Choosing an Enterprise Content Management Solution
An enterprise content management system solves business process challenges and can position your company for success today and in the future.
Finding the right ECM solution can be daunting. In fact, many organizations start small and focus on resolving business process challenges in one department. In as little as six months after beginning with an ECM software, you start to see a return on your investment. Once you experience the value, you can see how to apply the ECM system across other departments.
Embracing ECM: How to Choose the Right Technology
When considering an investment in an enterprise content management (ECM) technology solution, where does product functionality come into play? From efficiency to long-term utilization, there are several important factors to consider.
- Is it easy to maintain? You deserve to know not only the value of a potential product but its maintenance demands as well. ECM solutions should offer deep functionality from their ECM product without requiring custom coding to create or expand solutions.
- Is it viable long-term? As a forward-thinking organization, you need an ECM product that will help you reach success both today and tomorrow. Assess your current needs while also trying to anticipate your future needs. Will your investment yield a return over time in addition to today? It would best if you had an ECM solution that will comfortably accommodate your organizational changes over time.
- Does it integrate seamlessly? The ECM product should be able to integrate with your existing departmental or enterprise-wide core business applications, such as ERPs, email platforms such as Outlook, tablets and mobile platforms, even claims management systems.
- Will I use every feature I’m buying? You don’t want to pay for anything that you won’t use. If you’re implementing a departmental solution, are you paying for an enterprise software suite with parts that will go untouched? An ECM solution should be flexible enough to maximize your investment from implementation through expansion.
- Was it thoughtfully designed? A reliable indicator of the product’s depth and breadth is how its ECM vendor developed it. Development should consider customer feedback to ensure that it meets the needs of its users, as well as include a heavy continual investment in research and development
- Is it flexible? The product should have flexible deployment options, both on-premises and in the cloud. The solutions integrator should also have a proven approach to switching between both options as organizational needs change. It should also be flexible enough to accommodate multiple offices and international locations.
Every technology investment must be smart, strategic, and helpful for you and your organization both today and tomorrow.
Your Guide to an Enterprise Content Management Solution
Where to Start
Think long term when considering an investment in an enterprise content management system. It is essential to realize that this is a significant investment. Not only monetarily, but also an investment of time from you and end users. Every technology investment must be smart, strategic, and deliver results today and scale into the future.
For long-lasting success, we recommend you consider the following before choosing the enterprise content management system that is best for you.
Invest Beyond Your Immediate Needs
A fatal mistake we see too often is organizations investing in a band-aid solution to fix current needs. Shortly after implementing, they realize they cannot expand and need to start the process over. An ECM solution should comfortably accommodate your organizational changes over time. Make sure your ECM system will meet your needs not only now, but in the future. Before making your final decision, be able to answer: Will our investment in the ECM solution yield a return today (with our known needs) as well as tomorrow (where our needs are unknown)?
Understand the Full Value of Your Investment
A successful ECM software should offer deep functionality without requiring custom coding when it’s time to create or expand the solution. You also do not want to pay for more than what you will be using, so software should be able to start small and grow with your needs. In other words, if you are implementing a departmental solution, will you be paying upfront for a full enterprise software that you would only be using a small fraction of?
Integration with Your Existing Business Software
To make the most out of your investment, the ability for a new ECM system to work with your current core business applications such as ERPs and Outlook is crucial. Your return on investment, as well as user are much higher when ECM systems integrate with the software your team is already using daily.
Flexibility and Scalability
An ECM system should have the flexibility to help you maximize your investment. The software should have flexible deployment options – both on-premises and in the cloud. It should also be able to scale to accommodate an entire organization, and even across multiple offices or international locations.
The History of the Enterprise Content Management Platform
How a software creator develops its product is a reliable indicator of the product’s depth and breadth. Development must include customer feedback to ensure it meets the needs of its users, as well as a heavy consistent investment in research and development.
The right enterprise content management (ECM) solution will save you time and money and stand out from the competition. Before you make your investment, you need to know everything from ECM benefits to the cost of ownership.
Benefits of ECM
Save Money: Cost Savings and ROI
For many companies, investing in an enterprise content management (ECM) solution means a significant capital investment. Like any capital investment, you want your purchase to pay for itself and produce a return on investment (ROI).
With an ECM software solution, some fundamental cost savings quickly rise to the top. You can grow without adding headcount, reduce your paper consumption, eliminate duplicate payments to vendors, and regain valuable office space that once housed paper. Additionally, say goodbye to services like offsite storage, courier and shipping fees, microfiche, and film creation.
Save Time: Empower Your Employees
With a strategic enterprise content management solution, you can empower your employees by eliminating the low-value tasks they conduct every day. Try this calculation:
Time Spent Per Day on Menial Tasks / Hours Employee Works in a Day =
% of time spent on low-value tasks
(include time spent on tasks that are even as little as 2 mins per day)
An ECM software can help eliminate those low-value tasks, thus, giving your employees back time in their day. With this extra time, they can focus on higher-value tasks that require their knowledge and expertise.
Every organization struggles to control and manage not only paper but emails, forms, reports, and document-based processes. Using enterprise content management is a differentiator because you can control and manage all your content in a single location. This differentiator gives you an edge over your competition. Here are examples of how you can stay competitive with an ECM solution:
- Be More Responsive to Customers. With all your content in one place, your organization will be able to give customers (or prospects) the right answers, right away. Can your competitors provide this level of service?
- Maximize Use of Other IT Investments. Your team has used a lot of well-spent time and budget on your current business applications. An ECM system can make them stronger. When users click on a button in their everyday applications to bring up related documents, they won’t even know they are accessing an ECM solution to provide them with that functionality.
- Make Better Decisions Faster. When your information is everywhere – in physical folders, digital file shares, and multiple other applications – it takes forever to gather the proper information to make an informed decision. A powerful ECM solution puts content where the users need it and when they need it.
- Minimize Risk. Don’t put your content at risk for security breaches or compliance fines. Putting them in a secure, auditable ECM solution keeps them safe from both.
- More Perks:
- Capture early payment discounts on AP invoices
- Ensure previously negotiated contract discounts are applied throughout the contract term
- Issue resolutions on the first call without desperately searching for answers or having to return a call with an answer
- Documented compliance with industry regulations that otherwise carry financial penalties for non-conformance
Cost of Ownership
How do you determine the overall value of your solution? It’s not just about the cost of implementation, but the potential maintenance, integration, and upgrade costs down the road. You wouldn’t estimate the cost of raising a child based solely on the first hospital bill, would you? Of course not. When purchasing an ECM solution, the value must be forward thinking, not merely fixated on the present. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What kind of resources will the solution require to operate at full potential?
- Will my solution grow along with my organization, even as I expand it to other departments? Will I need to pay the solutions integrator to make these changes?
- How much customization will it take to make changes or to upgrade my solution? What about when wanting to integrate with my other applications?
- What about ongoing maintenance and support costs? How significant will they be and how frequently will they come up?
- What is the depth of the solution? Which solutions are simple and require little to no custom coding to increase maintenance costs and lower product value?
It would be best if you didn’t have to spend time and money customizing a solution or researching a new product to fill the gaps. When you know what information you have, where it is, and how to use it, you’re competitive. Invest in an ECM solution and watch your organization thrive like never before.
Most ECM solutions offer a wide array of functionality, but few offer multiple deployment options. When looking to deploy a solution, give yourself options—you may want to consider this one factor as critically important to the ECM solution that is best for you.
A high-value ECM provider will deliver flexible deployment options, including:
- On-premises: Deploying on-premises allows you to keep your solution in-house and grow it as it makes sense for your organization. Because it’s on-premises, your solution lives on your infrastructure and your IT department can maintain and evolve it. On-premises deployment means you’re the in-house expert on your ECM solution, and modifications are right at your fingertips.
- Cloud-based, hosted solution: When deploying cloud-based ECM, you own your solution. Still, it doesn’t live on your infrastructure, allowing you to take advantage of unlimited server retention. It also allows you to take advantage of the infrastructure that could be unaffordable or require additional workforce. You save on capital expenditures and free up your IT resources all at once.
- Hybrid: Strategic ECM solutions integrators will provide a hybrid deployment approach that allows you to use on-premises and cloud-based solutions. This approach offers replication of your system in the cloud. Through this, you get a real environment to test new features, prepare for disaster recovery, and so much more.
There are several reasons why you might decide to replace your existing enterprise content management (ECM) solution. Whether you want to avoid risks or save money, chances are, there’s a more efficient option out there to replace your old system. Consider the following potential problems that might indicate that it’s time for a conversion:
- Costly Maintenance. Often, the ECM system you’ve relied on for years is now too expensive or too complex to maintain. Administrative overhead, system maintenance, custom development expenses, and costly third-party services can be financially draining. All of these expenses drive up the total cost of ownership on your legacy solution. The cost to go-live with a software solution is usually only a fraction of the lifetime cost. If your legacy ECM solution continues to add costs without adding value, conversion becomes part of the conversation.
- Incompatible systems. Another reason conversion might make sense is when you’re aligning your ECM solution with other strategic technology investments. Your ECM solution might run on an outdated platform that doesn’t easily connect with other core business systems. Fortunately, a newer ECM solution can allow your system to communicate with your ERP, EMR, claims management system, or other business applications seamlessly.
- Inability to evolve. Your current ECM system may fail to provide the product features your organization needs. Alternatively, your solution may be unable to grow with your organization. Conversion helps add new functionality like workflow, image capture, records management, and integration with email systems or mobile devices. Without those efficiencies, business processes can’t evolve.
An ECM system conversion provides you with a clearly-defined product roadmap that evolves with you to meet your specific needs. Through this, you get the opportunity to find a solution that better fits the needs of your organization today while also helping you plan for the future.
You identified your needs and are aware of the benefits and costs of an ECM solution, so what’s next? To find the perfect ECM solution for you, you will need help. Fortunately, a carefully constructed Request for Proposal (RFP) can guide your organization toward your solution of choice.
Tips for the Best RFP
- Identify and define your needs. You are probably aware of what your needs are, but if you aren’t sure, tell your solutions integrator. They can help you identify other areas of your organization that can benefit from an ECM solution.
- Focus on the 3 Bs- Budget, Backing, and Building. Your budget will help inform your potential solutions integrator. There’s no sense in asking for the stars when you can only afford the moon. Get backing (or buy-in) from key stakeholders, decision makers, and others who will be positively impacted by the implementation. Build your RFP team with the end users who will be interacting with the system on a day-to-day basis. The input from these people will lead to a more natural transition.
- Crafting the RFP.For most, this step is daunting. Crafting the RFP is an equal mix of art and science. It would help if you ask the right questions, in the right way, to garner the best response. If you have access to a sample RFP tool, this is the perfect place to start. Don’t forget to include references, information on a solution integrator’s organization, and information on research and development! View a sample RFP.
- Finishing up.It’s likely you’ll come up with a ton of questions and a laundry list of requirements. Just be mindful of getting lost in the needs. It’s easy to get hung up on your many needs, big and small, and request more detail than necessary. Be mindful of this and try to stay in touch with the bigger picture. Additionally, your solutions integrator can help to keep you grounded and ensure the final results meet everyone’s needs.
- Send it out. We recommend three to five solutions integrators. Give them at least four weeks to respond.
- Evaluate the responses. Review the answers, make sure there is no gray area, and invite the top two-three finalists to demonstrate their abilities.
- When comfortable, make a decision. It’s okay to ask more questions and need more time. Visit the company headquarters and have them visit your company as well. Ask for references or site visits. Through this process, you’ll get to know each other and feel comfortable before making your purchase.
It’s critical you choose someone who knows a customer’s industry inside and out, not just the product. If they do not, you could add time and money to your purchase, implementation, deployment, and upgrade processes. An ECM product should be developed mindfully to meet your specific organizational and industry needs, which requires background knowledge.
Here is some advice on how to find an ECM Solutions Integrator with experience and expertise in your industry:
Does the person promote interactivity? To gauge industry expertise, consider the possible ways a user can interact with the solutions integrator. Customers are an invaluable resource for solution development. Often, the ECM Solution Integrator, vendor partner, and the customer can learn from each other, leading to greater mutual success.
Does the person research market trends? Learn if your potential ECM solutions integrator keeps up with the industry, and if so, how. If your ECM solutions integrator understands your goals and your industry’s contexts, the right solution is attainable. New industry-specific functionality should always be on their mind to tackle challenges.
Never settle for a solution that may not work for you. Fortunately, with an ECM solution integrator with industry expertise, you don’t have to.