ECM makes business processes efficient

While spending on enterprise content management (ECM) used to be driven primarily by regulatory compliance, a recent study found that cost savings is the new driver.

Adherence to compliance requirements remains important, but the cost savings that ECM tools render to an organization’s business processes is top-of-mind, said Doug Miles, director of market intelligence and author of the report with Silver Spring, Md.-based AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management).

“You can get very quick returns from ECM implemented in business process change, business process outsourcing, business process speeding up,” said Miles. “Everyone is trying to achieve that right now, perhaps more than they are trying to achieve business expansion or compliance.”

The annual research report, entitled State of the ECM Industry, was based on surveys with 536 companies of mixed size and industries worldwide.

According to the study, those companies that did invest in ECM reaped the expected hard-dollar savings, described as those savings that can actually be calculated, for instance eliminating the role of a case management clerk after digitizing documents.

Expectations were exceeded on soft-dollar savings, which Miles explained are things like the cost of non-compliance or legal discovery, the quality of customer service and responsiveness, and the ability to be agile and enable decision-making.

“You can’t really put a hard-dollar saving on improved decision-making, but you can point to some disasters in the path that might have been averted with better access to information,” said Miles.

But the study found that close to half of companies polled struggled with managing electronic office documents, and that 75 per cent of organizations’ “modern communication channels” – like instant messages, text messages, blogs and wikis – remained uncontrolled.

There is little visibility or tracking of who created content on those collaborative platforms, said Miles. “Most of what goes on in public wikis and public blogs under corporate guise, like anything on Facebook, is really quite scary on the spectrum of sharing information versus controlling information,” said Miles.

Cheryl Mckinnon, director of program management for Enterprise 2.0 with Waterloo, Ont.-based enterprise content management vendor Open Text Corp., acknowledged that such communication tools exist in scattered patches across an organization, in the form of marketing blogs or project-based wikis, and that “those tools are typically implemented by the business users more than traditional IT.”

But while the IT department is typically tasked with making the procurement decisions, rolling out and implementing technologies, these types of communication platforms tend to “creep into the enterprise” in response to the needs of business users, said Mckinnon. Risks like inappropriate disclosure or data loss emerge when unsanctioned tools increasingly assume the role of the “next source of corporate content.”

“It’s not so much that it’s a new tool, but a new awareness that they are mainstream,” said Mckinnon.

An ECM strategy benefits business processes, said Mckinnon, because it isn’t just about traditional documents and records management, but “workflow components and allowing people to collaborate.” Structured collaboration that ensures the right people get the right information is good for process efficiency, and therefore the bottom line, she said.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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