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									Don’t Get Stuck with the Wrong ECM System: Four Essential Criteria for Success
By James Thumma, Optical Image Technology (This article originally appeared in a February, 2009 publication of ECM Connection) By now, you are well aware of the benefits of transitioning from paper processes to electronic. Whether you need to do more with less (and who doesn’t in this economy?), comply with regulations, manage your records, or streamline operations, an enterprise content management (ECM) system can provide you with the tools that you need to achieve your business goals. The trouble is that there is a glut of ECM systems on the market. And they are hard to differentiate from one another. Each vendor claims that his or her system can do it all. They claim that their systems are so wide-reaching that you are destined for success no matter what your industry or specific needs. Your relationship with your ECM vendor is a marriage of sorts. And as you are shopping for the right system, you’re in the honeymoon phase. You see all of the good qualities of the software, and the weaknesses are undiscovered. But ECM implementations, like marriages, fail as often as they succeed. How, then, do you know which system is right for your business? An awareness of the following four factors can prevent you from getting stuck with the wrong ECM solution.
1. Return on investment (ROI) vs. total cost of ownership TODAY

A lot of vendors will claim that their software will pay for itself within three to five years. Sounds good, right? A three- to five- year return is admirable, but unfortunately, in today’s economy it’s just not good enough. You need a system that is going to provide you with returns immediately. To get the most from your implementation, it pays to prioritize your reasons for implementing new software in the first place. Ask yourself how your ECM system is going to have an immediate impact on your services to your customers, buyers, and suppliers. Maybe you are investing in technology now to avoid future investment—particularly if you are attempting to mitigate risk from compliance or e-discovery. If this is the case, it is worthwhile to expand your vision and take into consideration the additional benefits that ECM can offer your As you evaluate different systems for operation. functionality and price point, don’t   lose sight of what is probably the most Talk with an experienced vendor to see how you can get more important criterion for ECM success: from your software installation. Find out how automated simplicity. A high-performance system distribution can make your entire enterprise more efficient and should offer an interface that is at the same time provide you with the transparency and auditing obvious and intuitive. It shouldn’t look like a page out of the dictionary. If an tools that are required for compliance. In today’s market, you activity involves more than drag and need to look at a model and system that offers a return now. Not drop or point and click functionality, three to five years from now. If a prospective vendor is telling you’re not gaining efficiency; you’re you that you will have to wait years to see payback from an ECM losing it. system, you would be wise to consider a different product.  
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2. Integration

Most organizations have a heterogeneous IT environment. In plain language, that means that they have a bunch of different software systems that serve specific business processes—legacy systems, line of business applications, etc. Usually, these systems are lacking in interoperability. This means that information is not easily accessible. Often, information is duplicated across multiple systems. There are a number of vendors on the market offering ECM solutions. But if they don’t offer the capability to integrate your diverse systems into one cohesive solution, you are merely perpetuating the inefficiencies that are associated with paper. Steer clear of proprietary ECM systems that lock you into using specific software and limit your flexibility. Instead, look for a vendor whose solution is underwritten with Web services—they should be published to the client base to leverage the application programming interface (API). This will offer your users ECM functionality from within their own familiar software applications—no matter what they might be. At the same time, it will offer access to systems that had previously been standalone. There are no new complicated software programs to learn. Users gain increased functionality from within their familiar interfaces, and access to information housed within legacy systems and line-of-business applications is enabled. ECM was never meant to be a stand-alone solution. As such, integration is not a luxury; it is a necessity. The product must have the capability to integrate with anything—not just line-ofbusiness applications. It should integrate with your website, portal, proprietary applications, office environment, and more, without additional fees. Integration should be an inherent part of any solution. Consider whether your business processes would be better addressed by an on- or off-site system. Off-site ECM implementations work in the same way that your utility provider works. You pay a periodic fee for services, and your SaaS provider takes responsibility for housing and maintaining your system. SaaS minimizes initial up-front costs of an ECM system. There are benefits and risks to both in-house and off-site solutions. A vendor should offer both options, and even offer the flexibility to house your own solution initially, but move it off-site at any time.   In today’s market, you need to look at Risk management should drive your decision as to where to a model and system that offers a return house your ECM system. In addition to offering an off-site now. Not three to five years from now. If system, a full-service vendor will offer you the option of a prospective vendor is telling you that outsourcing the indexing and scanning of your backlogged paper you will have to wait years to see payback files. Some vendors even go the extra mile and provide a service from an ECM system, you would be wise to that will process your incoming files—whether they are paper or consider a different product. electronic.   SaaS is not necessarily a less expensive option than housing and maintaining your system on-site, but it is a good alternative for organizations that don’t have a dedicated IT staff. It also provides the option of reallocating your processing staff and your physical resources. If your organization is looking for the benefits associated with ECM but doesn’t have the up-front resources to install the system in-house, you would be wise to consider a vendor that offers SaaS.
4. Ease of use . Software as a Service (SaaS) vs. on-site installation

As you evaluate different systems for functionality and price point, don’t lose sight of what is probably the most important criterion for ECM success: simplicity. A high-performance system should offer an interface that is obvious and intuitive. It shouldn’t look like a page out of the dictionary. If an activity involves more than drag and drop or point and click functionality, you’re not gaining efficiency; you’re losing it.

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You want your ECM system to be implemented and adopted by your users. To generate excitement about your transition, you need to demonstrate a system that will simplify your users’ processing tasks. A complicated system—no matter what its functionality—risks rejection from your staff. If a prospective system is more complex than drag and drop or point and click functionality in a web browser, move on to the next product.  
The bottom line

Implementing ECM shouldn’t be painful. Once you are able to articulate your enterprise needs, talk with prospective vendors about how their systems can increase efficiency, customer service, and profits. A high-performance system pairs the ease-of-use that your staff craves with the integration, BPM, and workflow tools that you need to compete. And a vendor with decades of experience in the industry can work with you to design a solution that is specific to your unique needs.

Optical Image Technology offers an integrated suite of imaging, document management, and workflow software, including document archiving, lifecycle management, electronic forms, and email management products. To learn more about our products and services, visit our website at, email, or call us at 800-678-3241.

©2009 Optical Image Technology, Inc. All rights reserved. DocFinity, IntraVIEWER, and XML FormFLOW are trademarks or registered trademarks of Optical Image Technology, Inc.

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