Many times, the “E” in enterprise content management is just too much to get a handle on at once. Here are a number of ways for you to get started as you address your content management challenges. Break off what you can chew and, more importantly, can then swallow.
OK, so you’ve implemented your enterprise content/document management  (ECM/EDMS) architecture:
  • the policies and procedures are baked
  • taxonomies and file plans have been developed
  • the content management system has been customized and   is ready to implement
  • training has been developed
  • even audit questionnaires have been made ready.

Business divisions are happy that will be “compliant” with managing  information.

Legal is delighted that it can finally locate documents when it needs them.

Technology is relieved that the system testing went as designed (for the most  part).

Consultants on the project are notching it off as a success.

Management is checking one thing off their compliance to-do list.

Yet, the ECM/EDMS manager is deep in thought.

The ECM/EDMS manager knows that this was just phase zero. The real success of  the ECM/EDMS will be gauged by the success of the deployment and eventual use of  the tools by the end users. Getting users to use the system, maintaining content  types, adding new ones, updating templates, updating content workflows,  developing new procedures etc. means that the work is just starting. But as  history has shown time and again, enterprise content management projects rarely  work as designed over the longer term. Millions of dollars have been spent,  countless hours used up, months and years gone by, but still triumph eludes  large-scale ECM projects. But what is wrong with this picture? Why do so many  ECM projects start, ramp up, and eventually get put on the back burner either  for lack of adoption or (worst of all) because the system never really added  value to the business or satisfied its original intent?

Yes, even today, some ECM/EDMS implementation projects continue to tread the  same path, hoping for better luck. Requirements are analyzed at enterprise  level, vendor evaluations are conducted, ECM packages are procured, teams are  hired, and the system is customized to fit the enterprise-level needs, and, at  some point in time, scope is reevaluated to retrofit the timelines. Indeed, this  model may work great when a focused requirement, for example, a specific Web  content management project is to be implemented. When undertaking a company-wide  ECM project, however, the traditional model is not always the most optimal.  Consider the case when an organization has several geographically distributed  offices, a multitude of IT systems, disparate business processes, and all levels  of employee skill sets. Just attempting to get a common set of ECM/EDMS  requirements across the enterprise is well nigh impossible, let alone having to  implement a standard and consistent set of systems and processes across the  entire organization.

Models with a Twist
Large-scale content management  implementation requires a great deal of planning and understanding not just of  the underlying business processes but also of organizational culture,  philosophy, and strong knowledge of how similar enterprise-wide projects have  fared. Given the ever-increasing focus on optimization of time, cost, resources,  and effort, there are several alternatives that content management architects  and program managers can evaluate. The following are variations of typical  ECM/EDMS implementation model for consideration.

Risk-based View – Determine high risk areas across the  various content/document sources and content/document types within the  organization. Focus the energies of the ECM/EDMS implementation on these high  risk areas. Consider the classic case of managing employee files. Typically most  organizations will have an HR system to manage HR related transactions. However  HR still needs to create a large and sometimes complex set of documents; many of  which are highly confidential with non-public privation information (NPI) data  in them. The underlying HR business processes need a tight set of security and  access controls coupled with audit trails, chain of custody, and rigorous  workflows. Now add to that various federal, state, and local laws and  regulations that govern how these documents (records) should be managed and  retained, which further increases the inherent risk to the organization of not  having proper controls. By prioritizing such business functions and areas within  the organization and then applying ECM/EDMS best practices to them, one can plan  for a better risk-reward scenario.

Lines-of-Business View – Instead of taking the big bang, all  or nothing, company-wide approach, determine what lines of businesses benefit  the most from an ECM/EDMS implementation. Not all divisions within a large and  distributed organization are created equal and each line-of-business has its own “management style,” processes and divisional sub-culture. In many cases the  systems are siloed within the line-of-business and are rarely integrated. The  reality is that most organizations still operate within these organizational  boundaries. Given this scenario it makes it worthwhile in some cases to develop  a cost-benefit analysis of implementing ECM/EDMS in each of the major  lines-of-business and then implementing in only those areas where there is sound  justification of doing so. Lines-of-businesses that would enhance their  operational efficiencies, better compliance through the ECM/EDMS  implementations, etc. are clearly the better candidates. These divisions are  also more likely to commit to the required time, cost, and resources during the  implementation and then ensuring ongoing conformance by establishing follow up  policies, governance processes and procedures, and training for their respective  personnel.

Macro Business View – A typical ECM/EDMS implementation  addresses a number of aspects such as document imaging, forms processing,  content tagging and indexing, user collaboration, document management, Web  content management, records management, enterprise search, digital asset  management, etc. Some implementations attempt to cram most or even all of these  aspects into one implementation. While this may work in smaller implementations,  doing the “full menu” at the enterprise level is fraught with all sorts of  crevices and pitfalls.  With the increasing focus on newer ways of  collaborating and exchanging information, there are even more uncertainties  around what components need to be implemented. It is well suited for ECM/EDMS  architects and planners to really step back, take a look at what the enterprise  really needs at a macro- and at a strategic-level, and then implement only those  aspects of ECM/EDMS that are truly needed. Avoiding the temptation of “we can  squeeze it in” may be well advised in this particular scenario. If needed, the  implementation can proceed in discrete phases and iteratively address pieces  that complement the overall implementation goal.

User-Focused View – Focus on user collaboration and end user  ways of working to determine the ECM/EDMS implementation approach. In a  traditional model the implementation focuses more on business requirements and  not so much on user processes and interfaces. A different perspective is to  focus from the outside-in, i.e., rather than taking the standard information  architecture view, leverage the knowledge of working with users to determine how  the implementation should be structured. In this approach one starts with  understanding:

• how users work

• what the various groups and roles are

• how the work products are managed

• how business processes are executed

• interactions between systems and users

• key usage metrics

• what checks and controls need to be developed.

In a way this approach truly emphasizes the end user adoption of ECM/EDMS  implementation by giving users what they have always wanted—a set of information  management systems and processes that are geared towards how they work and not a  system that is super sophisticated but yet is too rigid and too inflexible  towards their needs.

Content/Document Type View – Typically, assessing and  inventorying the content types will be one of the first few steps performed in  any implementation. Once the list of content and document types is known at the  enterprise level, a model that is based on these types can be developed. The  content architects working closely with business, legal, and compliance can then  make a determination of what subset of content types to implement. As an  example: the contract document type might be a high value/high benefit when  managed at the enterprise level as frequently contracts may be required across  divisions, offices, and perhaps even jurisdictions. The selection of content  types can be performed using any number of factors ranging from their impact to  the business, to operational efficiencies to compliance and discovery benefits  and so on. Once the subset of content types is settled upon (easier said than  done) one can start to develop strategies and approach to managing them.

Business Process View – The business process view is based  on identifying the input/outputs within key business processes steps and  managing the content/documents in accordance with the ECM/EDMS requirements.  While this may seem obvious in many cases, sometimes determining content and the  relationship between content and process steps and then across various business  processes may not be that easy. In many cases the same piece of information may  be manipulated across many different processes and finding the source and  destination may be non-trivial. In the same vein, sometimes finding business  processes to associate with content itself becomes a complicated task. In either  case, taking a business process view is a lot more straightforward than other  options as most organizations will have a list of business processes available  along with associated procedures, manuals, process flows, etc., from which one  can quickly glean a good perspective on the universe of information within that  organization.

Application/Systems View – In this approach the focus is on  particular applications/systems within the organization. One can develop  content/document management solution on top of a cluster of system  applications.  For example; an EDMS system could be built that interfaces  with HR and Finance systems to manage the underlying content and documents in  these systems, such that they are ECM/EDMS-enabled. This way one has end-to-end  control on all data associated with that set of applications. This model may be  applicable to organizations that have a few core business applications/systems  from which the bulk of the documents are generated and thus enabling these  applications with content and document management capabilities really  complements both the business, legal, compliance, and operational aspects of  information management.

A content/document management  implementation need not follow the standard cookie cutter approach. Instead in  times of cost cutting and optimization, organizations must start to look outside  the ECM/EDMS box for information management approaches that mitigate key risks  but without the need for massive amounts of time, funding, and  resources.

Original Article