The ECM Paradox: Is It Still Useful for ECM Choice?


Almost two decades ago, Nien-Ling Wacker, founder of Laserfiche, developed a concept called the ECM Paradox. Briefly, the ECM Paradox explains that the requirements that organizations have for ECM can be put into two categories. The first is that ECM offers a centralized way to control and secure information access. Another name for this concept is controlled flexibility, and governments and the financial services industry practice it. This includes compliance, records management, cyber security, trusted systems, PII, etc. While offering this central control, the ECM must simultaneously allow information workers flexibility to collaborate, automate manual workflows, securely make information or records requests available, mobile access, etc. Hence, the ECM Paradox= Central Control + Local Flexibility. The Paradox isn’t an either/or proposition. It is possible, if not preferable, to have both control and flexibility. The issue is one of balancing the organization’s control needs with its desire to be adaptable.

So, what does the ECM Paradox mean for you? Overarchingly it gives you the ability to view organizational content through two lenses, that which should be controlled/protective and that which should be shared, collaborated upon, or used. A piece of content can be both. For instance, for municipalities, a permit is a piece of content that requires collaboration; when it’s “done,” it becomes a record that follows a set of rules until its disposition if it’s not permanent. Another way to consider your content is protected/sealed (controlled) versus malleable/usable (flexible).

Now, consider a Laserfiche implementation in the private sector. Some organizations think their ECM needs are unique or that the technology they are about to adopt might be too rigid. The Paradox assures that local users can rely on the much-required flexibility to run the business they know best locally and according to their specific needs while still adhering to some level of control and governance usually required at the global level by the central organization to make sure everyone “speaks the same language .”In other words, the ECM Paradox refers to just that: allowing the business locally to address their specific situations within a central framework and with maximum flexibility yet guaranteeing control, governance, and visibility at the main and top-most level.

Mrs. Wacker certainly had the foresight in this area of product development. Within its single, unified solution, Laserfiche is engineered to offer two functionalities that allow flexibility to meet the differing demands of departments or locally different business models. On the other side, it ensures the organization relies on a common, standard framework for security, compliance, and governance.

The ECM Paradox is a concept to consider when choosing an ECM solution. Relying on solutions that promise flexibility but are not architecturally structured to guarantee flexibility and control will result in another application eventually being abandoned or replaced.