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Why Habit is a Factor in a Successful ECM Implementation

Many factors influence a successful Enterprise Content Management (ECM) software implementation.  First, a team needs to consider changing the way the company has been run for years, possibly decades.  Second, software is only as good as the users allow it to be.  What do we mean by this?  Year after year, businesses across the world implement different technologies in hopes of a large return on investment (ROI), realizing increased efficiency and data tracking, making specific departmental responsibilities easier, and the list goes on and on.  Some of these implementations are successful, others are not.  Some great ideas never get a second look because managers are paralyzed by the thought of adding another new system and process changes for their people.  Most successes and failures in business relate back to our ability to embrace change. Why are humans so reluctant to change?  How can you ensure your ECM implementation will be successful?

Charles Duhigg, in his book, The Power of Habit, explores how habits function.  Through an extensive amount of case studies, interviews, and research, he has revealed how habits influence our lives and how we can use habit to reshape our lives…and our organization.  We wanted to share with you some thoughts from the book as we relate them to ECM.  Here are some great insights into how to drive new habits to ensure the success of your ECM implementation:

  1. “Use the same cue. Provide the same reward. Change the routine.”
    Imagine a common Accounts Payable process…a member of your team gets an Invoice to pay for office supplies that your company ordered.  At this point, that same employee has to complete a three-way match by tracking down the paper form of the purchase order prepared by your organization, along with the packing slip that is probably still sitting in another team member’s office, and the invoice he/she just received.   The cue, receiving the invoice, prompted the employee to track down the necessary documents.  Before an ECM implementation, this probably meant paper files in filing cabinets, or worse on team members’ desks.  This routine eventually provided the reward of scratching the task off their list and getting the invoice approved with a check sent out.  Use the same cue (receiving an invoice) to provide the same reward (sending out the payment with a feeling of completion), but this time change the routine.  Instead of the old routine of physically searching for paper, the new routine is a “google-esque” search in the ECM system.  Don’t leave room for a team member to revert to old ways.  Make sure that every paper document is imported into the ECM system and tagged appropriately with key data to ensure the document is easily findable with the click of a button.
  2. Make the system familiar.
    “If you dress a new something in old habits, it’s easier for the public to accept it.”  Integrate your ECM solution behind your key line-of-business system so users can remain in their familiar system, yet reap the benefits of ECM.  For example, Accounts Payable folks can work within their existing ERP system and with a single click can pull up all of the documents that are related to that ERP transaction, all without leaving their ERP application. An ECM solution is not meant to take the place of your other applications, it is meant to enhance them and provide a greater ROI for what you’ve already purchased.  By allowing your ECM system to “run behind” your other software, your team will naturally use the new software consistently because it makes their life easier with added functionality in a system they already know and use.
  3. Create a community of excitement.
    It is important to not only get everyone that will be using or affected by the software on board, but also create excitement around the new implementation.  It is often with change that people tend to think “everything will be more difficult”: new processes have to be created, old files need to be scanned into the system, new software has to be learned, etc.  Unfortunately, the decision makers of companies do not always share with their team why the software is being implemented.  Have you communicated the benefits to your team?  Focus on all the advantages that come with an ECM solution: increased and quick access to any and all documents needed, collaboration and note tracking on documents, business process management and workflow, automated document routing and tracking, visibility into where a document is within a process, electronic forms processing, simplified search, easy backup and recovery plans, and so much more.  Show your ECM software to the soon-to-be power users.  Get their feedback; show them how beneficial and truly exciting it is to be implementing ECM software into your company.

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