A successful enterprise content management (ECM) implementation requires an ongoing partnership between IT, compliance, and business managers.
Strict top-down initiatives that leave little for users' requirements consideration result in ECM systems that users don’t want to use.
Similarly, an ad hoc, overly decentralized approach leads to inconsistent policies and procedures, which in turn leads to disorganized, not governed, not foundable content. In both extremes, the ECM initiative ends with a failure.
Whether your organization uses an agile, waterfall or mixed approach to ECM deployment, ECM leaders must think about program initiation, planning, deployment, and ongoing improvement as a process and not as isolated events. Team composition will change over time of ECM project planning and roll-out, as different skill sets are needed.
For example, a business analyst is a key member of the team early in the project when developing a business case and projecting total cost of the project, while legal department will need to get involved when documenting e-discovery requirements.
But, there is often no clear location in the org chart for fundamental content management responsibilities, and that can contribute to weakened strategy, governance and return on investment (ROI).
Approach to ECM
Successful ECM initiatives balance corporate governance needs with the desire of business units to be efficient and competitive, and to meet cost and revenue targets.
Organizations should determine the balance of centralized versus decentralized decision making authority by the level of industry regulation, jurisdiction, corporate culture and autonomy of business units or field offices.
A central ECM project team of content management, business process, and technology experts should define strategy and objectives and align with the technology vision. Local subject matter experts in business units or regional offices can then be responsible for the execution and translation of essential requirements into localized policies and procedures, along with the business unit’s content management goals.
Business managers can help to measure current state of productivity, set goals for improvement, contribute to a business case or forecast total cost of a CMS ownership over a number of years. A trainer will be needed during pilot and roll-out to help with change management and system orientation. Legal department should approve updates to retention schedule and disposition policies as practices shift away from classification schemes designed for paper to more automated, metadata-driven approach.
The following roles are essential for an ECM project:
- Steering committee is responsible for project accountability and vision. Their role is to define an overall vision for an ECM project and outline processes and procedures to ensure integrity of information.
- Project manager is responsible for the ECM project management during CMS deployment. The project manager's role is to create project plans and timetables, identify risks and dependencies, liaise with business units, executive sponsors, IT, and other teams.
- Business analyst is responsible for outlining the desired state of CMS implementation and success metrics. This role is to gather business and technical requirements by engaging with business, technical, and legal/compliance stakeholders. They need to identify the current state of operations and outline the desired future state by adopting a CMS system.
- Information architect's role is to define and communicate the standards to support the infrastructure, configuration, and development of ECM application.System administrators - their role is to define and implement an approach to on-premises, cloud, or hybrid infrastructure to support a CMS.
- CMS administrator is responsible for the operation of the CMS. This role is to define and implement processes and procedures to maintain the operation of the CMS.
- User experience specialist's role is to define standards for usability and consistency across devices and applications, and create reusable design and templates to drive users' adoption.
- Records and information managers' role is to define and deploy taxonomies, identify metadata requirements, and to develop retention, disposition, and preservation schedules.
Core competencies will be supplemented by developers, trainers, quality assurance, documentation, and other specialists at various phases of the ECM deployment project. It is important to provide leadership during the deployment of a CMS. The team should bring technical knowledge about repositories, standards and service-oriented architectures, combined with business process acumen and awareness of corporate compliance obligations.
Information architects will be important participants during both the planning and deployment phases of the project. Communication and process expertise are essential for ongoing success. IT, information architect, and information managers should learn the vocabulary, pain points, and needs of business units, and help translate users' requirements to technical solutions so that the deployed CMS could help to improve current processes.
Compliance subject matter experts should communicate the implications and rationale of any change in process or obligations to users responsible for creating or capturing content.
Project plans, budgets and timetables should include time for coaching, communication, and both formal and informal training. Even simple file sharing technology will require some investment in training and orientation when processes or policies are changed.
ECM is a long-term investment, not a one-time technology installation project. Enterprises can often realize short-term ROI by automating manual processes or high-risk noncompliance issues, but the real payoff comes when an enterprise treats content as a strategic asset.
A strong ECM project team demonstrates leadership, communication skills and openness to iteration, setting the foundation for long-term value from the deployment efforts.
For example, a company aligned its deployment and continuous improvement work by adopting more agile approaches to project delivery, as well as a willingness to adopt business metrics (faster time to market for new products), instead of technology management metrics (number of documents created per week). That change allowed the company to better serve its document sharing and collaboration needs of sales teams in the field.
The project team must engage directly with the user community to create systems that make work processes better. It is a good idea to include hands-on participation and validation with a pilot group.
Follow best practices from completed ECM projects. Review processes, applications, forms, and capture screens to identify areas of friction when people capture or share content. User experience professionals have design and testing experience, and they need to be included in the ECM deployment team.
User participation is valuable throughout the ECM deployment project. Direct input on process bottlenecks, tool usability and real-world challenges helps prioritize requirements, select technologies and create meaningful training materials.
Senior managers who participate on a steering committee, or are stakeholders in an information governance strategy, should allow their teams to allocate adequate time for participation. That might mean attending focus groups, holding interviews, attending demos and training, or experimenting with new tools.
A sustainable and successful ECM initiative will be responsive to the changing behavior of customers, partners and prospects, changing needs of users, and corporate and business unit objectives. Stay current with ECM and industry trends. ECM project team members should keep one eye on the future and be open to learning about industry best practices.
Businesses will continue to adopt mobile, cloud and social technologies for customer and employees communication. Anticipate new forms of digital content and incorporate them into the ECM program strategy proactively, not reactively.
Proactively push vendors for commitments and road maps to accommodate those emerging needs. Stay alert to emerging new vendors or alternative approaches if the needs of business stakeholders are shifting faster than current ECM technology. Aim for breadth as well as depth of knowledge, and encourage team members to explore adjacent areas to ECM to acquire related knowledge and think more holistically.