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Achieving ECM program excellence

This article appears in the issue May 2014, [Volume 23, Issue 5]
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Successful enterprise content management (ECM) implementations require an ongoing partnership between technology management compliance and line-of-business managers. Strict top-down initiatives that leave little for the business unit or geographical variations result in ECM systems that employees don’t want to use. Similarly, ad hoc, overly decentralized approaches lead to inconsistent application of policies and failure to capture institutional memory.

Whether your organization uses an agile, waterfall or mixed approach to ECM deployment, enterprise architects must think about program initiation, planning, deployment ?and ongoing improvement as a process—not as isolated events. Team composition will change over the months, or years, of ECM project planning and rollout, as different skill sets are needed. For example, an analyst with finance skills may be a key part of the team early in the project when developing a business case and projecting total cost of ownership, while corporate legal will get involved when documenting e-discovery requirements.

But, there is often no clear home in the org chart for fundamental content management responsibilities, and that can contribute to weakened strategy, governance and return on investment (ROI). In a 2013 survey of technology management professionals on information strategy and architecture, Forrester found that information strategy—for structured data—was mostly managed either by an enterprise architecture (EA) or information architecture (IA) team. In contrast, content management technology decisions were scattered across multiple teams, with governance of systems overwhelmingly assumed to be handled by “other” teams.

Approaches to ECM

Successful ECM programs balance corporate governance needs with the desire of business units to be efficient and competitive, and to meet cost and revenue targets. In the Forrester 2013 survey of ECM decision-makers, 47 percent of respondents used a centralized approach to their ECM governance and 23 percent used a decentralized approach. Twenty-nine percent used a federated approach, which means that while some core policy decisions were made centrally, execution and priority setting were done by business units or regional offices.

Hub-and-spoke approaches distribute accountability and authority. Organizations should determine the balance of centralized versus decentralized decision-making authority by the level of industry regulation, jurisdiction, corporate culture and autonomy of business units or field offices. A central ECM program team of content management, business process and technology experts should define strategy and objectives and align with the technology vision outlined by the EA. Local subject matter experts embedded in business units or regional offices can then be responsible for the execution and translation of essential requirements into localized policies and procedures, along with the business unit’s content management goals.

Business managers and finance experts can help measure current state productivity, set goals for improvement, contribute to a business case or forecast total cost of ownership over a number of years. Trainers and coaches will be needed during pilot and rollout to help with change management and system orientation. Legal must approve updates to retention or disposition policies as practices shift away from classification schemes designed for paper to more automated, metadata-driven approaches.

Eight roles

Eight essential roles (see the chart on page 20 May KMWorld 2014 or download chart) are needed for ECM program success. Core competencies will be supplemented by developers, trainers, quality assurance, documentation and other specialists at various phases of the ECM deployment project.

In addition to the specific qualifications and expertise represented in the eight key roles, two attributes are common to effective ECM program teams. Forrester finds that:

  • Enterprise architects provide leadership across the deployment life cycle. EA professionals bring technical knowledge about repositories, standards and service-oriented architectures, combined with business process acumen and awareness of corporate compliance obligations. Information and business architects will be important participants and persistent representatives of the EA organization during both the planning and technology deployment phases.
  • Communication and process expertise are essential for ongoing success. Technologists must learn the vocabulary, pain points and needs of their business peers, and help translate those requirements so that software can help deliver improvements. Compliance subject matter experts must communicate the implications and rationale of any change in process or obligations to users responsible for creating or capturing content. Project plans, budgets and timetables should include time for coaching, communication, and both formal and informal training. Even simple Web- or mobile-based file sharing technologies will require some investment in training and orientation when processes or policies are changed.

Strategic asset

ECM is a long-term investment, not a one-time technology installation project. Enterprises can often realize short-term ROI by automating onerous manual processes or high-risk noncompliance issues, but the real payoff comes when an enterprise treats content as a strategic asset. A strong ECM program team demonstrates leadership, communication skills and openness to iteration, setting the foundation for long-term value from the deployment efforts.

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