Implementing ECM: Keys to Success

June 22, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Posted in Accounts Payable Automation, Content Management, ECM, Enterpise Content Management, ERP Integration | Leave a comment

By Ryan White on June 22, 2011

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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Developing an Enterprise Vision For Content Management

June 16, 2011 at 7:22 pm | Posted in Accounts Payable Automation, Content Management, ECM, Enterpise Content Management, Records Managment | Leave a comment

By Mark Jackson on June 16, 2011 

Enterprise content management (ECM) provides organizations with a platform to house unstructured content and deliver it in the proper format to multiple enterprise applications. This allows organizations to manage and use their content to facilitate business transactions, build content-rich business applications, integrate content services with business applications, and effectively control the life cycle of the content to meet compliance regulations. ECM helps to decrease costs, automate processes, improve transaction processing times, facilitate content distribution, minimize lost documents, and mitigate risk.

The goal of modern ECM deployments is to develop a unified ECM approach that provides the full array of content management functionality, including document and image management, web content management, digital asset management, and records and retention management, on one platform. The unified approach provides a greater ROI in a shorter time frame. Consolidating the overall architecture on a single code base, security model, and API eliminates “Band-Aid” integrations, leverages a common IT infrastructure, and minimizes application development and support costs, thus lowering costs; improving user experiences; and enabling simple upgrades, maintenance, and training.

The following white paper  provides foundational knowledge of content management systems and a vision for enterprise implementation of ECM solutions.

 

Automating Accounts Payable

June 8, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Posted in Accounts Payable Automation, Content Management, ECM, Enterpise Content Management, ERP Integration | Leave a comment

By Mark Jackson on June 8, 2011 

Check out the following blog post by Brian Dirking with Oracle titled: Automating Accounts Payable  http://blogs.oracle.com/enterprise20/entry/automating_accounts_payable

In addition, here is a very informative data sheet titled: Oracle Content Management for Oracle E-Business Suite Financials/Accelerate your financial operations into overdrive http://www.oracle.com/us/products/middleware/content-management/059459.pdf

  

Deploying Content Services to the Enterprise

June 3, 2011 at 7:38 pm | Posted in Accounts Payable Automation, Enterprise Content Management, ERP Integration, Process Improvement | Leave a comment

By Ryan White on June 3, 2011

Companies interested an enterprise class content management solution have a difficult question to answer; “How do we deploy ECM services to the enterprise?” I was sitting with the Director of Applications for a large retail chain in the south east discussing this question today.  With a new CIO on board and a long list of strategic initiatives, he is in an interesting situation.  Many of the strategic initiatives are focused on improving business processes, reducing costs, and improving corporate visibility into the business at large.

We had recently completed a very successful expansion of their content management system to deliver AP workflow to a new part of the organization.  As the CIO spoke at the project close event, it occurred to me that the problems he wanted addressed in his large strategic initiatives, would require the support of content services, yet setting an enterprise standard for content management was not one of the strategic initiatives.

The director and I reached the conclusion that in order to meet his goals of an enterprise standard for content management, we needed to work methodically through the organization to deliver key wins, publicize those wins to build momentum, and be diligent working with the business to prevent one off solutions.

Other clients that have taken enterprise content management as a strategic initiative have succeeded by following a few guiding principles:

  1. Executive support – Support from an executive stake holder will go a long way to ensure the project momentum carries through the initial roll out.  Too many implementations stall with the conclusion of the first push as companies stop to take a breath after the initial go live.
  2. Win Early and often – Since each department is unique in its requirements for content management, find a highly visible starting point with the right mind set (culture for change and desire for improvement), and a high probability for success.  You can tackle the most complex workflows and custom tailored solutions after you have proven that the technology works for you, but I guarantee that if the first roll out goes wrong, an enterprise deployment becomes much more difficult.
  3. Publicize the win – make sure the rest of the company knows about the success and continued success of the deployment.  Several companies have offered prizes for ‘green’ projects and I’ve even heard of a Ms. Document Imaging Pageant!  Make sure the rest of the company knows about your investment and its capabilities. Without awareness, you could continue to see more one-off solutions pop up across the company.

Following these guidelines will help ensure you deliver more than a departmental solution of an enterprise class technology.  It does take persistence, but once you reach a critical mass of support, you can reach the goals of content consolidation, standardization, and an ROI even greater than expected.

 

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