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ECM: an evolving process

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“When a new program needs to be written, we serve as intermediaries between the business users and IT,” says Bangma. Business analysts, with support from Lemon, can handle configuration of new applications based on an existing program. That arrangement helps bridge what can otherwise be an insurmountable gap between technical staff and users.

The ECM industry is continuing to evolve, according to Glenn Gibson, product marketing manager at Hyland. “What was once a conversation about buying ECM as a technology has transformed into a desire to buy a solution that will enable organizations to solve their immediate business problems,” he says. At a recent executive leadership meeting he attended that was held by AIIM, some new terminology emerging in the ECM industry included “case management,” “smart process applications” and “rapid application deployment programs.” ECM solutions may have traditionally been document-centric, but “the focus is shifting from building solutions around documents, to building solutions around the user,” Gibson explains.

The convergence of technology goes beyond that of ECM and BPM. Some solutions are now referred to as the “SMAC stack,” which refers to social, mobile, analytics and cloud. “These technologies are converging in a constructive way to solve business problems,” Gibson says, “although building data-driven, document-enabled applications is not something that many organizations have solved completely at this point.” There are spaces in between existing applications where people are entering data into spreadsheets, and that data is often critically important as part of an overall process.

“When I speak with CIOs, they tell me that the reality is that they juggle between 50 and 150 applications within a single business unit,” Gibson says. “Many processes require both documents and data. A user might be working within an ERP system, but still require a lot information managed outside the ERP to make a decision. OnBase can manage that information and surface that content to the user while they are working in their ERP system.”

Enterprise integration

Integration with other enterprise systems beyond ECM and BPM is important. “Business processes don’t live in ECM or even BPM systems,” says Lubor Ptacek, VP of product marketing at OpenText. “There is always a master application where they live. That may be ERP, CRM or some other functional application. Without that, there is not a true marriage between ECM and BPM.”

Ptacek continues, “When people were using ECM simply to store documents, getting them to put in metadata was extremely difficult. When business applications are involved, the context is already provided—a customer ID is captured as part of an order process, for example, and that metadata is then available.”

Once processes are involved, then metrics and ROI become more feasible. “You cannot measure ROI for an ECM system that is being used just to store documents,” Ptacek says, “other than for inferred metrics such as time saved in searching for documents. When the documents are a part of a business task, then measurement of outcomes is much more feasible.”

The difficulty of coming up with better descriptive terms for enterprise technology is likely to remain for a while. “Analysts still see ECM and BPM as separate,” says Ptacek, “and for that matter, so do most vendors. More of the customers are understanding that the two functional areas need to be united into a business solution or integrated into existing systems and drawing information from them.”

More broadly, many companies are still struggling with the implications of digital transformation, according to Ptacek. “The idea that companies like Amazon and Netflix grew with minimal material assets is part of this transformation,” he says. Other examples are Uber and Airbnb, which are disrupting transportation and hospitality models. “This is a pressing topic among people I talk to in the C-suite,” Ptacek adds. “They know that if they don’t embark on a digital transformation, somebody in California will do it for them.”


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