Debunking some common ECM myths
Whenever we talk about the latest technology, it is all too easy to focus on the solution itself. “Cloud”, “algorithm”, “wearable” etc. Too often, this is where the initiative fails. It is too much widget and not enough why.
Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is another example of this; there is a huge difference in understanding the importance of the concept vs the solution itself. ECM can mean many things for many people, but for us it is definitely a concept; an ecosystem of capabilities to bring together all of the unstructured ‘stuff’ into a structured and well-managed environment so that it can be easily used, creating value for a wide range of people and of course the organisation overall.
So where do you start? Well, put simply you have to start with the ‘why’. When we engage with our customers, our team spend the early days of the engagement understanding the ‘why’, meaning that our initial discussions are all focused on how to “seek first to understand and then be understood” (Dr Stephen Covey). This is a critical first step, for many reasons but not least because before you can deliver a solution you need to understand:
Why are we making the change?
Why is the current state not viable anymore?
Sounds easy right? Well, maybe not. Formulating good answers to these questions has proved to be hard for many organisations over the years, both customers and ECM providers. Partly, this is due to some common misconceptions or myths, which can easily cloud the thinking of even the most experienced of people.
So, let’s take a step back and see if we can’t debunk the most common of these myths.
Myth 1: I need an ECM Solution
Really? If we look around us at the moment, many agencies are looking at ECM; New Zealand Government has invested in ECMaaS, and there are some genuine ECM success-stories to be told. But at times, we know it can be easy to lose sight of the all important perspectives on current state, e.g. “my team can’t find the information they need”, or even the business-case view of why the investment in ECM is being made in the first place, e.g “we want to collaborate with external parties but currently we can’t”.
Advice: Don’t talk about ECM – talk about the opportunities you want to realise and the problems you need to fix!
Myth 2: I’ll buy an ECM and I wont have to do anything
The nice thing about some ECM solutions is that they offer a set of standard functionality that can make it easier for you to start your programme and run in a more iterative and ‘agile’ mode. But any and all of the solutions will only ever be as good as the vision that is set at the outset. So you still need to work to develop a clear and recognisable view of the future state – how will life be different when we’ve got our new ECM?
Advice: Look honestly at the people and skills you have available internally and be very clear with your provider about roles, responsibilities and expectations during the project and the ‘business as usual’ service model; the post go-live.
Myth 3: No-one uses these systems
If ECM didn’t work no-one would buy it. What lies behind this myth though is a very real issue in user adoption rates. When organisations invest in ECM they often do so without the appropriate level of investment in change management that is crucial to the success of the system – and of course, systems are often designed to meet today’s user behaviour not future proofing for tomorrow. Having said all that, it can be done! There are plenty of organisations who have invested both in the change management programme (during and post go-live) and also designed a system that was easy to use for everyone – everyone can be a knowledge worked if you give them chance! HINT – take a look at our case study with the Department of Conservation. A 95% adoption rate is not to be sniffed at!
Advice: Define user adoption in a way that can be validated, and validated easily. Talk to the service provider about the information they can provide for you – how have they made this work for previous clients, and what data can they provide you with to show that the solution is delivering results!
Myth 4: One solution to rule them all
This is today’s version of the mainframe myth – with one solution you can deliver every user’s needs; today and tomorrow. ECM is a solution in its own right but it’s also a platform on which business solutions are built, which requires the ability to integrate the ECM with your line of business systems. Line of business systems will often be designed to deliver on specific use cases; engineering solutions, asset management, etc, so the role of the ECM is to allow users to work in those applications whilst happily accessing content in the ECM, the availability & accessibility of that content being governed by well-designed and maintained processes.
Advice: Look to your ISSP and architecture models to identify solutions that are business critical and need to be integrated with the ECM. Don’t be afraid to find systems that could be retired, once the information they hold has been migrated to the new ECM!
Myth 5: We will just replicate what we have now
This is a design choice – yes you can absolutely replicate what you have now, and we do see many organisations doing this; and never making the improvements they need. There may be some organisations who have perfect processes; happy users; fully engaged and satisfied customers, and a comprehensive and efficient architecture… but that isn’t the case for many. While it can be challenging to look at new ways of working; not doing so will put you in the position of being behind the maturity curve before you even start. A good example of thought-leadership in the NZ Government space would be organisations who have moved from a records-based, functional file plan view of their world to an seamless, ontology-driven environment where information is served to the user; no drilling down 10 levels for these guys!
Advice: Talk to the community and educate yourselves about the next generation of Enterprise Information Management capabilities – what exists out there already and what can you do to push your organisation forward?
I hope that helps you on your ECM journey! As always, feel free to reach out to us at TEAM Asparona here in Wellington.