Frequently we write about enterprise content management (ECM) as implemented by state and local governments. For this post, I thought we’d address how ECM can benefit any organization. Manufacturers, accounting firms, retail stores, law firms, transportation, and logistics companies—you name it. All organizations can benefit from the content management, records management, information capture, workflow, collaboration, and versioning functionality of ECM.
One more thing, I hope you are not bothered by the parentheticals. It seemed to be the best method of translating ECM-speak into Business-speak.
From a thousand-foot level, ECM enables organizations to grow beyond paper, disorganized files, missing email attachments, multiple versions of legal documents, and chaotic network drives by providing an integrated platform for managing and automating the complete life cycle of your content. In the ECM world “managing” refers to taking a load of repetitive tasks off of your staff members’ plate. No more manual entry from purchase orders or invoices. No need to worry about additions to an old version of a contract. You can stop hunting through email attachments. If you are mandated to prove compliance, ECM helps with that too in addition to audits and formal records management (following your own rules about how long you keep stuff.)
What’s most important is that ECM solves actual problems, not made-up-so-you’ll-buy-this problems—but real, money-draining, staff-frustrating, business endangering, issues.
OK, why is ECM important?
An ECM platform (suite of products, customizations, and integrations) can help organizations to gain better control of massive amounts of content and information. It also helps streamline business processes (stuff you need to get done, to make money, or prove compliance) to increase productivity (those repetitive tasks mentioned above) and efficiencies, thereby reducing costs (save money, or be able to redirect staff to strategic work). An ECM platform brings all the information together in a way that helps knowledge workers (you and your staff) to make decisions faster.
ECM is critical for any business that is dealing with challenges such as large volumes of content (oye, the paperwork) that need to be made more accessible and usable (no more typing in information into your ERP), inefficiencies in completing operational tasks that require content for decision making, or regulatory compliance mandates that require greater control over unstructured information within the organization. Regarding compliance, manufacturers alone may have to prove compliant with industry standards like ISO 5001-Energy, ISO 14000 family-Environmental, ISO 22000- Food Safety, ISO 45001-Health and Safety, ISO/IEC 27001- IT Safety, and ISO 9000 family-Quality. Most industries are either mandated for compliance or it is highly encouraged. Compliance required audits, audits can be easily done in ECM because we can track sources, shipments, deliveries down to the metadata (tick box) who touched/approved/rejected the process. ECM comes in handy!
What’s this business process stuff again?
Business process management (BPM) enables the automation of manual business processes (the aforementioned, boring-but-necessary tasks.) It provides a comprehensive set of workflow capabilities for end-to-end automation (you won’t need to send emails to accomplish these tasks). This helps to automate task assignments, triggering tasks on a specific event or decision making using predefined rules. BPM acts as a traffic light, triggering tasks once decisions are made and reminding folks of bottlenecks.
Importantly, BPM integrates content with business processes, thereby helping an organization to make timely decisions using the most accurate information available. Such capability can reduce cycle times and improve productivity across the entire organization and deliver a significant return on investment. This is the holy grail. That information in that invoice can be scanned in, push data into your ERP and trigger a payment authorization and even create a check. There are many, many, many other processes we can automate, the sky is really the limit.
OK, how much will this cost?
Not as much as you may think. And we know many ways it can reduce your costs. Give me a shout if you want to know more!