In this day and age, the ability to access and manage information or content digitally is critical to all business processes. Managing that content across the enterprise is even more valuable to ensure a competitive business and support organisation growth, writes Monique Williams, Hyland Southern Africa regional manager.
However, the reality for many organisations is that they do not have the scope, budget or time to solve all of their content needs at once, and it has become more difficult to know where to get started. With all the technology that exists and the myriad vendors, enterprise content management (ECM) roadmaps can seem complicated.
There are six categories that not only help explain ECM, but also provide a very useful framework for building a new solution and evaluating existing solutions. This framework can be used to address the challenge of rolling out an ECM solution for a specific problem, a department or to an entire organisation. By using this framework, an organisation will be sure to implement a solution that is more than just an electronic filing cabinet with light processing functionalities.
When many people think about ECM, the first thing they think about is imaging or scanning – getting the paper digitised and into the system. And of course that is a key part of the solution – to eliminate filing cabinets and boxes of information and archive records digitally. But that is not where capture ends.
An ECM system is also able to capture and centrally manage all related information, whether that comes in as a text report, documents borne in SharePoint, related communications from emails and faxes, and data streams with content from another system. Technology automation ensures an ECM solution is able to capture any file type from any physical location with minimal data entry.
An ECM solution revolutionises the way an organisation performs the processes that use this content. Many processes can be automated with a digital solution, particularly structured processes that follow predefined steps and have predictable outcomes. For example, in accounts payable, any amount under R500 could be paid automatically.
An ECM solution allows documents and decisions to be routed to the right people as soon as that information comes in. This is particularly helpful with unstructured information that still requires human intervention, such as an invoice for something the company didn’t order.
A new wave of content management includes case management, combining the best of structured and unstructured content and providing useful tools to manage all the tasks and activities within case work. It builds processes and solutions around a person and their work rather than a complete business process.
With an ECM solution, personnel can access content easily, from anywhere and whenever they need it. There are more points of access to the information than just the software solution itself.
Personnel working in other applications can just reference the information in the ECM system as it integrates with the screens of other applications. Information can also be accessed offline or through a mobile device. The software itself can be personalised to match a user’s work, cutting down on user training. And access to content can be extended to people outside of the organisation like customers, students or patients, thereby reducing calls to customer service.
As mentioned above, another key element of an ECM solution is that it is able to integrate with any other enterprise application, such as an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, productivity tools or home grown applications, without anyone having to write custom code. This ensures that the content never resides in a bubble and avoids duplicate data entry into multiple systems. Applications that are data driven can have a real time data exchange.
With all content in one centralised place, and all activity happening in a coordinated manner, an ECM solution enables an organisation to gain insights into process and system performance. It allows the company to see how accurate and efficient processes are, identify and eliminate bottlenecks, deliver accurate and timely data for an audit, and prove return on investment.
An ECM solution also empowers an organisation to secure and protect content from the moment it enters the system and in accordance with compliance requirements. For example, in the case of dealing with credit card or social security numbers, the data can be encrypted at rest and during transportation.
The solution can also provide affordable and inbuilt protection of the data and instant online redundancy, so that in the event of a server failure the company is not at risk of losing any critical data and can have a continuation of business. Finally, an ECM solution has the ability to handle long term retention and destruction requirements from a legal records retention policy point of view.
Ultimately, with all the functionality available, an ECM solution should be able to flexibly meet the needs of a company’s individual content management requirements, whether at a departmental or organisational level.