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High-powered ECM platforms do the job

This article appears in the issue March 2009 (100 Companies) [Volume 18, Issue 3]
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"We have a message board that allows employees to post communication on internal matters, such as congratulations on a successful project," says Bokinala. "We also have applications that allow our employees to pull up a colleague’s profile and navigate through a floor plan to the location of the employee’s office." In the future, Tele Atlas is considering additional integrations with other Oracle applications such as the Siebel CRM system.

Oracle has been expanding its content management suite, steadily adding new technologies and capabilities. For example, it has added a document capture solution with its acquisition of Captovation in 2008, enterprise archiving and federated records management.

"Among the organizations that are best positioned to take advantage of these broad capabilities," says Michelle Huff, director of product management at Oracle, "are telecommunications, manufacturing, financial services/insurance, healthcare and the public sector."

Such companies have large volumes of data and many different functional requirements. Content management may be used to enhance the customer experience, improve employee productivity, reduce costs, improve Web site performance or support compliance.

"Companies implementing major projects and enterprisewide compliance want to be sure their software is going to be up to the job and the vendor will be around over the long term," says Huff. Increasingly, organizations are viewing content management as an enterprise application that serves as middleware, connecting content with many different systems and facilitating processes.

An enterprise view of documents

North Shore Credit Union (NSCU) set out from the beginning to distinguish itself from other Canadian credit unions by becoming not just a place to save money and obtain loans, but also a service center to provide guidance to its members. Reflecting its innovative approach is the physical arrangement of the branches, where tellers are located in pod areas so they can sit shoulder to shoulder and look at financial statements with members, rather than standing behind high counters. To make its business processes as progressive as its philosophy, NSCU wanted to move its document management from a paper-based system to an electronic ECM system. About five years ago, therefore, it began an assessment of available solutions and its own processes.

As part of its stated mandate of making it easy for members to do business with it, the credit union took a close look at how it was using collected documents. "We took a broad enterprise view, starting with the interactions of a member with our organization," says Fred Cook, CIO of NSCU. "Rather than looking at our document management from a departmental view, we looked at the entire enterprise process."

Cook found that in mortgage processing, for example, only a small percent of the documents were indispensable, and by moving to electronic forms, considerable duplication could be avoided. "Our younger staff members contributed a lot to our new perspective on document management," Cook remarks, "because they were proactive in thinking across departmental lines."

Initially uncertain about whether a full-fledged ECM product was affordable, Cook discovered that the IBM FileNet P8 platform met both the functional requirements of NSCU and its budget. "We were able to roll out FileNet very quickly, and since it is a back-end system, the branch workers did not see a difference in their application," he says.

The interface used by most employees is a CRM system from Pivotal, which was purchased by CDC. The IBM FileNet application stores all the forms, images and other documents needed by the CRM system. "The system can help guide a teller when a new account is being opened, and compliance is enforced as the data is entered. In the past, we might have needed three or four days to ensure compliance with regulations such as terrorist lists and money laundering," Cook explains.

The IBM FileNet P8 platform has freed employees to deal with higher-level issues, which improves member service. "The system handles routine work, so our staff can address the exceptions and troubleshoot as needed," Cook says. "It is also flexible enough so that as we change our business model, the ECM system can change with us." In addition, audit time has been reduced because information is organized and immediately accessible.

Many ECM investments can benefit from consolidation or aggregation around an ECM platform or shared services approach, according to Ken Bisconti, VP of product marketing and strategy at IBM ECM. "People are trying to figure out how to handle the explosion of content, from scanned images to blog/wiki data and multimedia files," he says. "About half our new business is now coming from ECM standardizations. Customers may want to replace legacy content management systems, or they may want to manage a variety of separate repositories using one system."

In addition, IBM FileNet is supporting new Web 2.0 features such as widgets and mashups that provide direct access to Google maps. Bisconti is cautiously optimistic about the future. "Customers are being careful about their spending now," he says, "and they want trusted vendors."

Gartner predicts that as the future of ECM unfolds, vendors will be working to make their products less expensive, more user friendly and easier to deploy. "In addition to vendors improving the ease of use," says Chin, "we also see them adding content-enabled vertical applications to their platforms. The major ECM products all have comparable functionality, and developing specialized applications such as contract management is a way for vendors to differentiate their products from the competition." (For more on this topic, see "ECM Targets Verticals" and on page 10, KMWorld, March 2009, Vol 18 #3).

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