Digitalize, but how? With an ECM and the right concept

Digital transformation sounds modern and sexy. Enterprise content management doesn’t. However, “good old ECM” does have a couple more years under its belt than the younger idea of digitalization. Nevertheless, the two topics are almost symbiotically intertwined: the electronic and digital management of documents and business units, as well as complete digital processes, are both forerunners to and basic pre-requisites for digitalization in companies. After all, the digital age is always creating more and more information that requires management. ECMs help make this information and associated knowledge available quickly and completely and – above all – in accordance with legal provisions. Without these benefits, processes can quickly get expensive, as Marco Büchel-Luzi, head of the Zürich ECM team at EASY partner ELCA knows.

Welcome to the ECM jungle

A company’s ECM has to be at a certain level or a certain degree of development for digitalization to even be possible. Many companies are wading through a real ECM jungle: a highly complex and heterogeneous landscape consisting of various ECM solutions (for instance for archiving, document searches, or customer communication and records management) that neither provides central content management nor a centralized access point for all employees. This both complicates a company’s general IT landscape and raises prices, making integration and links to other tools more difficult. Most companies are currently fighting against one or even multiple crunch points, including the complexity of their IT landscapes, a lack of options for integration, or decentralized access capabilities.

The ECM backbone concept: Cleaning house for digitalization

The new concept of the ECM backbone from EASY partner ELCA addresses and solves the four most common crunch points by looking at the ECM landscape and ECM needs of organizations holistically, improving their organization. Using the ECM backbone, companies can multiply the uses, and thus the return-on-investment, that they receive from their ECM landscape and investments already made in this area. This fully exhausts the possibilities offered by existing ECM landscapes, getting them ready to meet the challenges digitalization poses to an IT landscape.

The ECM backbone

  • helps to exploit the full bandwidth of ECM functions for all existing processes and to use synergies (efficiency);
  • creates pre-conditions for internal digitalization and automation (ready for the future);
  • simplifies the implementation of new front end services, getting them ready for release within short time frames through consistently decoupling ECM components from the front end (flexibility/time-to-market);
  • administers and controls regulatory and compliance provisions central to all ECM-relevant concerns, and streamlines legally-conforming management for all content (centralization/standardization/compliance);
  • makes the functions of ECM components truly accessible to all employees and facilitates access via mobile devices and new channels (end users/productivity);
  • increases return on investment by fully exploiting and even growing investments already made into an ECM (return on investment).

Four steps with the toolbox

The ECM backbone isn’t just another software solution, but rather a conceptual process including a technological and methodological toolbox made up of four essential steps:

  1. Review of ECM components and functions
    During the first step, EASY partner ELCA completes a brief analysis of the existing ECM landscape: which ECM components are there, and which functions do they offer? Are there areas of overlap or potential gaps with regards to ECM? An ECM strategy can then be defined based on the answers to these questions and on company needs.
  2. Simplification through the ECM integration layer
    The so-called integration layer is brought into play on top of the existing ECM landscape, ensuring centralized access to individual ECM business applications through the layer. The integration layer consolidates the various silos and memories for information and content, simplifying access and decreasing the complexity of the heterogeneous ECM landscape.
  3. Expansion of ECM use
    During this step, the focus is on getting the best out of the ECM infrastructure in the most efficient way possible, increasing its use for the organization. This is accomplished by integrating the various components into the ECM landscape wherever it makes sense in order to create synergies. We improve the user experience by using an integration client, making functions easier to use and facilitating long-term access to business applications.
  4. Centralized, compliance-compatible ECM management
    File structures allow organizations to categorize all of their content and documents, integrating them appropriately into the ECM landscape and its processes. The categories describe the character of a document from an ECM perspective: the type of document, access and editing rights, central storage location, storage terms, legal provisions valid for this document, etc. Implementing this kind of file structure allows users to quickly manage existing rules and requirements for all documents or series within a category. This makes file structures especially interesting for management, since managers bear responsibility for fulfilling and implementing compliance provisions, a task they’re only truly able to complete with the aid of a transparent, electronically implemented file structure.

No matter which way you look at it: digitalization is accompanied by a steadily growing flood of data. This flood requires a successful digital transformation if you want to stay on top of it in the long term. This is the only way companies can have a chance at reliably, effectively, and efficiently managing opportunities, information, content, and documents into the future. An ECM is indispensable during this process and – if one already exists – so is a good hard look at its capabilities.

Here you can get in contact with the author Marco Büchel-Luzi on Twitter: @marconbuechel