the saying goes, and that is very true when it comes to successfully deploying enterprise content management (ECM). While not conducive to an organization's technology growth, IT is often faced with the challenge of proving a technology in a limited circumstance before it can be fully deployed. Here are some ideas about where the sweet spots might be – the “quick win” projects that can be quickly deployed and quickly return value.
Now, proving ECM technology in one of these niche use cases should not be confused with a proof of concept (POC). While they can happen at the same time, the purpose is different. A POC is designed to validate a technology’s features and architecture. POCs are usually stepping stones to validate the case for a full implementation. Their architecture is often reused when the subsequent full rollout occurs. Testing technology for a single use-case may be platform-agnostic but often uses technology in production as it would be used company-wide.
Niche use-case deployments should essentially be a sure-fire bet. The challenge becomes making sure that they are. The risk of niche deployments is that they may set direction for wider deployments that are detrimental and not within best practices.
Email archiving is often low-hanging fruit for organizations, as is migrating from shared drives and the elimination of paper. Of these three, the first two lend themselves most easily to a niche implementation. But let’s look at all three:
- Email archiving satisfies demands from management and the legal department, while providing a rich potential to start leveraging search and business intelligence technologies. Email archiving’s success stems from standards in email structure and metadata, the unified platform that is already used and accepted by users, and the fact that most ECM systems allow users to live entirely in their email client, possibly without ever touching the ECM user interface. Organizations can deploy email archiving with simple architecture, quick planning, and following concise rules. And, because ECM email archiving configurations tend to stand alone, there is also less risk of affecting future projects.
- Learn how enterprise content management brings order to chaotic unstructured contentShared drives are so popular, they might as well be paid employees. They are personified with single letter names, are talked about at the water cooler and sometimes cause problems. Replacing shared drives with an ECM system is an easy way for an organization to see a benefit from the new technology. Migration from a shared drive should be an easy win but is often a challenge because of end-user expectations. Focus migration on a single department or project, and get the users involved. The risk of a shared drive migration is duplication of problems. Shared drive folder structure is not equivalent to ECM folder structure and often lacks taxonomy. In the initial setup, it is best to have the users manually import their content rather than going immediately to the automated import of old data. When tightly focused shared drive migration can be set up in a week’s time, consider proper planning for the next phase. It gets the users’ feet wet, and the benefits are nearly instantaneous.
- Getting rid of paper, aka document imaging, is neither a quick nor a simple win. If forced to consider document imaging as an initial implementation, change the focus to be squarely on the search and retrieval of paper documents. The process of scanning entire file cabinets for the purpose of search and retrieval is straightforward, and easy to implement. By doing so you are investigating the simplest of document imaging technologies. More advanced document imaging requires serious focus and attention.
These three quick wins share the potential for growing out of control. I recommend honing the requirements to start with the smallest possible scenario. Email archival and shared drive business use cases are consistently used as the starting point for very large ECM projects. Their results are impressive and their architecture is fairly simple, and they can be implemented with little headache.
About the author: Chris Riley is a recognized industry expert in document recognition, enterprise content management (ECM) and analytics technologies. Currently, Riley is senior ECM & document capture architect at ShareSquared, Inc.; he lives and breathes technology and has built his career on helping companies buy, use and optimize advanced technologies for their business. Riley has 12-plus years of experience in this arena; during that time, he has owned three software companies and received several technology and business awards. He has degrees in business administration, computer science and mathematics, and holds certifications from the ECM trade organization AIIM as an "Enterprise Content Management Practitioner (ECMp)" and "Information, Organization and Access Practitioner (IOAp)." Riley also is a sought-after speaker and educator throughout the content gathering and delivery space. He can be reached at Chris.Riley@sharesquared.com.