When it comes to selecting an enterprise content management (ECM) solution, communities often face obstacles that differ from those experienced by other typical ECM users. These might involve geographical distribution of campuses, or a high staff turnover. There are always challenges associated with funding and budget cuts. Many institutions are exploring software solutions to help them to do more with less, and at the same time, improve services to students, staff, and faculty.

In spite of the fact that ECM projects can vary in terms of size, scope, complexity, integration, and levels of customization, there are some common elements that communities should consider when undertaking an ECM implementation. The following recommendations will help to ensure that success is achieved the first time that ECM implementation is attempted.

1. Assemble the right team

Prior to ECM software implementation, make sure that you have a team assembled that will represent a cross-section of your institution. Include decision-makers from different departments and campuses, as well as administrators who might be in charge of budget approval. At this point, you should consider creating a project timeline that includes performance milestones.

Often a transition to electronic processing involves replacing paper processes that have been in place for decades. One of the biggest obstacles to a successful adoption of an ECM solution can be a lack of user acceptance. Address this issue up front by including users as part of your planning committee. In adopting a technological solution to your business challenges, it can be easy to lose sight of the human component of the equation. Listen closely to users’ suggestions, and address from the start any fears that they might have regarding job losses and/or adoption of new technology. By assembling the right team to guide your ECM implementation, you can be assured that your endeavor will be met with excitement — not suspicion.

2. Determine where the initial implementation should take place

A truly flexible and extensible software solution can optimize processes anywhere within your enterprise—from enrollment operations such as financial aid and admissions to business operations such as human resources and accounting.

Initially, many communities choose to implement an ECM solution in one area—typically admissions—before rolling the solution out to the rest of the enterprise. The paper-intensive atmosphere of the admissions environment makes it ideal for electronic document management and automated workflow.

Paper entering an institution might include applications, transcripts, and letters of recommendation, among other documentation. A transition to electronic processes helps community colleges to associate all of the incoming documentation with a single application—even if incoming materials arrive at different times. Materials can be barcoded, imaged, and indexed to guarantee that they can be accessed by authorized personnel at the click of a mouse. Perspective persons who call with requests for information can be apprised of their application status at any time. With success in one department, your organization can then install ECM throughout the entire enterprise (assuming that the ECM solution you have chosen is scalable enough to handle both large and small installations).

3. Document your integration needs, and make sure that a prospective vendor is able to fulfill them

As you plan your implementation, make sure that you are taking a holistic view of your entire organization. Ideally, the software solution should not be confined to just one area. Communities have a need to integrate with members’ information systems, legacy systems, and diverse business software for accounting, HR, payroll, and other applications. Your ECM system should provide you with the ability to push and pull information to and from software systems throughout your enterprise.

ECM software that is truly robust should be flexible as well as extensible. Ideally it should provide storage, retrieval, and management of all of your enterprise information—from staff payroll reports and faculty credentialing documents to member’s records. It should allow easy access to information that may be currently housed in legacy or standalone systems. ECM software should allow you to get more from your existing investment in technology.

4. Include automated workflow in your enterprise solution

Communities can receive immediate benefits with the implementation of ECM. Files, records, and other information can be accessed with the click of a mouse. Off site storage can be reduced or eliminated, and users no longer have to worry about lost, misplaced, or duplicated documents. Nonetheless, it is short-sighted to use an ECM system merely to electronically duplicate your paper processes—especially when you have the potential to significantly improve efficiency.

This is where workflow comes in. Workflow involves the electronic routing of documents and the automation of tasks so that work can be processed with optimal efficiency. The routing is based on specific rules that are preconfigured to ensure that your business processes are executed proficiently. Workflow allows documents to be routed simultaneously to different people at different locations. It ensures that tasks are prioritized and that deadlines are met. It can even automatically associate incoming documents with a single prospective member so that applications can be compiled and viewed upon completion.

If incoming materials are incomplete, workflow can allow your organization to generate a letter automatically to a prospect that lists the materials that are still required for an application to be complete. Upon a member’s acceptance, admissions documents can be automatically forwarded to the registrar’s office to form the basis of a member record. Labor-intensive processes such as financial aid verification can also be significantly expedited with workflow. At a time when communities are beset with budget cuts and monetary constraints, workflow allows organizations to process more work without increasing staff. Furthermore, if you use workflow in conjunction with barcodes, you can embed data securely on any outgoing forms. When they are completed and returned, the barcode can ensure that the form is routed to the right person for processing without the need for data entry.

5. Implement a solution that is Web-based

A Web-based solution is a necessity for any communities. If your enterprise has multiple campuses, a Web-based ECM system allows authorized staff and personnel to access information from any browser. Web access also provides an opportunity for administrators to access information remotely.

Web access also offers prospective students the opportunity for self-service. Admission materials can be submitted over the Web and automatically routed to a workflow for processing, which expedites the decision process. Furthermore, workflow can be configured to easily apprise prospective members of their application status. When materials are received, applicants can be notified as to their reception. At the same time, they can be informed as to whether any materials are incomplete or missing.

6. Evaluate specific campus-wide needs, and determine how they could be addressed with ECM

Are there ways that technology could help you better serve your members? One communities, as part of its ECM implementation, determined that they could implement distributed scanning throughout their different campuses. As a result, staff members who receive incoming documents can now scan them at the point of receipt. This makes incoming documents available immediately to all of the campus locations. Distributed scanning is a tremendous benefit to members. Staff can swipe member ID cards in any of the scanners, which automatically imports and indexes their information. This prevents long waits, potential keying errors, and the need for data entry. By thinking beyond the mainstream uses for ECM, you can work with a vendor to implement technological solutions that are specific to your campus environment.

7. Incorporate records management strategies into your ECM implementation

Compliance mandates make it essential for communities to have a records management strategy. Privacy requirements, retention and destruction schedules, and disaster recovery concerns dictate the necessity of a records management strategy.

A strong ECM system can be configured to allow for record retention and destruction to be programmed automatically, removing the potential for human error. Colleges are assured that records are kept for their mandated amount of time, and no longer. Electronic management of records is also a critical step in a disaster recovery plan. It allows for redundancy and remote access, and ensures that interruption is minimal if your organization experiences an unexpected catastrophe.

ECM can also help to manage records with data migration. A strong system can be configured to ensure that after records have exceeded the active stage of their life cycles, they can be migrated to a less-expensive storage medium. The advantage to records migration is that it ensures that access to records that are active is not hindered or slowed by the storage of too much information in your data repository.

8. Implement monitoring and reporting options for true business process management

An ECM solution with monitoring and reporting tools enables colleges to better gauge their levels of productivity, and to respond to these levels by distributing work to be more efficient. These tools improve decision-making and allow managers to oversee departmental and employee productivity. This makes it easy to adjust assignments to take advantage of individual strengths, and ultimately results in improved services to students, faculty, and staff. Processing bottlenecks can be addressed proactively, before they have a chance to negatively affect productivity. Should processing slowdowns occur, a robust system can be configured to alert administrators so that adjustments can be made.

Conclusion

Incorporating an ECM solution throughout your institution can be a daunting prospect. Fortunately, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. ECM vendors usually have professional services teams with the expertise and experience to listen to your needs and work with you to find a solution that is efficient, easy to use, and affordable. When considering vendors with whom to work, keep the following checklist in mind:

•Does the vendor have experience in the communities’ industry?

•Is the software easy to use?

•Can the software be used to enhance services for staff and members?

•Does the software that you are considering offer you the ability to seamlessly integrate with your personal information system, allowing your end users to stay in their familiar software environments?

•Does the prospective vendor offer a robust workflow product with the flexibility to integrate with different applications throughout your enterprise?

•Are the products scalable to assist your institution as you transition the solution from a department to the entire campus?

By carefully considering these recommendations for best practices, communities are taking the first step towards a successful migration from paper to electronic processes.

 

How to Implement a Successful ECM Project

On 2010/07/07, in Knowledge Article, by Administrator

Infrastructure
A huge part of the planning for a DMS/ECM System is examining your organization’s network infrastructure and ensuring it is ready. Implementing a system with inadequate resources can provide wrong end user perceptions. Focus should be placed on the below items:

  • PC Clients – the client PC’s should have appropriate horsepower to handle their specific tasks. Obviously, basic search clients will not require extensive resources such as memory or hard drive space, but a scanning or OCR station may.
  • Network – It is time to get rid of those hubs your brother in-law gave you, and upgrade to 100MB, or in some cases (at the server), Gigabit technology.
  • Server – adequate memory, processor and storage is a necessity.
  • Backup- often an overlooked area, planning for system backup, now and in the years beyond is very important.

Simplicity
There are so many technologies out there that are incredible, powerful, and just way too complex for any normal human. If it is too difficult to use, end users will not accept the technology, and inefficiency will result. The goal is to make the user interface as simple as possible, but have the necessary complexity behind the scenes to achieve your goals.

Acceptance
So many times I hear prospects say, “My people will never use this”. The move to ECM is not only a move in technology, but a change in process and attitude. The benefits and power of the system need to be explained and accepted by management and the end users. There needs to be a commitment to the technology and the change, as well as a setting of expectations. I see so many projects fail because they are not given the chance to succeed, and are doomed right out of the gate due to a lack of support from management. Never accept “We will try it and see how it goes”.

Pilot Program
Always, always start small and grow. Phased implementations work the best, by starting with a certain department or document, and then expanding. This gives the end users the ability to move slowly in the right direction, and it gives IT the ability to identify any problems or areas that were missed in planning. It also allows slow cultural change, which is so important to overall success of the projects. Users can take their time, and slowly adapt to the technology in a certain facet of their daily duties, rather than being “thrown into the fire” with a full move into a paperless environment.
Heed these words and you will float effortlessly into DMSLand. The diamond-encrusted multifunction printer can come later. 

Original Article