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Implementing ECM: Keys to Success

    By Ryan White...

    Implementing a new technology in your organization can be challenging.  Here are a few points to remember when implementing ECM for the first time:

    1.  The devil is in the details – When changing a core business function such as accounts payable or order processing, the easy part is identifying how things ‘should’ work.  Identifying all the potentials for discrepancy handling is critical to a successful implementation.  Make sure you give proper attention to how you will handle items such as variations between business units/divisions, general accounting and approval processes, and those unique situations for which the standard business process does not apply.  Identifying those early in the process will ensure the system is designed properly.  Failing to identify these components will result in a solution that is underutilized and ineffective for parts of the business.  Utilizing an integrator or consultant trained in ECM to help in the discovery and needs analysis phase will bring greater expertise and knowledge of ECM capabilities to your team as well as help you develop a strategy for ECM for the enterprise.

    2.  Build a winning team – There should be no doubt that a successful ECM implementation takes a team.  You need support from executives, input from users, strong project management, commitment from IT, and a solid business analyst to cover all the bases.  We have seen projects fall short of expectations without the proper team and management of the process. Your consultant/integrator should insist on these skill sets and should also identify the counterparts on their team.  Once the implementation is complete and the implementation team closes the project, you will need a system administrator to carry the banner forward.  The system administrator should have both technical and functional knowledge of the system and be able to provide the first level of support to the user community.

    3.  Estimating the Effort – A common challenge for many organizations is understanding the level of effort and complexity required to deliver ECM to the enterprise.  It sounds simple to create a few Visio maps of your process and call that your workflow solution.  That part of the process can be relatively simple.  The complexity comes in building the connections beneath the surface; ERP integrations, data validations, rules based workflow and decision  routing, and security model to name a few.  Limiting the custom development and one-off scenarios will provide clarity in the estimates with less chance project over runs and missed time tables resulting from too much custom development.

    4.  Usability – Gaining user acceptance is an important part of an implementation, because without user buy-in, adoption will be slow and tedious for the system administrator.  Make sure your team spends time identifying requirements of the business user and try to find ways to improve the interaction between the user and the ECM tool.  We are seeing an increased demand for user dashboards.  These dashboards create a graphical representation of the work to complete, priority status, and pending deadlines.  The charts and graphs present information in a more compelling way and are often seen as a great improvement to the user.  Usability can also mean the layout of information on a particular screen.  A recent client was very excited about the ability to display a ‘Pay To’ field on their AP workflow screen.  It was a simple modification that provided them a quick validation before approving payments.  A few small wins like these can have a big impact on user acceptance.

    5.  Sharpen the Saw – ECM solutions are nothing more than tools to accomplish a task.  As any craftsman will tell you, care and maintenance of your tools improve the quality of work you can deliver.  Make sure that you conduct post implementation reviews of your project and periodically check back with the user community to make sure the initial design still meets the business need.  I have seen many clients who have abandoned an ECM solution simply because it was never updated as their business changed.  Making sure business users have the right tools and that those tools are effective is the responsibility of management.  Often these problems are an easy fix and you can return to a productive environment with little change.

    These are just 5 out of a long list of considerations required for a successful implementation.  Each one of these items could be expanded into a lengthy whitepaper on its own.  Upcoming posts will provide more detail on implementation success factors.

    Keep in mind you are fundamentally changing the way your company does business and accesses critical business information.  Attention to detail, careful planning, and strong communication skills will go a long way to ultimate project success.  Good Luck!

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