Choosing an Enterprise Content Management Solution
With enterprise content management solutions like the OnBase platform, businesses can quickly solve business process challenges that position the company for success today and far into the future. So far we’ve shown you what is enterprise content management and shared the six key building blocks of an enterprise content management solution. We also reviewed the top 5 benefits of enterprise content management that include helping you realize your ROI within as few as six months after implementation.
Now that you have done your due diligence and are ready to partner with someone who can help you stay competitive, you need to understand where to start, what to expect, and how to partner with a strategic ECM solutions integrator.
Embracing ECM: Start with the Right Technology
When considering an investment in an enterprise content management (ECM) technology solution, what should you keep in mind in terms of product functionality?
First, you want to know you’re getting value for your investment. ECM solutions should offer deep functionality from their ECM product that doesn’t require custom coding when wanting to create or expand solutions.
Make sure your solution will meet your needs not only now, but in the future. When evaluating an ECM product, consider the investment beyond the immediate needs it solves. Will my investment yield a return today (with known needs) as well as tomorrow (where needs are unknown)? An ECM solution should easily accommodate your organizational changes over time.
Make sure the ECM product can integrate with your existing departmental or enterprise-wide business management applications (ERPs, Outlook, electronic health records, and so forth).
You also want to ensure you can use what you pay for. If you’re implementing a departmental solution, are you paying for an entire enterprise software suite upfront that you are not going to use? An ECM solution should be flexible enough to help you maximize your investment from implementation through the life of your solution.
How an ECM vendor develops their ECM product is a strong indicator of the product’s depth and breadth. Development must include customer feedback to ensure it meets the needs of its users.
The product should have flexible deployment options, both on-premises and in the cloud, and the solutions integrator should have a proven approach for helping customers switch between the two options as organizational needs change.
Finally, can the ECM solution scale to accommodate multiple offices and international locations?
Every technology investment must be smart, it must be strategic, and it must deliver on the promise to help you today and in the future.
The right enterprise content management solution will help you save time, stay competitive in your industry, and help you outpace your peers. Here’s how:
Save Money: Cost Savings and ROI
For many companies, investing in an enterprise content management (ECM) solution means a significant capital investment. Like with any capital investment, you want to know that what you’re purchasing is going to pay for itself and produce a return on investment (ROI).
With an ECM software solution, there are some fundamental cost savings that quickly rise to the top, including employee reallocation of resources to value-added tasks, reduced paper consumption, reclaimed floor space once you ditch your physical document storage vices, and elimination of other services like offsite storage, courier and shipping fees, microfiche and film creation, and so on.
Other ways ECM can make an impact:
- Capturing early payment discounts on AP invoices
- Ensuring that previously negotiated contract discounts are applied throughout the contact term
- Elimination of duplicate payments to vendors
- Issue resolution on the first call, often an inbound call, without the need for inefficient research methods and a return call for resolution
- Demonstrable, documented compliance with industry regulations that otherwise carry financial penalties for non-conformance
But wait…what about Total Cost of Ownership?
How do you determine the overall cost of your solution? It’s not just about what the ECM solution will cost you today during implementation, but you need to factor in what it will cost you in the future (to change, maintain, integrate, upgrade).
Business software applications (ECM, ERPs, CRMs, etc.) are highly-valued assets. They are typically used every day throughout an organization for as many as 5 to 15 years. Basing your ECM solution’s total cost of ownership (TCO) on initial implementation costs is like estimating the cost of raising your child based on the initial hospital bill. When purchasing an ECM solution, value must be based not only on what it takes to get the solution in the door, but what it will take to make sure that solution provides long-term value. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What kind of resources will the solution require to operate at full potential?
- As I expand my ECM solution to other departments, and as my organization grows, will I have the ability to grow my own solution? 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 costs?
When determining the total cost of ownership you should also consider product depth. An ECM solution that is flexible, has a wide-range of functionality, and is easy to configure with little or no custom coding is much more cost-effective to maintain. It provides more long-term value because when you want functionality, it’s there. You don’t have to spend time and money customizing a solution or researching a new product to fill the gaps.
Technology decision-makers are responsible for not only finding the right solution, but the one that doesn’t drain the budget over time. An ECM solution with a low total cost of ownership frees up spending for other projects, instead of just paying to maintain existing applications.
Save Time: Empower Your Employees
Discover how a strategic enterprise content management solution can help you empower your employees by eliminating the low-value tasks they conduct every day. Conduct calculations on the time spent per day (even if it is as little as 2 minutes per day) and figure the amount of money you are paying your employees to complete these menial tasks. Eliminate the time spent tracking down documents by implementing a carefully considered ECM software solution, and the math allows a company to reinvest that considerable amount of money into the business.
It’s not just paper. It’s emails, forms, reports, and document-based processes that nearly every organization still struggles to control. That’s why an effective use of enterprise content management (ECM) is a differentiator. When you’re one of the few that knows what information you have, where it is, and how to use it…you’re staying competitive.
Ways you stay competitive with an ECM solution:
- Improve the Bottom Line and Gain Market Share. By operating more efficiently with more information at users’ fingertips and by outperforming in speed and quality of customer interactions, you ultimately realize a return on investment that gives you a competitive edge.
- Become More Responsive to Customers. Because your content will all be in one place, your organization will be able to give all customers (or prospects) the same answers in quick time. 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; ECM makes them stronger. When users click on a button in their everyday applications to bring up related documents, they shouldn’t even know they’re accessing an ECM solution to provide them with that functionality.
- Make Better Decisions Faster. Your organization can’t make better decisions faster than the competition when users hunt through folders, file shares, and multiple other applications when searching for information. Strong ECM solutions put content where the users need it, 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.
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 the solution as it makes sense for your organization. With an on-premises solution, your solution lives on your own infrastructure and your IT department, or other resources, maintain and evolve your solution. An on-premises deployment means you can become the in-house expert on your ECM solution, and changes and enhancements are right at your fingertips.
- Cloud-based, hosted solution: When deploying cloud-based ECM, you own your solution, but it doesn’t live on your infrastructure, allowing you to take advantage of unlimited server retention. It also allows you to take advantage of infrastructure you may not be able to afford, or don’t want to use manpower to service. You save on capital expenditures and free up your IT resources.
- Hybrid: Strategic ECM solutions integrators will also provide a hybrid deployment approach that allows you to use both on-premises and cloud-based solutions. This approach provides a replication of your solution in the cloud, giving you 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, including: a desire to reduce costs, align with IT investments, gain new efficiencies, and mitigate both business and technical risks from an outdated and under-performing solution.
- Often, the system you’ve relied on for years is now too costly or too complex to maintain. Whether it’s heavy administrative overhead, costly third-party services or custom development expenses tacked on to your annual maintenance support fees, maintaining an outdated system, or one that no longer serves your needs, drives up your total cost of ownership (TCO) on that legacy solution. The cost to go-live with a software solution is usually only a fraction of the lifetime TCO. If your legacy ECM solution continues to add costs without continuing to add value, conversion becomes part of the conversation.
- In addition to reducing mounting technology costs, another reason conversion might make sense is when you’re aligning your ECM solution with other strategic technology investments. Getting multiple systems to communicate effectively can be impossible when your ECM solution runs on an outdated platform that doesn’t easily connect with other core business systems, like your ERP, EMR, claims management system or other business applications.
- If your current ECM system fails to provide product features your organization needs, or your solution can no longer grow with your organization, conversion is an opportunity to gain new functionality like workflow, image capture, records management and/or integration with email systems or mobile devices. Without those efficiencies, business processes can’t evolve.
Whether your ECM solution stopped providing meaningful product enhancements or the product roadmap no longer aligns with your needs, without continual product improvements that are responsive to your organization, your legacy solution will require time-consuming system workarounds, adding to your system’s mounting total cost of ownership. Change or growth within your organization may result in growing pains for your current ECM solution, hampering performance and scalability, and impacting how your organization conducts business.
Considering an ECM conversion gives you the opportunity to find a solution that better fits the needs of your organization today, and one that helps you plan for the future with a clearly-defined product roadmap that evolves with you to meet your specific needs. That solution should come from an experienced ECM solutions integrator with an uncompromised focus on product research and development, as well as an expert in-house database conversions team with a proven conversion toolset and methodology.
You identified your problem – too much paper, missing critical documents, compliance issues – and now you’ve determined that an enterprise content management (ECM) system is the needed solution. You know that a smart, strategic solution can deliver more efficient and effective daily business processes…but now what?
Now is the time to find the right ECM solution and solutions integrator. A carefully constructed Request for Proposal (RFP) can help your organization unearth your solution of choice.
- Identify and define your needs. If you feel that you are only scratching the surface with the needs you can identify on your own, let the potential solutions integrator know this. They should be able to help you identify other areas of your organization that can benefit from an ECM solution in their responses.
- Focus on the “Three Bs”-Budget. Backing. 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 those others in your organization 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 particular people is invaluable and will lead to an easier transition once the new system is implemented.
- Crafting the RFP. For most, this step is the most daunting. Crafting the RFP is an equal mix of art and science. You need to 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. Without fail, however, make sure to include references, information on a solution integrator’s organization, and information on research and development.
- 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. There is a point in which you could ask for too much detail. Work together with the solutions integrator to ensure everyone’s needs are met.
- Send it out. We recommend three to five solutions integrators. Give them at least three 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. Get to know them, get comfortable before you make the purchase.
Knowing a customer’s industry is equally as important as having deep enterprise content management (ECM) expertise. If an ECM solutions integrator and their vendor partner doesn’t know your market or the challenges you face regularly, you could add time and money to your purchase, implementation, deployment, and upgrade processes. An ECM product should be developed to meet your specific organizational and industry needs.
Customers are an invaluable resource for solution development, and often the solutions integrator, vendor partner, and customer can learn from each other. To gauge industry expertise, consider the available ways a user can interact with the solutions integrator. Also—research how your potential solutions integrator keeps up with market trends. The right solution for your organization can only be established if that ECM solutions integrator knows not only what you want to accomplish, but what’s happening in your industry that might impact your organization. Your solutions integrator should always be thinking about new industry-specific functionality to solve challenges.
Never settle for a solution that may work for you. Finding an ECM solutions integrator with industry expertise will ensure you never have to.