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Re-Designing Your ECM Strategy

In my book "Increasing Profit Through Modern Technology and Management" I have a chapter called "The Future Of Content Management". One section of the chapter was about re-engineering work processes. In this blog I want to expand upon this point.

In every company, work processes are created, and often documented for everything that goes on in a company. Most of these processes start out with paper and end with filing. In a digital business, ALL of those processes are fair game for re-engineering to digital, automated workflow. Better said, rewrite the standard operating procedures (SOP's). The best way that I have found to tackle this is to create a team of folks strategic to the operations of every department of the business. Then document each and every process as it is now done. Then, re-imagine the process without paper, starting at the point of origin, through its final destination. But this time, look from back to front. Consider all the uses of data, and diagram the collection in the processes. Then, look at your existing technology and see if there are features or functionality that can be leveraged to accomplish your process. If not, you might want to consider an "App" or integrated application that would play well with your existing software and provide the automated workflow that you desire.

The new face of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) includes not only the basic features of ECM like, document management, workflow management, records management, capture/scanning/searching, but incorporates collaboration, template management (forms), digital asset management (integrated data), and web content management (portals). In the next few paragraphs we will discuss this new functionality and it's application to the ECM strategy.

Document/Records/Workflow Management:

The core functionality of any good ECM solution is how well it handles these features. The "file cabinet", or central repository should possess the basic features and functionality to handle the management of digital and image data. Documents and records should be secure, but accessible from anywhere and at any time by those who need access to that information. There should be explicit standard operation procedures (SOP's) developed for the filing of this information.

In workflow management, new functionality has been added to include paperless process and filing of information. These features are: Routing and approval, both internal and external, to the organization, that uses the digital information for hieratical/conditional routing , "smart forms" that can provide integration with existing applications to produce digital content for dashboards, routing and reports, all while maintaining the image of the form, and eliminating the "paper-touch" in the process, and virtual participation from anywhere, anytime, by anyone who has access to the information.

With today's "no/low code" applications, paperless workflow functionality can be applied to just about any process within a company without having to make a large investment in custom programming. Some of the more popular applications are Omnidek, Salesforce, and ServiceNow.

Capture/Scanning/ Searching:

Traditional ECM was engineered to utilize scanning technology to convert the paper documents to digital images in order to index and store the information into the repository. The indexes provided the format for retrieval. In more advanced solutions, the indexes were integrated to the ERP systems for validation. Scanning often includes OCR, which reads document templates to extract data to populate the indexes. Newer solutions include some AI which can do the same without building OCR document templates.

In today's ECM the data is "smart" so the need to develop indexes and templates is not necessary. Defined by the process itself (the form), smart information, is collected in the workflow and is available for reporting and searching in real time. Also, utilizing "channel" functionality, cross platform searching can be achieved automatically.

So what does that look like? Suppose you have employee forms that you have created for all aspects of managing your human resources, on-boarding, benefits, safety, accident, name a few. As these forms are created during the normal flow of business, these forms and all the data recorded on them are stored in the ECM solution. From the point of creation, through the workflow, and to the repository, since the form is "smart", at any point in time those forms and the data that is collected can be retrieved or reported on. Also, by using common field integration, cross channel searching and reporting can be achieved across all records and images stored in the ERP. Much like a Google search, ALL the information on the form make up the index by which it is searched, automatically.

Additionally, various methods of capture can be developed to achieve a completely paperless process. An example is credit card receipts. The card holder gets a notification and a form when a charge transaction is recorded with the credit card company. The form gleans information from the transaction, so all the card holder will do is snap a picture of the receipt (if he hasn't lost it), then code and submit the form. This form can make its way through a route to insure accuracy, then automatically post to cash management for payment. At any time the information and the image of the receipt can be retrieved or included in backup reports for expenses and billings…without any additional touches.

Collaboration/Digital Asset/Web Content Management:

This is the newest functionality of ECM, these features and functionality embrace the faces of data which make up business information. Digital asset management basically is the ability to integrate data with existing systems to provide EPV (entry point validation). Also, some content management system have included self-creating functionality where data collected from "smart forms" can be added seamlessly to the digital data warehouse. Digital asset functionality has also been used to augment work process that have been previously limited by the ERP solution.

Web content is fast becoming a key feature in the business network of a company. More and more information is processed through websites and portals that need to be included in the overall work process and data mine of the organization. More of the advanced ECM solutions have the ability to quickly create both internal and external portals to share, approve, collaborate, and retrieve information within the work process. This information is part of the ECM system so it eliminates double entry and "silo" processing.

Collaboration is probably the most exciting feature added to ECM. Integrating chat and inbox functionality within the content management process, allow companies to achieve several efficiencies. First, we move critical business collaboration to a private, secure chat thread and inbox outside of the general delivery email system we use today. Like me, I get over 100 emails per day, and sometimes I will miss import request for responses, or they get stuck in spam. This feature puts the collaboration directly where it belongs…inside the business network.

Also, in the approval and information distribution, collaboration gives a much better thread of discussion that common email. Folks can be setup as an automated routee, or can be added to the discussion at a later time. As the content moves through the work process, all collaboration is saved and stored along with the content for historical archive and retrieval .

These new functionality has provided companies with the tools to integrate the ECM data into the work processes of the company and create internal and external business networking platforms to enhance their relationship with employees and business partners.

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