The Challenges With Enterprise Content Management

Having been involved with a number of enterprise content administration (ECM) projects throughout my profession, many factors can impact the success or failure of such an initiative. Oftentimes, organizations inadequately assess their business needs or prematurely select a system before defining their processes. As a result, getting ECM right can be a challenge for even the most unlimited technical and financial resources.

Utilizing technology, ECM provides organizations with a construction to define processes associated with generating, enriching/annotating, managing and delivering happy to both internal and external stakeholders. I have found that ECM has come to signify more a broad range of technologies and business requirements than an actual monolithic product offering.
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Getting Started

One of the very first challenges agencies encounter when looking at ECM is exactly what the solution should encompass. Kyle McNabb at Forrester Research asserts that will ECM encompasses document management, Web content management, document imaging, records management, and digital asset management, and it is closely aligned with collaboration plus business process management (“Topic Review: Enterprise Content Management” Kyle McNabb, Forrester, March 2008). Recently, Tony Byrne of CMS Watch and several other industry analysts working on the particular ECM3 initiative (Enterprise Content Management Maturity Model) have offered up the notion that ECM should not cover Web content management and “related publishing-oriented disciplines. ” (cite: ecm3. org)

My bias is actually around the administration of content objects for the purpose of preservation and reuse in different contexts. Including delivery to print, Web, cellular, e-reader devices as well as repackaging different content objects to create new offerings. My view of ECM consists of Web content management, digital asset management, some aspects of document management, as well as other multi-channel application components. Additionally , with regard to content publishers, I believe XML machine and natural language processing technologies may be closely aligned with an ECM strategy. I am not saying that information management and digital imaging cannot be part of an ECM strategy : only that my particular clients typically handle those business specifications separately from the actual needs close to creating, annotating/enriching, managing and delivering content.

First Process, Then Technologies

Getting started on ECM can be overpowering as there are so many critical components : people, process, technology, budget, administration buy-in, etc . What we have found is that our clients are perfectly happy to focus on the specific challenges they are looking to solve and not get hung on the broad range of what ECM means to industry analysts or software vendors. For example , if a client is looking to manage records or documents, they will gather requirements and record use cases specific to that need, which may or may not include electronic asset management. This does not exempt the company from trying to map their own overall ECM strategy and the appropriate technologies that will support it. Nevertheless , it speaks to the need for the phased approach to implementing the various domains of ECM as opposed to trying to implement it all at once.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Vendors and others in the market may argue that to implement ECM successfully you need to stick with a single software provider’s application stack. In reality, various vendors are stronger in certain areas – say document management, for instance – but weaker in areas such as digital asset management or Web content management. Given the considerable costs of implementing an ECM platform, this is another strong case for focusing on solving the business problems that either offer up measurable productivity gains or, in the case of multi-channel posting capabilities of ECM, new income models.

Start With Your Business and Useful Requirements

Try to organize those requirements into the domains of functionality that ECM appears to handle. Do NOT start from product suites, since you will get distracted by the product capabilities and potentially lose sight of your specific needs.

Analyze Workflow

Companies often obtain caught up with trying to implement workflow in ECM initiatives, which is a worthy endeavor if workflows are well defined and adhered to. However if you have issues with existing workflows, you may re-enforce poor processes with technology, which will make matters worse. Additionally , if you do not have general opinion about workflow(s), you may run into alter management (user adoption) issues when you go to rollout phase. Companies often have poorly-defined workflows or too many exceptions within a workflow, and trying to capture all of them in your ECM implementation will be expensive and ultimately can create a very confusing group of interfaces.

Document Policies and Treatments

Another big challenge in an ECM implementation is that companies either may document policies and procedures with regard to document/records/content management, or don’t have adequate governance and oversight over these digital objects. This may not be as apparent in ECM implementations where the resources are contracts or HR documents, but it becomes a major problem when the ECM implementation is about digital assets. In those kinds of implementations, it is not uncommon to find numerous duplicate files, or even worse, small changes in versions that are almost imperceptible, but not documented. The challenge I have found is that people simply stuff those old files into their ECM like they would old mementoes in a box in the attic, all those assets will be as difficult to find since the sundry knick-knacks of yesteryear.

Be familiar with Data Types

One of the biggest challenges that many companies must overcome is tips on how to manage chunks of information in different file formats. That data has to be stored in elemental form and its physical, business, and semantic properties somehow captured, either automatically or through guide data entry. While an ECM solution can seem expansive and complex, it is my opinion that companies should believe small and look to the objects on their own that need to be stored. That way, even if there were missteps in the ECM implementation, at least you have protected yourself later on by properly storing and describing the masses of content elements.

Metadata and Taxonomy

Still another area of problem in ECM is defining, applying, and managing descriptive information about content material objects. Companies are often overzealous in regards to the information they’d like users to utilize to content, and in the process produce dozens of fields of metadata that need to be entered with each add of an object. Recently, companies are looking to implement natural language processing (NLP) tools that can extract meaning from textual content objects based on specially-prepared taxonomies that are relevant to the business.

This is a guaranteeing trend, but the technology is expensive, and I currently am not seeing that wide adoption of text mining engines. However , companies that see this as a severe problem and they are investing in the research to determine their revenue will buy these NLP solutions. As the price points go down, a lot more systems will have NLP embedded included in the solution, this will increase adoption.

Have a tendency Go it Alone

It usually amazes me when companies choose to implement ECM solutions on their own. The technologies and workflows connected with document, records, and digital resource management require deep technical experience. However , I can understand that a big issue companies have is that vendors or even consultancies may send technical resources with expertise in the technology although not the subject matter expertise. This is inevitably one of the biggest challenges where business plus functional requirements, use cases, program architectures and integration plans fall short.

One way to get around that is to make sure that you hire a consultancy who is not just expert in the technology but has also worked within your vertical market(s) plus understands the business challenges. Otherwise, the particular next-best thing is to get your material experts (SME’s) trained in the technologies and hire a technically deft consulting shop to support the SME.

Take a Phased Approach

I’ve observed companies try to implement too many items at once, which is less an issue regarding ECM than about enterprise project management. It is worth repeating here that a phased approach with 30/60/90 day development and integration cycles remains the safest way to implement any kind of technology(ies). Also, when in doubt about an approach, performing proof of concept or spike tests is a good method to test technical hypotheses to determine their own efficacy.

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