It is said that for an airplane to crash, a chain reaction of at least a handful of critical events has to occur. One on-board issue, in isolation, is usually something that can be overcome or may not even be noticed if corrected by the system.
In much the same way, the case studies of companies adopting Enterprise Content Management (ECM) across the entire organisation show familiar patterns. The deployments that are unsuccessful usually suffer from a coincidence of a number of factors going awry, not a single critical issue.
However, as little as two or three issues can ultimately jeopardise a successful project. It is therefore vital for all controllable factors to be monitored constantly and managed regardless of how insignificant their individual impact may seem. This can be difficult due to the “seatbelt phenomenon” – you can drive a thousand times without crashing, but you still have to put your seatbelt on every trip. In the same way, you must control every factor for every project, even though it may appear to have no effect.
This phenomenon – known as the ‘slippery slope of accidents’ – could be composed of factors such as:
• A lack of a cohesive strategy
• Not understanding the end-user requirements
• Insufficient buy-in from executives and leadership
• A lack of tight controls over the business
• Lack of passion from the teams involved
• Lack of flexibility when delivering the programme
• Insufficient change management implementation
Being underweight in any single one of these areas will probably not adversely affect the adoption of a new ECM platform. However, if two or more of these factors are left unaddressed, the platform is in jeopardy of gradually declining from success to stagnation to failure.
Benefits of ECM
An ECM platform that capitalises on the latest technology advancements presents a number of benefits to the organisation. Staff are able to find the right content, at the right time, far more easily. When searching for documents or responding to auditor requests, the time spent searching for content is drastically reduced.
Clear version controls mean that staff are always working off the most updated version of any document – increasingly the accuracy and efficiency of their activities. Perhaps most importantly, staff enjoy a more pleasant working experience as their lives are made easier. Their time is freed-up to focus on higher-value tasks and engaging with customers or stakeholders. In short, the individual knowledge bases of the various team members becomes formalised into a tangible organisational asset. Staff can find, use and communicate the information they need, when they need it.
Sharpening the focus
So, how does an organisation go about implementing ECM to achieve these benefits?
Our experience shows that the most successful ECM change programmes always address the aspects listed in the slippery slope of accidents. In fact, the hallmarks of those ECM strategies that add true business value include a sharp focus on:
• The discovery phase – how do specific ECM projects align with the broader ECM strategy, and the overall company strategy? Which ECM solutions are capable of fully solving the problems identified?
• The end-user is “king” – getting buy-in from all stakeholders is important, but it is essential to thoroughly attend to the general users’ requirements – they will be the primary users after all.
• Gaining enterprise-wide adoption – based on the structure and nature of the business in question, what is the optimal way of ensuring ECM platforms are used across the entire organisation? What governance structures and mechanisms need to be established to achieve this?
While the initial impetus behind many ECM initiatives is usually the need to comply with increasingly stringent compliance or regulatory requirements, this often becomes more of a jumping-off point. The organisation soon starts to discover more and more advantages to ECM.
Throughout every phase of ECM adoption, effective change management is essential. Unfortunately, as projects come under budget pressures, the change workstream is often one of the first to be cut. Doing this, however, is short-sighted. Companies that do not give proper attention to change management usually end up paying for it in the form of limited adoption, slow uptake, and resistance to the new systems and processes. ECM boasts a wide array of benefits to the organisation. But experience has shown that success can only be achieved by paying close attention to each of the potential hazards – and carefully managing the change process as people transition to new ways of working.