A CALL FOR ECM STANDARDS A lack of standardisation is fundamentally compromising the value of ECM investments, propagating the point solution model and constraining the essential requirement for end-to- end deployments that deliver maximum corporate value, insists Ben Richmond, CEO and Founder, The Content Group. Too many organisations are failing to achieve corporate goals via an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) investment. This is not due to any shortfall in ECM technology but as a result of failing to follow the right processes in defining and implementing an ECM strategy. If the industry is to avoid the pain endured by the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) market, it needs to take action now. An industry wide standard – preferably backed by a body such as the British Standards Institute – is required to act as a reference point for organisations providing insight into the components of ECM technology and overcome endemic board level misunderstanding. It must also define best practice guidelines on the development and implementation of an ECM strategy to enable successful enterprise-wide deployment. Without this standard, organisations will continue to invest heavily in ECM and yet fail to attain corporate objectives. ECM technologies are maturing and can deliver excellent value; without clear guidance based on industry consensus, however, that value will continue to elude the majority of organisations to the overall detriment of the ECM marketplace. Maturing Market Over the past 10 years organisations have invested in a number of point solutions, from business process management (BPM) to information capture, document management and archiving. Today, as these technologies come together as ECM, there is a growing awareness at board level of the huge potential benefits available from improved time to market through to achieving compliance. However, misunderstanding and misinformation about ECM persists. Few organisations have any idea how best to create an ECM strategy or achieve successful company-wide deployment. The result is multi-million pound enterprise level investments, followed by limited, point and departmental implementations in finance or engineering. And whilst such point deployments typically deliver some return on investment, it is a tiny mark on a very big landscape. Organisations are failing to maximise investment or attain the true benefits that an integrated ECM strategy can deliver. And the reality is beginning to bite: there is growing distain at board level that ECM goals have not been met despite what can be a very significant up front investment. No ECM vendor wants to relive the problems endured in the ERP market in its early days. Far too many ERP products were ripped out and replaced simply because the initial implementation was ill thought out or inappropriate for a specific organisation. There are growing signs that such activity is set to occur in the ECM market as organisations struggle to link up point product deployments into an enterprise wide solution. Before this trend becomes widespread, it is time for the industry to match its technology maturity with best practice consensus on the development and implementation of ECM strategies. ECM Confusion With vendors such as EMC, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle making a massive play for this market, there are a growing number of ‘best practice’ models being touted across the market. But each is vendor specific, reflecting the requirements and design of specific product sets. Furthermore, many best practice approaches are limited to specific parts of the ECM solution set such as data capture or BPM. Such technology specific advice cannot solve the burgeoning problems affecting the ECM market; instead it can in fact spread the problems created by point implementations. Today organisations have little understanding of centralised information management, global repository services, intelligent process infrastructures and knowledge leveraging. As a result, solutions for content, records and processes are being deployed in a fragmented approach across the organisation creating a piecemeal ECM strategy that patently fails to solve key business problems, compounding many issues that initially drove the ECM investment. Despite claims to the contrary, no single vendor can truly offer the full remit of ECM products and solutions for every organisation. Strong integration is essential and creates an ever greater case for a best practice guideline for ECM: organisations need an approach that delivers strategic value irrespective of technology. In a maturing market experiencing rapid consolidation, the growing dominance of the leading providers and some Open Source solutions, it is essential that organisations have as much choice as possible to use technology effectively. The focus must be less about technology and far more about the best practice required to achieve maximum corporate value. Achieving Consensus To achieve this goal, the ECM market needs an industry-wide standard based on a consensus view and, preferably, backed by a recognised organisation such as the British Standards Institute (BSI). Building upon existing standards for effective records management or the legal admissibility, an ECM standard needs to be created by consensus between experts with domain expertise across the ECM industry. Encompassing all aspects of the ECM marketplace, from capture to records management, BPM to project collaboration, a standard must encapsulate best practice in both strategy and deployment. The standard needs to lay down guidelines for creating policy for management of content, eliminating replication of content, integrating content services and designing global repository services. It needs to encompass all elements, to ensure organisations understand how content, process and knowledge management interact and fit together. But it must also address one of the key barriers to successful ECM adoption: cultural change. Without strong communication with the user, community organisations can never achieve the user acceptance that underpins ECM success. Critically this best practice standard must provide a clear guideline for defining the ECM strategy up front to support the enterprise-wide deployment; ensuring organisations can follow a clearly defined plan from day one to meet the strategic goals of the ECM investment. Tarnished Reputation The requirement for a strong standard is now pressing. The industry is increasingly plagued by large scale contracts that are followed by low scale deployments delivering limited business wins. Indeed, whilst the market is undoubtedly maturing, figures for the adoption of ECM are misleading – licenses sold far outweigh actual user numbers. ECM is proving very successful for many organisations at point level - from project collaboration to invoice processing. But organisations are missing a massive trick by failing to achieve end-to-end ECM; they are not sharing intellectual capital or streamlining processes across the enterprise. By losing sight of the bigger picture, the majority of organisations are failing to attain the true corporate value from the original multimillion pound ECM investment. Growing awareness of this problem is beginning to tarnish the reputation of the ECM marketplace. Whilst there is no doubting the massive benefit ECM can deliver with it now being a prerequisite for most organisations, unless the industry can attain a consensus on ECM definitions, best practice strategy and deployment, organisations will continue to spend a lot of money for not enough value – but for how long? If the ECM market is to continue its explosive growth it needs to deliver on its promises – and that requires a clear, trusted standard to support rapid and successful enterprise-wide ECM deployments.