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Best-practices advice for an ECM cloud computing deployment

Get tips on how to manage the development and rollout of a cloud-based enterprise content management system, to help your organization succeed on an ECM cloud computing project.

Migrating an enterprise content management (ECM) system to a cloud infrastructure can be a major undertaking. And without careful planning and a strict adherence to best practices, an ECM cloud computing deployment could easily cost more money, take longer and exact more of a toll on an organization than initially expected – not an outcome that anyone wants to see.

To get a cloud ECM project off to a good start, be sure early on to involve users from all of the departments that the change will affect – then do sufficient training on how the new system will change things for users. That sounds obvious, but it doesn’t happen often enough, according to Steve Weissman, executive director of Holly Group, a consulting firm that focuses on ECM and enterprise information management.

“Cloud services are typically a little easier to implement these days because most [users] are familiar with Web-based interfaces,” Weissman said. “But the people who haven’t been properly introduced to [an ECM cloud system] won’t use it.”

ECM cloud computing calls for behavior reinforcement
Paying proper attention to organizational behavior and change management processes can also help ensure the smooth adoption of a cloud-based ECM system and the new ways of accessing and working with content that it requires. “Many organizations don’t do change management or find ways to reward the behavior they’re looking for, but it’s key for a successful implementation,” Weissman said.

Chris Riley, senior ECM and document capture architect at Pasadena, Calif.-based consulting firm ShareSquared Inc., agreed that changing user behavior is a critical component of any ECM system deployment, whether it involves the cloud or not.

For example, many employees use email as a sort of ad-hoc content management system, Riley said. That can create a lot of trouble, especially for financial services and health care organizations that need to adhere to regulatory standards such as Sarbanes-Oxley or HIPAA. Getting users to stop relying on email and accept an ECM system can be a painful process, but it needs to be done, Riley said.

Beyond that, end users typically have a large part in the deployment process: Not only do they need to accept the new ECM system, they play a crucial role in migrating content into it, Riley said.

“When you talk about migrating from a shared drive, it’s still an iterative process that requires a lot of user intervention,” he noted. But getting users involved can help them become familiar with the system, while changing the way they view content and folder structures and educating them on the new taxonomies that will be used to manage content.

Data safety net needed on ECM cloud computing projects
No surprise: Avoiding data security problems is also vital to the success of a cloud content management system deployment, according to Ashish Nadkarni, a practice leader at consulting firm GlassHouse Technologies Inc. in Framingham, Mass. “Will your data and content be compromised on the cloud infrastructure? You need to determine if you’re going to be able to reduce that risk and mitigate it during and after the move,” he said.

Building in system auditing capabilities is another must-do item, Nadkarni added – for example, to make sure that performance is meeting expectations and that workers who leave an organization can no longer access the content management cloud. A successful deployment, he said, requires “a lot more than taking some software and moving it to the cloud.”

As a result, the planning stage of an ECM cloud project is crucial to its ultimate success. “It’s no different from any other IT undertaking,” Weissman said. “But since content is typically considered the ‘keys to the kingdom’ – the intellectual property of a company – you can’t simply migrate without [factoring in] all these considerations.”

And when you get to the technology evaluation stage, Riley recommended that you look for ECM software and a cloud infrastructure that supports the multivendor Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS) specification. If you decide to switch to a different system in the future, or if your organization needs to consolidate or integrate multiple ECM systems following acquisitions, “your life is going to be greatly simplified” with CMIS-compliant technology in place, he said.

Catherine LaCroix is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore. She covers technology used in business, education and health care.

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