Choosing an ECM platform
Your ECM defines the level of efficiency at which your content is managed — from it's creation to disposal. How do you lay the groundwork for maximum ROI?
When you're ready to experience the benefits of an enterprise content management (ECM) solution, you need to know what to look for in the platform and the partner.
Here’s what you need to know about the ECM space.
Core elements to consider when selecting an ECM platform
The ECM solution your organization chooses must be a smart investment based on your unique content requirements and team structure. Look for an ECM platform that has:
Low-code or no-code capabilities
Low-code and no-code ECM platforms are a simple and cost-effective way of developing applications with minimal coding. Teams that work through a low-code or no-code platform use a straightforward visual interface and drag-and-drop tools to reduce the burden on IT teams and achieve a faster time-to-market.
Make sure the solution meets your needs now and in the future by considering the investment beyond the immediate challenges it solves for. An ECM solution should easily accommodate your organizational changes over time, from the opening of new offices or branches to the increasingly remote environment.
The right ECM solution must ensure the security of your organization’s data and documentation. An ECM platform should be able to grant different permission levels to various users, track document activity with version control, and monitor incoming and outgoing documents from your business.
AutomationBusinesses lack oversight when they rely heavily on paper-based and manual processes. Even if processes are digitized, bottlenecks occur when workflows rely on human intervention to launch work or to keep things moving. Tools like data capture and workflow automation in an ECM platform automatically capture, process, store and route important data to the right reviewers or approvers in a team.
Today’s top ECMs use artificial intelligence (AI) such as intelligent document processing and machine learning, as well as simpler (but highly efficient) automations like robotic process automation (RPA), to aid human workers and speed business.
Ability to integrate with existing IT infrastructure
The ECM product must be able to integrate with your existing departmental or enterprise-wide business management applications (ERPs, electronic health records, student information systems, etc.). Organizations do not have to overhaul entire systems, and your entire business is able to continue operations with minimal downtime.
A distinguished vendor reputationAnalyst reports like Gartner’s Market Guide for Content Services Platform (content services is another term for ECMs) or IDC’s MarketScape: Worldwide Cloud Content Services Vendor Assessment provide guidance for buyers. From industry standards and forward-looking expectations to vendors’ strengths and weaknesses, these reports are an excellent starting point.
Deploying a Cloud-Capable ECMCloud capabilities for businesses of all sizes is an essential part of staying competitive.
By understanding the benefits that come from transitioning to a cloud-capable ECM solution, organizations can ensure that their data stays secure and available while also mitigating risks associated with storing files on physical locations like hard drives or servers.
There are 3 contrasts between cloud-capable ECM and traditional on-premises solutions:
- Costs: Cloud-based ECM solutions have the upper hand on being cost-effective. This is because the former does not have to invest in server maintenance, do not require much of an upfront investment and can be managed easily with fewer resources.
- Accessibility: With cloud ECM, data and documents can be accessed and shared from any location with an internet connection. On-premises solutions require physical access to the server and limits access to those within a specific location.
- Updates: Updates for cloud ECM systems occur automatically, providing users with the most recent version of the software without requiring manual installation or disruption to existing processes. In contrast, on-premises solutions necessitate manual updating of software in order to stay up to date.
Creating an ECM Request for Proposal (RFP)
A Request for Proposal (RFP) is a document used in the decision-making process before a product or service is purchased from a vendor. An RFP outlines your business’ specific requirements, including your budget, so multiple vendors can share their solutions and you can compare them against one another.
For the best outcome, you must clearly identify and define your needs. Here are some tips for creating your ECM RFP.
1. Focus on the 3 Bs
Once you've identified your needs, focus on the three Bs:
- Budget: Your budget will keep your project on track as you craft your RFP. Avoid asking for more functionality than you can afford or need.
- Backing: You also want backing — or a buy-in — from key stakeholders, decision-makers and those who will be impacted by the implementation.
- Building your RFP team: Your end users (those who will interact with the system on a day-to-day basis) should be heavily involved in putting the RFP together. They are most familiar with the current process and will also be most impacted upon implementation. Their input is invaluable and will lead to an easier transition once a new system is implemented.
2. Craft the RFP
A comprehensive RFP is critical to a good outcome. The RFP document should be concise and easy to understand. It should include a summary of the project, detailed requirements and expected outcomes. It would be a bonus if your RFP encompasses of existing content management challenges – just so your vendors can tailor their proposals accordingly.
3. Evaluate responses
The best RFPs come back to you with simple answers: yes, the vendor offers that, or no, they do not. Many vendors will provide additional context if the answer isn’t quite so black or white.
It’s also important to read between the lines of the answers. If a vendor has a lot to say about a pretty simple question, their solution might not fit your needs quite as perfectly as they’re presenting.
Another area to pay close attention to is how they answer questions that relate to the company more than the product. Do they have great references? Do they show up as leaders in analyst reports? What’s the culture like among their employees? In some cases, it’s wise to visit the headquarters of your preferred vendors to see how they do things behind the scenes, how they use their own software and what the overall atmosphere is like in-person.
Benefits of an ECM solution
When properly vetted and deployed, an ECM solution not only brings all of your content into one universe, it gives your content power by making it easier for users to share, collaborate and act on the most accurate data — from anywhere, at any time.
That’s why an effective ECM can help you stand out against your competition by:
- Increasing the speed of business. Faster access to information increases the quality of your customer interactions, and businesses can benefit from the return on investment (ROI) that comes with eliminating operational bottlenecks.
- Facilitating interoperability. When core systems work together, your teams have more visibility and fewer siloes to combat.
- Making better decisions faster. Work faster and smarter with a system that gives stakeholders the right information whenever and wherever they need it. And, when AI is natively deployed within the system, the go-forward can be measured against previous similar scenarios and analytical data can be used to drive the best, most likely outcomes.
- Minimizing security risks. Don’t put your content at risk for security breaches or compliance fines. Putting them in a secure, auditable ECM solution keeps them safe from both. Additionally, cloud-based ECMs offer more resiliency in the face of natural disasters or, say, pandemics that force teams to work remotely.
Choosing the right ECM vendorWith dozens of content management vendors available, it’s important to vet your choices carefully. Industry analysts like Gartner and IDC provide comprehensive reports on the market, and you can view their latest here:
- Gartner’s Market Guide for Content Services Platform
- IDC’s MarketScape: Worldwide Cloud Content Services Vendor Assessment