Tag Archives: enterprise content management

Rethinking ECM

Rethinking Enterprise Content Management (ECM)

Over the past 20 years or so, the aspiration of many organizations looking for enterprise content management solutions (ECM) has been to standardize on one common platform where everyone in the organization can store and find content. Aspiration is the operative word here.

While many companies bought an ECM platform with the hopes that it would be the single source of truth for the enterprise, few have achieved enterprise-wide adoption.  In fact, many so-called enterprise content management systems engage only a small percentage of the organization’s workforce.

As many of us who have worked on big IT projects have discovered, IT plans do not always translate into user adoption and action. Regardless of IT directives to use the ECM for document storage, users have options. They can park a document in a file share, the email system, a Web drive (like Box or One Drive) or on their local hard drive. Continue reading…

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Enterprise Content Management – Planning for Long Term Success

Regardless of the Enterprise Content Management application stack you choose, you want to be sure you’ll be able to make the most of your investment for many years to come. Outside of your ERP system, there is no other technology which has the depth and breadth of impact on your organization than enterprise content management. A properly implemented ECM solution reaches across departmental boundaries, respects workflow and management hierarchies, and fits in seamlessly with your structured data systems.

Creating a strategy for a successful, long-term implementation of ECM applications requires:

  • Commitment from the line of business executives, IT management, and other stakeholders to the project from a strategic, big picture perspective, rather than a narrow focus on small goals;
  • Seeking buy-in from the organization to treat management of unstructured content not just as a technology objective, but as a transformational business imperative;
  • Gathering input from different business functions in order to identify how the ECM solution can best be adopted by their individual units, as well as integrated across departmental boundaries;
  • Investment in the resources — both technical and human — that are required to maintain forward momentum of the ECM ecosystem over many years.

If your organization has been hesitant to embark on an ECM journey because you can’t achieve one or many of these requirements, teaming up with experienced ECM consultants who have been in the driver’s seat can help you manage a successful long-term project for knowledge management.

A University Loses Its Way – Case in Point

ECM projects fail for many organizations across all industries and business sizes, and despite best intentions. In the case of one Canadian university, purchasing an ECM solution in 2008 was treated as buying a set of tools, rather than as adopting an overall information management strategy. The Alfresco product they purchased was originally acquired for a specific business function — to distribute and develop course curriculum content. Various teams within the university with their own content management requirements tried to hop on the project bandwagon, without mandates or planning for an interdepartmental solution roadmap.

Scrambling to deploy the Alfresco solution throughout the organization without proper management, the university was unable to take advantage of the features of the application that would have made the system easier for end users to adopt. The complexity of the solution and its taxonomy drove users to use unapproved, insecure systems to store content, compromising information security requirements. When the Alfresco project was deemed a failure by university executives, a new mandate to adopt Microsoft SharePoint as an ECM application was introduced.

Before beginning the SharePoint project, the university contracted with Christian Walker, an accomplished independent information management consultant. Walker advised the university to rethink the decision to throw out Alfresco and start over the ECM process with another tool. Though SharePoint is a great collaborative document management system and could possibly meet the customer’s overall requirements, the university’s issue wasn’t a software issue. The challenges the university had were:

Lack of (an) internal champion(s) to move the project forward, and the resulting absence of project governance in which no one wanted to take ownership of or responsibility for making the project a success;

  • Poor user acceptance as the result of poorly led solution design, brought about by the university’s attempt to design the user experience, organize the folding structure, and deploy the solution without guidance;
  • Readiness to blame technology for project failure rather than consider that the information management initiative could have been adversely affected by human error;
  • Unwillingness to invest in consulting, implementation, and integration services from the start to ensure the project’s success.

These technology challenges are common with projects that don’t have effective guidance, preparation, and/or design from the outset. In some cases, there are mistakes made with application selection; but even the best software applications and solutions will fail if not properly architected. Ultimately, the university did well to contract with a Certified Information Professional, who could:

  • Take an unbiased, detailed Fit/Gap analysis of the history of the Alfresco solution’s implementation and maintenance;
  • Recommend a way forward (in this case, keeping the solution in which they had already invested many years before);
  • Assist in the remediation of the shortcomings of the original design, as well as the deterioration of user confidence and organizational commitment.

Now you’ve read about a scenario where an information management project failed. Let’s take a look at the history of a successful ECM project.

Document Management and e-Filing Success

In 2011, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) contracted with General Networks to implement a solution which included:

  • Document Management
  • Records Management
  • e-filing solution
  • Web publishing of documents for client/auditor self service

They needed to meet compliance requirements and ensure records were prepared for audit and web access. Through collaborative design, structured architecture, and a vision for long-term project success, the CPUC has been able to:

  • Take ownership of the project from a strategic standpoint, while leveraging General Networks as a strategic advisory partner;
  • Implement a scalable and secure solution which safeguards the CPUC’s reputation, increases productivity, and reduces administrative requirements for customer file requests;
  • Maintain client and stakeholder confidence by implementing a mature Open Text solution based on General Network’s years of experience, gleaned from overseeing many successful implementations;
  • Establish goals to be achieved over the lifecycle of the CPUC’s information management evolution, not just at individual points in time.

Enterprise Content Management, according to Chris Walker writing for AIIM, is “a marathon, not a sprint“. You want to establish a roadmap for the project, not individual milestone goals over short periods of time. Walker wrote,

Developing an ECM strategy is like renovating your house; it seems like a good idea when you start, but 11 years later you’re not so sure (’cause if you’re like me you still haven’t finished). However, unlike my house renovations, I’m certain that an ECM strategy is a good idea.”

The long term preservation of electronic content through ECM solutions is best achieved by:

  • Ensuring systems are flexible enough to withstand changes in business processes while also protecting documents from being lost, deleted, or duplicated, either accidentally or on purpose by those who shouldn’t have access to them;
  • Being mindful of the discoverability and integrity of archived information over the course of many years;
  • Consistently maintaining, fine tuning, and tracking your ECM project against your original goals and strategic objectives.

You may not have even taken the first step of your ECM journey. You may have had an ECM solution in place for several years, and don’t think you are achieving the objectives you laid out when you first invested in your application. Either way, before you begin deploying new software, or throwing out what you have already put in place, contact the General Networks team to define the best way forward for your enterprise information management journey.


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Enterprise Content Management Isn’t Set It and Forget It Technology

An Enterprise Content Management system, as a complex ecosystem of unstructured content, by nature is constantly growing, fluctuating, and evolving. In an earlier blog we discussed how to recognize when it’s time to overhaul your ECM application. Though sometimes necessary, overhauls can be expensive and possibly avoided if you already have an ECM platform in place that has the features you need. You can avoid getting to the point of an overhaul by regular “surgical” tuning of your ECM system and extend its life and your return on investment. Continue reading…

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Enterprise Content Management – You Know it’s Time for an Overhaul When…

With exponential growth of unstructured content and increased scrutiny on records by regulators, the demands for more sophisticated content management systems move from nice-to-have goals to must have priorities. Complex, high volume workflows require more processing power. Increased security threats from offshore hackers can propel a corporation into the headlines, as the Anthem Health Insurance scandal proved.

When considering these increased business demands you may find that your ECM system falls short of your users needs. Or maybe you’re just now realizing your systems security, ease of use and processes are just not cutting it. You should ask yourself:

a)    Is my ECM solution meeting my organization’s current needs?

b)    Can my ECM solution scale and evolve to support my company’s future business requirements?

c)    What are the implications of overhauling our ECM system? What will happen if we don’t?

This article will cover some of the scenarios General Networks is hearing from its customers as reasons they’re doing an ECM overhaul. We consider these some key success criteria for ECM solutions, and factors which should define whether you can remain on your current information management platform, or if you should migrate to an alternative solution.

Information Security, Access Control and Data Loss Prevention

As a CIO, CTO or other executive, you are obviously concerned with your organization’s data security posture.

  • Where does our information reside?
  • Who is accessing our data, and are we able to maintain an audit trail?
  • Who is sharing our information? Who are they sharing it with, both internally, and externally?
  • What happens when an employee resigns? How do we safeguard our intellectual capital and client data?
  • For remote and mobile employees, how much of our company’s data remains on their personal drives and devices? How do we prevent employees from erasing their work from corporate memory?

If you aren’t able to find answers to these questions quickly, it may be a good time to overhaul your ECM system. Upgrade, migrate, or, if possible, configure your system to provide you with greater intelligence about the state of your information security. If you don’t know how to make these changes, speak with an integrator like General Networks who can provide you with informed advisory and professional services.

As far as platforms go, OpenText has developed and acquired solutions for information at rest, and in motion. Solutions such as Secure MFT, which transmit large files securely. OpenText Content Suite and Cloud solutions offer permission control over documents and records which ensure only privileged users know documents exist, or only give authorized users access to editing or deleting records.

Recent Microsoft SharePoint 2013 enhancements include authentication improvements, unified login to multiple Cloud applications such as Office 365, CRM, SharePoint and ERP with a centralized user ID and password through the Office 365 portal. There are also many add-ons in the Microsoft world that increase your data security, from multifactor authentication to file scoped encryption at rest.

Every Enterprise Content Management platform works differently and if you’re looking for a new solution you may be overwhelmed. If you’d like assistance engage a 3rd Party consulting company who specializes in ECM, like General Networks.

Information Discoverability, Accessibility and Integrity

Are your employees struggling to find the information they need to be productive? You may have found your own network can’t store and deliver your information resources to your local and distributed employees as quickly or reliably as you need to.

  • Can your employees be assured they are working with the latest version of a document?
  • Can they access the information they need from outside your Local/Wide Area Networks?
  • Is your system indexing and profiling documents for quick retrieval?
  • Is your data available to your employees on the devices which are approved by your IT team?

A sustainable ECM platform is one which ensures users can find the data they need, when and where they need it. If they find duplicate documents, or outdated versions of documents instead of reliable, timely content, they will lose trust in your ECM solution. If the system is integrated into applications such as CRM or ERP applications, the ECM solution has a better opportunity to become ingrained into the technology ecosystem of your organization.

Just like many enterprise systems, user adoption is vital to the success of ECM. When a user finds saving a document to your ECM solution becomes as simple as saving it to their PC’s hard drive, they are more apt to do so. When records can be automatically classified by the folder it is placed in, and inherit the appropriate retention schedule, user adoption is greatly improved. Same goes for the use of business process workflow triggers which are as simple as a “save” or “submit” option in a document’s menu ribbon.

Don’t allow users to resort to practices like creating their own file sharing on systems like Google Drive, Dropbox or OneDrive. Ensure your system addresses the needs of your information workers. Request their input on what their success criteria is for collaborative content management solutions.

Audit, eDiscovery and Litigation Preparedness

Businesses of all types, especially public companies and those in regulated industries, are burdened with compliance mandates. You may want to consider:

-Is your organization prepared to quickly lock down and produce corporate records to meet SOX audit requirements?

-Have you established a retention schedule which meets industry regulations?

-Is your company adhering to standards of good record keeping, while having minimal impact on the day-to-day operations of the business? Have you streamlined the number of full time employees involved in the process?

The value of an ECM system which can minimize your legal exposure and liability is hard to quantify in the absence of a court case or audit. If such events do happen, and you aren’t able to deliver the required records due to an inadequate system; the investment required for a system upgrade might seem like a bargain in hindsight.

If you are manufacturing a proprietary product, or are a software publisher with intellectual property rights to preserve, the latest ECM system can manage files such as CAD drawings, software development scrum notes, screenshots of code and other items which prove you are the original inventor or author. Tools like OpenText’s Brava! document viewers enable your users to annotate and/or redact documents to extract more value from them and improve collaborative design processes.

The latest enterprise content management systems preserve the integrity and authority of the files they store, in the event your business needs to provide evidentiary records to protect your firm against legal action, or to build your case, should you need to sue a third party.

Content Distribution and Device Flexibility

Regional offices and traditional corporate workplaces have evolved into flexi, shared workstations, and employees who work from home. Others work in virtual offices close to their client base but still may need access to company data. These trends have forced companies to make their data more accessible externally and through mobile devices.

-Can your employees be assured they are working with the latest version of a document?

-Can they access the information they need from outside your Local/Wide Area Networks?

-Is your system indexing and profiling documents for quick retrieval?

-Is your data available to your employees on the devices which are approved by your IT team?

A yes to any of the above questions and you’re in a position where you need to ensure your data is accessible whenever it’s needed on a multitude of devices. If your current solution can’t meet these requirements, it may be time to migrate to one that can.

ECM solutions which can be accessed via the cloud, from tablets, smartphones and Ultrabooks can ensure the productivity of your employees, and the security of your data. The alternative of leaving your mobile staff with little choice but to use unregulated file sharing applications can leave your information assets vulnerable to data loss or piracy without your knowledge. Empowering these employees with corporate data through hybrid or private cloud applications can give them credibility and competence in front of clients which can win more deals, increase customer satisfaction, and help them deliver services faster than needing to rely on Virtual Private Network access to data.

If your current ECM solution is not meeting the objectives of security, mobile access, scalability and interoperability mentioned above, is it really delivering on what you need? If your users are begrudgingly using the system, or not using it at all, can you be sure of where your employees are storing your files? How can you govern who they are sharing your information assets with?

General Networks can help your organization make the best of your existing system. If an ECM migration is warranted, we can help you plan and execute a migration to a more scalable, flexible, user friendly system which can be accessed from remote locations from a variety of devices. Evolving your content management strategy can help you avoid fines, limit liability and increase profitability. Contact us today to discuss the best path forward for you and your company.

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Growing from Within

I sometimes think hiring a “ready to go” consultant to get started immediately on an important project is a bit like Captain Ahab hunting for Moby Dick; if you actually “catch” a consultant with the right skills, you may end up sorry you did. You’ve found something very powerful and the allure is understandable given the potential, but highly experienced consultants are used to swimming their own way — and my experience is that more often than not, hiring one will leave you with a broken ship.

So it never works to hire experienced consultants?

No, it can definitely work. Of the dozen or so hires of highly experienced consultants that I’ve made over the past decade, it has worked out a few times. When it doesn’t, the problem is usually cultural. We have a very strong entrepreneurial culture of excellence that requires initiative and critical thinking. When people have been with organizations that discourage such things, the change can be jarring and, most of the time, insurmountable. We keep trying because the reward for the exceptions is significant, but we can’t build our business this way. Continue reading…

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Content Management Challenges for the Utilities Sector

A utility company is a combination of many businesses:  It is a construction company, an engineering firm, a property manager, a lobbyist, a law firm, a billing service, a marketing and communications business, and an owner/operator of large infrastructure investments all wrapped into one.  Sharing information in this environment is a challenge, because most departments in the organization have developed specific and often walled-off line-of-business applications for their business processes.
Continue reading…

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