One of the toughest parts of enterprise content management is developing an overall strategy. The key is to have a holistic strategy that sets forth a vision for all aspects of ECM. The strategy must be driven by the business, not left solely to IT. Strategy is also a living process, and not a one-time event. With all this in mind, here's a four-step approach for developing an effective ECM strategy:
- Assess the level of ECM maturity: Examine the business and mission requirements that have been defined as well as the software components of any existing technologies. Do user satisfactions surveys exist? Is the ECM solution meeting the current needs of the organization? What are some of the largest pain points that are driving change within the organization?
The outputs here will be used to develop the overall vision for what the ECM solutions and services needs to accomplish for the business. This step is often rushed, but it is the most critical part of developing the strategy.
- Design the ECM service: Explore the critical functions that are needed (uncovered during the maturity assessment) and ensure that those map back to the requirements. Consider the different tools needed to meet the requirements, such as enterprise search, imaging, content management, and so on and map these elements to existing and new software tools. The design would also include how people would interact with the systems and the processes that would be required. For example, how a new piece of content would be included in the management system and how frequently it would be updated. All too often, the process aspects are neglected.
- Implement the Strategy: With the multiple tools, workflows, processes and lifecycles often required, ECM can be one of the most challenging solutions for organizations to implement. Fortunately, a number of options exist when looking to transition into an operation environment. ECM functions can be outsourced or delivered as a service; or consultants could be used to support an in-house implementation. Internal IT staff can also be trained to implement the solution.
- Continually Improve: Once the solution is implemented, it's only the beginning of the process of ensuring that the ECM solution is meeting the needs of the business. The ECM strategy should include regular review (quarterly at a minimum), comparing business needs to the current functionality of the system. As with any software effort, ECM is a dynamic system and the ways content is delivered and managed evolves. For the strategy to be successful, this continual improvement is a critical, though often-forgotten, element of the overall strategy.