It’s not news to hear that CEOs, CIOs, and CFOs are focusing on data—the analytics, the key indicators, market intelligence and so on to help grow business. Day in and day out, business analysts are crunching numbers and reviewing other forms of data to hopefully foresee into the future of buyers, markets, and ways to increase annual return on investment of technological ventures and otherwise. A question may arise for some, though, on where this data comes from and the answer is very simple…business content.
How does your organization use content to manage day-to-day activities? Assuming you’re like most other companies today, your content is probably spread onto a number of different mediums: documents, email, contracts, spreadsheets, snail mail correspondence, faxes, data feeds (XML, EDI, etc.), or maybe application reports and output. Currently CRMs, ERPs, EMRs, and other line of business applications do a great job in storing pertinent business information, but without the supporting content you will find that the value of your data is limited. This brings us to the question, then, on how your organization manages this Unstructured Content. Do you use paper and filing cabinets? Boxes stored offsite? Film? File share sites? SharePoint? Have you considered an Enterprise Content Management System?
Maybe a more important question to ask yourself if you are using anything other than an ECM solution is how do you find that data? More than likely you are thumbing through a file cabinet or folder system, or maybe your company has even hired employees to do this for you. You could possibly be selecting a server, then share, then folder, then file based upon a naming convention that someone in your company created who knows how long ago. Maybe you are searching through your SharePoint library. No matter which search method you have been using, all of these approaches to tracking down data lead to concerns over findability, security, and retention. Here enters Enterprise Content Management.
First—what can an ECM system do for your structured content storage to help maximize your current core system investments? Well, it can develop metadata (information about the information you already have stored). It can match all different types of content (emails, correspondence, invoices, packing slips, etc.) to a system, such as an ERP, to leverage what has already been captured. This could include the linking of documents and/or other communications to the data object within the ERP, significantly improving findability. But maybe we are getting ahead of ourselves…findability and leveraging links between data is a huge benefit, but there is so much more that an ECM system can do.
An ECM system can capture content and automate the extraction of information using a variety of ways, and directly post this information to your ERP. It can read barcodes for separation of and indexing of documents and other forms of content. With the usage of Autofill, it can leverage enterprise data such as names and addresses that have already been entered into another system, and pull that data into the ECM system as well to marry up the content. With the help of Optical Character Recognition (OCR), the system can find and pull digital text from paper-based content without a human manually entering that data.
An ECM system can automate processes via workflow by applying business logic to content. It can route documents through departments and organizations for approvals, conquer exception handling for those documents that may need more review or care, and show user interaction of specific records for timers, audit and security purposes.
What else can an ECM system do? Help with document retention and records management to not only mitigate litigation risk, but also to free up valuable space within systems and organizations. On a higher level, it can reduce operating costs, improve customer service, minimize risk, speed up processes, improve productivity by providing instant access to content, and so much more. Ultimately, enterprise content management is the technical solution that allows you to take control of your organization’s important information.
So what have we learned? Data is king. The royal subjects? Enterprise content. Support the data that you have invested in by integrating it with an ECM solution. Apply security to your business information, improve performance and response times in finding data, improve processes with workflow, and ultimately take action to improve your analytics and ROIs.