ECM is one of those technologies that people sometimes talk about without truly understanding what it means. It has been around in several forms for years and graduated from document imaging to document management, and to ECM. It has evolved to the point where it offers a HUGE benefit to organizations of all sizes.
What is ECM? ECM stands for Enterprise Content Management. Sounds complicated. Well, it isn’t really. ECM is a blend of what we formerly called Document Management and BPM or Business Process Management. In practical terms, it means managing documents and information in a way that makes them electronically available to those who need them, protects their authenticity, and creates workflow and approval processes to make work easier. It is the Less-Paper office, on steroids, with automated routing, automated work processing, and the ability to “talk” to other software systems.
ECM is the glue. We all work hard in business to produce consistency and better service delivery by creating defined processes and carefully laying out how things are done. ECM is the technology that makes these processes actually flow and work. Imagine automating the process of getting all of the information associated with a new hire in electronic format, then making it available to the right people so they can do their part of setting up accounts, payroll, keyed access, and the myriad of stuff that needs setup when you hire. Or, think about collecting all of the information associated with purchasing and paying for goods, so that the files are all at your fingertips, approvals are automated, and there is no paperwork shuffle. Or consider the power of getting any approval out of your email and into an automatic, process driven, electronic system that does not require constant oversight. This is ECM.
Here are 7 Ways ECM will help you grow and improve your business:
1. It will save you real, hard, measureable time.
Paper takes time. Manual processes take more time than we know – tracking, checking, following up, and setting reminders. ECM reduces both paper and manual processes. 30% to 60% savings are typical when implementing ECM. If you aren’t convinced of the time it takes to manually run a process, diagram the process and do a short time study. Then diagram the proposed process using ECM. You will be amazed at the difference.
2. It will produce consistency.
Implementing ECM well forces you to understand the information and documents you are storing, as well as the process they flow through. Once you understand these processes and implement a software controlled workflow, it does not deviate. The process is done consistently the same way with less thought and less intervention from people.
3. It will create visibility and transparency.
ECM collects your information to one view and one repository. And, it can produce that information at any time during a business process. For instance, any document that goes off for an approval whether by email or by paper folder, can be lost. Once I send it out for approval, unless I remember to check on it, I don’t know the status. With ECM, I can check on the status and know exactly where it is, and I can even have the ECM workflow remind me, if it hasn’t moved on in the process within a certain amount of time. Nothing is lost, and its status is transparent to those who need to know.
4. It will facilitate adding new people and make them more effective.
ECM automates process, so adding new people becomes easier. There is less training to do because the ECM system follows the given process, rather than a person being responsible for executing and understanding the process front to back. The system prompts a new team member for the information that is needed and helps them do their job and move their process along.
5. It will better protect your information.
Making information electronic protects it in so many ways. First, backups create multiple copies, instead of single copy paper originals. Second, information can be secured to only the proper people with the proper credentials. Those payroll records don’t need a locked storage room. They are locked in the system to only the people with the right username and password. And, access can quickly be changed as people and roles change.
6. It will deliver information in a way you have never been able to see it before.
Instant Google-like search across all of your information is huge. You can pull together historical information in seconds across multiple departments, files, and folders. In addition, workflow can deliver the information up via work queue, email, exported information, updates to other systems, and simply displaying the right information on your screen in moments.
7. It will allow you to scale larger.
We all want to grow our business, to reach more people, to get better, and to excel. ECM delivers consistency and process that allows you to scale up without having to add a proportionate number of FTEs. People spend less time manually shuffling paper, approving the next step, and worrying about what is next. Less things are lost, less things are forgotten, and things are visible and addressable if something does get stopped or held up.
ECM might just be the technology that will be the “glue” you are looking for to help you build your business, or create consistency in the processes you have now. The technology has matured and become accessible and advantageous for most organizations. It is compatible and will pass information between most modern software packages, and even some not-so modern ones. We welcome your inquiries and would be glad to help provide additional information to help evaluate ECM.