Organisations can save as much as 10% to 20% of their enterprise content management (ECM) costs by moving to a shared services model.

Gartner analysts says that shared services have become a practical way for enterprises to provide ECM services, and vendors under pressure from the economy are now willing to work with the shared services model as a way to drive business.
“Businesses have long struggled with multiple ECM deployments which have, in turn, created information silos and caused businesses to pay for separate sets of software licenses, maintenance and support skills for too many ECM vendors,” says Mark Gilbert, research vice-president at Gartner.
“The troubled economy has forced many IT organisations to cut ECM costs, but traditional approaches to consolidating are slow, complex and costly. The shared services – or ECM as a service – approach promises at least a partial solution.”
The shared services approach is a delivery model in which an organisation purchases ECM functions centrally and governs the types of services offered, while granting users a degree of ownership.
The business itself, or cloud-based service providers, can deliver these functions over the internet, much the same as service-oriented architectures (SOAs) make reusable software procedures identifiable and callable. Shared services may also include support from experts on a particular topic, computing infrastructure and reference architectures.
Gilbert says that information architects and business planners involved with ECM should consider the benefits and limitations of shared services, whether they are practical today and the steps involved in implementation.
The benefits of the shared-service approach include economies of scale, reuse of infrastructure, interoperability across the enterprise, speed of deployment, information sharing, and improved credibility for the IT organisation.
Limitations include an inability to integrate existing information silos and the inability to provide enterprise-scale savings for advanced ECM functions needed by individual departments.
Shared services make sense if planners can identify basic functions that almost every department uses or needs – for example, secure repository services and content-centric workflows.
It is important that the IT organisation and business units work together to implement shared services. Gartner has identified five key steps for implementation:
*  Assess whether shared services make sense;
* Standardise on a single ECM product or vendor platform;
* Define packages of ECM functions, based on the specific needs of departments and the potential user base;
* Establish a governance model for service and support; and
* Form a competency centre for ECM.