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Top ten tips: Ten common problems with ECM deployments – and how to avoid them

ECM has the power to transform employee productivity, drive down costs and reduce the carbon footprint for any organisation. But many organisations have yet to achieve maximum value from the investment. From clearly defining corporate expectations up front, to ensuring user buy-in, only the right approach can ensure that organisations achieve their ECM objectives, explains Ben Richmond, CEO, The Content Group.

  1. Organisations often fail to reach their expectations of ECM due to a lack of understanding about just what ECM can and cannot deliver. ECM is a complex area simply due to the breadth of practices and technologies that it encompasses. Yet in the absence of an in-depth understanding, organisations are falling at the first hurdle. They are achieving departmental implementations that deliver incremental benefits, but do not necessarily meet the organisational-wide ECM objectives.
  2. ECM is far more than a set of technologies. It is about understanding process change, implementing change management and matching a range of technical solutions to meet organisational demands. Without building up in-house expertise or leveraging external capabilities, organisations will struggle to overcome the lack of understanding that compromises the large majority of ECM deployments.
  3. ECM is as much about the right practices as it is about the right technology. Organisations cannot enable good practice without the right technology, but equally it is difficult to choose the right technology without understanding the practices.
  4. Without understanding the potential of ECM, it is impractical to map specific organisational requirements to ECM strategy. For example, for clients external to an organisation a given objective may be key, but it is important to fit these into a broader ECM strategy while meeting objectives.
  5. To maximise the ECM investment, organisations need to have an eye on the long-term gain. Indeed, the ECM risk/reward curve is heavily weighted towards the second and third years of deployment. Whilst organisations can, and do, achieve quick wins that offer immediate ROI, it is in subsequent years that the benefits increase steeply. Taking a tactical approach to ECM will significantly constrain operational benefits in areas such as organisation-wide knowledge sharing and re-use.
  6. The vast majority of ECM deployments are focused on meeting compliance requirements. Whilst ECM’s ability to track the information lifecycle makes it perfectly suited to delivering operational requirements, by focusing exclusively on compliance, organisations can miss out on the chance to achieve both operational efficiency and competitive advantage.
  7. Well-designed ECM will have a significant impact on existing operational processes. It is therefore essential to consider and understand the implications of moving from paper to digital information sources and processes alike. Putting in place a robust change management programme is imperative to ensure that ECM is adopted across the organisation and that the organisational objectives are achieved in full.
  8. Organisations cannot simply expect users to take a leap of faith when adopting ECM technologies. For many, the implementation will result in a significant change in day-to-day activity – especially those in back office functions that can be rationalised as a result of improved processing and automation. Putting in place a content champions group, encompassing individuals from across the business who understand ECM and the long-term organisational objectives will help to ensure user buy-in.
  9. Once an ECM deployment has achieved its initial objectives, there is a very real risk that any ECM programme could lose momentum. Combined with a frequent change of personnel, which can be exacerbated by an ECM champion leaving the company, organisations can then struggle to realise the long-term ECM objectives. Yet as outlined previously, it is in the second and third years of an ECM project that organisations really begin to reap significant benefits and therefore planning for continuity, particularly across the ECM champions, is paramount.
  10. Even where momentum has been maintained and the original ECM objectives have been achieved, organisations still need to continue to leverage and develop their ECM strategy. ECM should be a constant within any organisation and should continue to be developed along with ongoing organisational objectives. Therefore, in effect, developing an ECM maturity model for any organisation will ensure that the organisation vision is coherent with an ECM strategy.

The author

Ben Richmond is CEO of The Content Group

(ITadviser, Issue 60, Winter 2009)



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