Monday, September 18, 2006

The 'E' in ECM & ERM does not stand for 'Everything'

The reason we instigate records management or enterprise content management projects is to take control of business critical information. So understandbly efforts are focused on identifying that information and building processes/lifecycles/rules around it so that we will be able to better manage and extract value in future....right?

Well only partially right...and I suspect that one of the reasons that RM/ERM projects fail so often is in part because of this approach. Think about it this way.....when you garden, you plant flowers/vegetables/trees whatever and tend them. Yet 80% plus of the work in a garden is to remove and control the plants, that you do not want - weeding them out, cutting them back whatever. Only a small percentage of time and effort is spent directly on the plants you do want.

Its the same with documents - most of your time, money and effort will be spent on ensuring that you remove unwanted content, and continue to build barriers to it coming back and growing and taking hold again.

When you install a new system for managing content, do you simply migrate everything you have to it? Surely not, for logically a great deal of work should have been undertaken to ensure that only pure, accurate and relevant business content moves. Otherwise you are in some senses almost literally sowing the seeds of a project disaster.

In practical terms it is worth considering that in a successful project fully half or more of your costs will go on business analysis/consulting activities that are not technology related. Activities such as identifying business critical info from the rest, purging stale and outdated content, defining and agreeing business rules and processes etc.

As I like to say - you cannot layer order on top of chaos (sorry but it just won't work) - and when it comes to the accuracy of the information we use in our business task, there should never be any ambiguity as to whether this is the right, most up to date and correct data available.

The E stands for Enterprise - and Enterprise Content is the stuff the Enterprise needs to do its business, and if definately does not need mountains of duplication, errors, junk and irrelevance.


Dick Weisinger said...

Good comments Alan. I agree.

ECM systems manage unstructured content elements, but they do so by imposing structure beyond just offering fulltext search. They do it by creating taxonomies, by assigning metadata, and by allowing users to apply tags. This structured framework is the value-add of ECM, it lets you find information more quickly and to see relationships among the content components that are being managed.

Identifying the appropriate business rules/processes and determining how, when and which content is to be included in the system are important first-step questions that need to be thought through prior to standing up any ECM system. Only after understanding the answers to these questions can the framework of the ECM system be effectively designed.

Anonymous said...

Good comments Alan...

Most recent survey compliance survey we did is consistent with this. See this link...

John Mancini

alan pelz-sharpe said...

Dick, seems we agree - but the challenge is to get this over to clients who are looking at ECM technology purchases. Its something I and my group are working hard on with our clients, but frankly with mixed success.

John, this is interesting and a stat I shall use in future. Problem as I see it though, is that many of our clients think they have done the business analysis/consulting work - but when we review it, we find a lot of time spent looking at the wrong things.

Here's a thought for you - training for consulting in ECM, not technology - but business and process consulting, templates and methodologies etc......

BTW - will put a link to your AIIM blog here today - its a good read!