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Top 8 enterprise content management challenges to avoid

As organizations plan enterprise content management strategies, challenges may arise -- like cost, security and storage. Careful planning can help alleviate these issues.

Enterprise content management software can dramatically improve team collaboration, preserve an organization's records and form a key portion of its digital transformation.

However, various challenges can derail ECM projects or limit their value to organizations, which content managers must remember as they consider strategies for ECM software implementation. Projects have more success if they effectively plan for these pitfalls. While methods to address risks differ among companies, no team or organization is immune to the potential effects of a failed ECM strategy.

Explore eight common ECM challenges that organizations and content managers face.

1. Customer service

ECM software and processes often confuse users, especially those used to paper documents or legacy file systems, so organizations should engage closely with users to learn their needs. Ad hoc support opportunities, such as office hours, can offer users a way to learn from others and build a dialogue and partnership between IT personnel and users.

2. Storage and migration

Without an ECM strategy, organizations can suffer from missing or unavailable information. Business-critical documents can be stuck on someone's personal computer, an inaccessible file system or are paper documents.

Content managers must allocate adequate storage for ECM software. To do this, they should estimate the potential costs of storage and maintenance personnel's time. Project success and client adoption can influence these estimations, which content managers should occasionally revisit. While storage remains an expense, its associated costs continue to decrease, like eliminating the cost of floor space for paper documents users can't access remotely.

Additionally, an organization may have to force software adoption and migration. If it has an older ECM system or ad hoc ways to store and share content, it may move valuable content to the new system. To facilitate this, content managers should find ways to minimize users' manual and rote work and move from old to new systems and disconnected to connected processes.

3. Cost

Even small ECM software projects can be expensive. In an organization's planning process, it should develop financial metrics that balance cost and benefit. These metrics show how customer satisfaction, information security (infosec), information digitization and other benefits offset the software's costs. In some cases, organizations can power down legacy systems and remove their associated hardware and software costs.

Even within this context, content managers must manage the costs of software and development personnel to ensure they stay within budget. Periodic cost-benefit analysis with finance and management can help content managers understand whether each project phase is worth the cost.

4. Technology

Each organization must assess its comfort levels with security, compliance and cost implications of ECM software and its associated technologies.

If an organization rolls out ECM in a cloud environment, it could save money on maintenance and infrastructure costs and have higher system availability. However, this makes organizations beholden to another company's goals and technical decisions because it can't customize the underlying cloud technology as well as it can with on-premises resources. Additionally, organizations can completely control security on premises, but they may not roll out ECM software as efficiently as a SaaS provider.

Ultimately, only the organization can decide the best ways to build a usable, extensible and supportable system to comply with its business rules.

An image of three key steps in an ECM roadmap
Carefully planning an ECM roadmap can help organizations avoid common pitfalls with ECM software.

5. Communication

From the beginning of the project, content managers must listen to users, understand the pain points in their current workflows and find ways to make their jobs easier. If content managers listen to issues and propose solutions, users are more likely to embrace the ECM system.

Some users may prefer to manage paper documents over electronic files, while others may have electronic systems with overly complex legacy workflows. A radical listening approach with a small user base can help in these situations. This enables content managers to be more attentive to effects on customer satisfaction, address user needs and learn lessons to benefit future users.

If the project involves process automation, content managers can engage with their change management strategy to ensure they automate the right processes and don't simply replicate current -- and potentially less effective -- processes. As content managers go through the teams, they can focus more on UX.

6. Taking on too much at once

While organizations want their ECM strategies and systems to address content challenges and opportunities across the entire business, they shouldn't try to do everything simultaneously. Content managers can find where process automation could improve workflows, productivity and other areas. Managers can then address those areas and bring use cases and user communities into the system.

From the beginning of the project, content managers must listen to users, understand the pain points in their current workflows and find ways to make their jobs easier.

Even small businesses have various content lifecycle opportunities that the needs of management, finance, HR, IT, engineering, sales and marketing teams drive. Content managers can tackle these workflows one at a time.

7. Performance tuning

If content managers take each step one at a time and focus on adoption, they may find that users tax the system to its limits. A little adoption success can bring a well-thought-out ECM system to its knees, slow down response times and frustrate users.

To avoid this frustration, content managers should prioritize stress and load tests for their systems. What if all users log on at once and perform the most processor-intensive tasks? At what point does the system buckle under the pressure? Managers should take their systems to the failure point, fix any resolvable issues, then add this process to the test suite to stay ahead of the system's adoption load.

8. Security

If an organization only considers infosec at the end of its ECM deployment process, it may have to rethink processes, workflows and interfaces, or else it puts the system and sensitive content at risk of theft or accidental disclosure. Instead, as content managers consider change management, adoption, performance tuning and migration, they should consider security as an underlying element.

No system is perfectly secure. Content managers must try to balance usability and limit the risk of data loss, theft or leak. Too many controls can hamper usability and adoption, which may force users to take their content to potentially less secure tools and processes.

Key takeaways

Organizations shouldn't let standard ECM challenges overwhelm their digitization projects. If content managers remember the following key takeaways, they can more efficiently prepare to deploy ECM software.

  • If an organization takes stock of where it is, plans its project in incremental steps, engages with clientele and helps them through the change management process, it can better respond to technical and adoption issues.
  • If an organization monitors its system's performance, stress tests it, and guides and automates user migration, it can manage user experiences as they migrate, limit manual work and provide a system as fast or faster than what they had before.
  • If an organization has an infosec layer, it can preserve or improve its content's security profile.

Next Steps

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