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Putting the Pieces Together: What Comprises an ECM Solution?

It is often unrealized that ECM value goes far beyond the simple scanning, storing, and retrieving solutions that once dominated the industry.  What else then, does an ECM solution comprise of today, and what pieces should you place together in order to get the most out of an ECM solution?  In order to help with these questions, we have put together six foundational ECM building blocks that you can refer to when evaluating various ECM products.  When your solution includes elements from each of these categories, you will be able to obtain the maximum value that is possible from an ECM system.

Capture.  An ECM solution needs to be able to capture any and all of the file types you use in your day-to-day business activities.  Even better?  The solution should then be able to automatically classify documents for easy indexing and retrieval later.  You want a system that lets you capture all file types, from any physical location, and then can automatically classify those documents.

Process.  Optimize your business processes by driving efficiency and eliminating silos and wasted time.  Structured processes within your organization should be automated.  An ECM solution that uses workflow automation allows you to automatically route documents to the right person, using agreed thresholds for approval.  When these tasks become automated, you save an incredible amount of time that can be put to better use.  Furthermore, your system data and documents are incredibly important to your organization, so are the post-it notes, email attachments, and spreadsheets.  Make sure your system can consolidate all your data in one easy-to-access location.

Access.  Some would argue that easy access of your documents is the most important part of an ECM solution, and while we aren’t sure that it’s the most important, we can say that this is often the reason an organization determines an ECM solution’s worth.  Each person in your organization who needs access to content held in your ECM should be able to access it from anywhere.  A good ECM solution will integrate with your other line-of-business applications, give mobile access to your users, be able to take documents “offline” for your road warriors, and extend out to clients and customers if needed as well.

Integrate.  You will gain the most return on investment with not only your ECM solution, but your other line-of-business applications, when your ECM solution can seamlessly integrate with your core systems.  These integrations should require little to no programming and will help with training time, as the ECM solution can run behind other core systems with users oftentimes not knowing they are using functionalities outside of the core system in the first place.

Measure.  An important part of any software solution is the ability to monitor and report on the content and activity within your system.  You need to be able to make point-in-time decisions when needed, and to do so, ensure you have access to reports whenever needed.  Furthermore, good solutions will allow you the ability to analyze the data your way, giving instant extraction to Microsoft Excel so you can slice data when necessary.

Store.  Last but not least, it is of the utmost importance that your ECM solution can provide you with data redundancy while automating your retention policies behind the scenes.  It needs to secure your content, protect your content, and destroy your content when legal requirements dictate that your documents can be deleted according to their legal retention requirements.

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