My two part series on the impact Microsoft SharePoint may have on the information managment marketplace was well recieved so I thought I might try another two-part article. I've been thinking a lot lately about the characteristics of successful records management and Enterprise Content Management implementations; why can some organizations successfully deploy ECM where others struggle mightily?
Much of this has to do with organizational culture and the fit of a particular ECM strategy to the business problems faced by a given organization. Readiness is key as are executive buy-in and a well-chosen and well-implemented tool. But these things can be said for pretty much any software application; if the bosses aren’t onside and a good change management strategy isn’t in place, the implementation will fail.
Jeetu Patel of Doculabs recently summarized his perspective on why ECM implementations have high falure rates and what you can do about it on John Mancini's Digital Landfill blog. I highly recommend you read the post and watch the associated slide show. I'm hopeful that my post is complementary to Jeetu's perspectives.
So what is it that makes information and records management implementations so special? What challenges do these implementations present that other systems do not? In my mind, there are two big differences;
Information Management hits people where they live, for better or worse. At best, records and information management are tied in with business processes and improves them to the point where users can’t believe they ever lived without proper RM / IM and ECM tools. For example, scanning invoices and initiating an automated Accounts Payable workflow process will make any approving manager wonder why they ever thought hand-coding invoices and routing them in multicoloured folders was a good idea. Same for users of Business Process Management applications like insurance claims processing or engineers using a GIS map integrated with a document repository. On the flip side, ECM asks users to change deeply ingrained work habits. Most of us have been using “File / Save as…” then navigating 10 folders deep on a shared drive for as long as we can remember. While most users don’t like storing documents on their shared drives (often lovingly called the “S: mess”), most will take this over a different structure imposed by an ECM system any day (even when you can prove that it’s actually less work to store documents in the ECM system!). Add to this the complexity that many organizations add by expecting their user community to remember a complex records classifications scheme or other detailed metadata and you have a recipe for failure.
The other big difference with ECM tools is that they are largely optional. An accountant may not like the way the new ERP system works, but she doesn’t have much of a choice when creating quarterly financial statements. ECM systems, while core to many business processes, can often be worked around by users who insist on storing documents on local drives or USB keys. This isn’t always the case, but it crops up most often when phasing out shared drives with ECM systems and is related to the work habits noted above.
In my next post I’ll talk about what you, the budding ECM deployment guru, can do to overcome these challenges and give your implementation the best chance for success.
Cross posted to the C3 Associates ECM Blog.
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