Selecting a new enterprise content management (ECM) solution for your organization is an important decision that requires careful consideration. The system you choose will manage high-stakes corporate information, be used by all teams and departments, and need to comply with every geographical and industry regulation.
With so many document management technologies available, identifying the best-fit solution in a sea of plausible options for your business can be overwhelming, and you’ll need to plan accordingly. For starters, it’s critical to define your goals and expectations for the system before even embarking on the search.
Whether you’re moving from a legacy ECM system to the cloud, moving from one on-premises system to another, or deploying an ECM for the first time, this blog explores a few key factors to consider when embarking on the selection journey.
Understand Your Unique Business Needs
Identifying your key business challenges, pain points, and objectives is fundamental before undertaking and investing in a new ECM solution. For example, your organization may be plagued by information silos and content chaos due to disorganization of information spread across different systems, servers, and business applications. Your business would benefit from an ECM solution that reduces the time it takes to retrieve files, making documents centralized, searchable, and properly electronically filed.
It’s critical to take the time to define what you as an organization need the solution to do and how all users and stakeholders will use and benefit from the new system.
This could be as simple as filing legal documents or as complex as automating invoice processes using AI, but defining the objective allows you to set firm expectations and clear scope for potential vendors.
Once you know what you are looking for, it is time to talk to the people who do this daily: the end-users. The users’ needs and expectations are often very different from those within IT or finance, so their inclusion in project planning is critical. The goal is to identify existing pain points and areas of improvement or alternatives to help gain productivity.
Answering these questions will enable your organization to establish clear goals and key performance indicators with documentation around the following:
- Current business process analysis
- Areas of process improvement
- Processes or systems with which the solution will need to integrate
- Any security and compliance factors at play
Establish and Understand Your Options
With so much information readily available within a saturated ECM market, finding the one that stands out in the crowd is complicated. When exploring ECM products, there are particular core functions and feature-related questions you should be asking. These fundamental questions include:
Ease of use
Does the solution guarantee high user adherence? Does it simplify mundane, daily tasks? How much training will your employees need in order to use the solution?
Ease of integration with existing systems and applications
Always consider your existing IT infrastructure and how the new solution will integrate into your current ecosystem. There are many different ECMs on the market that work differently and offer differing levels of integration with other systems and applications.
How much configuration is required to ensure it will be compatible with the existing system? What are the time investments each team member must make in order to manage an ECM integration? Does the system have an open integration capability via REST-APIs?
Your new solution should be future-focused and allow room for growth. Consider what your organization may be building towards, and choose an ECM that grants the flexibility to get there.
Can the ECM scale with staff growth to meet new demands? Can additional features be added to accommodate new business processes or even AI enhancements and automation? Does it leave for customization? Can it adapt to comply with future regulations? Security and compliance within a growing organization are often defining factors to consider.
Having a cloud-based storage system will give you unlimited scalability, accessibility, and security. Consider whether your ideal solution is available in the cloud, on-premise, or uses a hybrid model, then assess accordingly.
Cloud-based systems will provide easy access to a secure private or public cloud. But before opting for the cloud-based system, consider the aforementioned security features and compliance requirements.
Organizations are increasingly remote, so users need access to content from all kinds of devices, anywhere in the world. A successful ECM should accommodate the remote needs of its users.
One of the main features of an ECM is to capture, store, and process documents in digital format. Considering automation capabilities and enhancements can help reduce human error, establish a single source of truth, and allow for easy access to information with the appropriate classification and metadata.
Security and Compliance
Ensure the enterprise content management solution you choose is secure goes without saying. Your new ECM should offer access permissions and revisions at various levels, allow regular automated backups, and track user activity.
In addition, requiring an ECM solution that is flexible enough to meet your organization’s unique industry compliance requirements and security needs can help you get closer to finding your match.
Look Further Than the Features
Of course, the software is only part of the overall package when considering an ECM. It’s important to understand what makes a specific vendor unique — what customers they have, what support services they offer, and more. Does the vendor offer professional services to configure the solution to your specific requirements? Unless you purchase an off-the-shelf solution, you will likely need professional services for installation, configuration, training, and migration.
Don’t Forget Migration!
Some vendors offer migration services to help import your existing data and documents to the new system, but if not, you’ll need to work with a qualified partner to successfully and securely migrate all your business content and data.
Try and Choose
Like any big purchase or investment, you rarely take the plunge or hand over the cash without a test drive. ECM solutions are no different, and any legitimate vendor should willingly offer a proof of concept (POC).
If you’re looking at a SaaS or cloud solution, it should be straightforward for you to test it. On-premise solutions are slightly harder to test because they require more upfront effort to install, but should still be possible. Make sure you’re able to obtain access to a trial environment, or even better to perform a proof of concept (POC) that includes your data and some sample business processes.
Pick the Right Partner
Navigating the world of enterprise content management solutions might seem complex, but with careful planning and assessment, your new system might just be the boost your organization needed to get ahead in a competitive landscape.
Deploying an ECM system is a significant investment that requires a certain level of expertise. Choosing a reputed partner to execute your migration from one ECM to another, or from your various business systems to your new ECM solution can ensure long-term transformation for your business. Taking the proper steps to ensure you choose the right consultant for your organization is time well spent today that will deliver benefits for the long term.