SmartAdvice: Sync Business Processes Before Deploying Record-Management Systems - InformationWeek

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SmartAdvice: Sync Business Processes Before Deploying Record-Management Systems

Integration is key to making a complex document-management system deployment successful, The Advisory Council says, but the ROI can be high. Also, AMD's leadership in introducing 32/64-bit processors merits giving 32/64-bit PCs a look-see; and learn to talk the talk of C-level execs to be a player.

Editor's Note: Welcome to SmartAdvice, a weekly column by The Advisory Council (TAC), an advisory service firm. The feature answers three questions of core interest to you, ranging from career advice to enterprise strategies to how to deal with vendors. Submit questions directly to [email protected]

Question A: I have an IT infrastructure that's SAP and Microsoft-centric. What criteria should I be looking for in a records-management system?

Our advice: Be forewarned that records management can be a monumental and expensive part of doing business with or without a document-management system in place. As with any comprehensive application, deploying a document-management system involves unavoidable changes to business processes and job descriptions. The very nature of these systems encourages closer organization alignment across the entire enterprise. Integration with other large information systems in the company is critical for a successful implementation. The objective of such a project is to improve the accountability and access to company information throughout the organization. Depending on how well the document-management system is integrated into your business processes, what modules are implemented, and the number and type of records, the ROI can be extremely high.

As the document-management systems industry matures, and the tools become better integrated and easier to use, there has been an increased interest at all levels of the business community. A full-featured document-management system not only manages a variety of corporate documents, but also includes comprehensive integration with workflow, project management, content management, and financial systems. The benefits of using the document-management system as sort of middleware to bridge the differences between the different corporate information systems include cost reduction, time savings, and substantially improved availability and transparency of corporate documents. As with any large database system--and a document-management system is a form of a database--the better the business requirements and processes are predefined and mapped before a system is chosen, the higher the probability of a successful deployment.

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Demystifying Document Management

The underlying technology for document-management systems is quite complex since it requires a high degree of integration between disparate products and technologies. With XML, Java, and .Net enabling cross-platform development, in the future document-management systems will continue to be even better integrated with other enterprisewide systems.

In recent years, as the technology matured at the high-end of the market, consolidation has reduced the number of choices to a manageable level. Larger IT companies have been snapping up the more established document-management system products so they can be integrated into comprehensive business-solution suites. While that has been happening, simultaneously, a plethora of new systems have become available at the lower end of the market. Many of these are designed specifically for specialty and vertical markets--legal, engineering, etc. While their initial cost is generally lower, the feature set is likely to be substantially reduced.

In summary, document-management systems are complex and all-encompassing packages, so it's important to define the scope and purpose of the document-management system before proceeding further with the project. Because fewer systems integrate with SAP, let that requirement drive the system decision:

  • Determine if there's a need for support of engineering documents.
  • Determine balance between required features and price.
  • Number of users will affect system decision (per client versus per server pricing model).
  • Modularize the requirements so that the system can be rolled out with a minimum of business disruption.

-- Beth Cohen

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