Options and directions

Capturing, Processing Information, Integration

 Enterprise Content Management technology is a recent development in Information technology market that came as follow up of the ERP explosion that took place a few years ago.

Avery implementation of an ECM solution will most certainly generate significant benefits to any part of an organization.

Management has come to realize only some of its benefits and advantages.

The problem arises when different priorities are imposed, either from market conditions or changes in technology as well as internal company needs.

Management need first to fully understand the use and benefits that may come from the adoption of ECM strategy so that it can fully exploit its potential and then take decisions on how and in which areas it can be applied.

This article is written to simplify some attributes, so that management can obtain a closer understanding and analyze the basic constitutes of this strategy.

ECM technology consists of three main parts:

  1. Capturing Information both from incoming external and internal documents that are produced from IT applications  such as  ERP etc
  2. Processing and distributing information to all participants in work flow processes
  3. Integration with existing IT infrastructure systems.

Capturing Information

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This is the part that mainly replaces data entry manual effort that usually relates to ERP operations.

This is an area which is easily understood by management, but it is also an area which constitutes only a small part of the operational cost of the total operational cost in an organization.

Computers have developed intelligent characteristics that have risen expectations for future significant improvements in automatically reading digitized documents to a degree that can even understand hand written notes or adopt voice recognition technologies.

But we have not reached there yet, for such systems to become fully reliable.

Implementations are happening but the cases have to be specific while most of them prove to be comparably very expensive.

On the other side, business practices are changing capitalizing on widely applied technologies that allows   the production of electronic documents which are rapidly replacing hard copy documents, so that the requirement for digitization and automatic reading is eliminated.

For example we experience increase of electronic invoicing and Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) which totally eliminates the need for automatic reading of documents.

So it is questionable if one needs to invest on expensive capturing technology that will become redundant in the next few years.

Processing of Information.

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This is the area where ECM investment can be proved to be more cost effective.

Here we observe a paperless environment to be created in parallel with the introduction of automatic work flow processes allowing participants to intercommunicate, accessing information, faster.

This will help to improve daily activities, achieving, better control, faster decision making, continuous monitoring of operations, automatic filling and retrieval, data protection and security, elimination of errors, and finally, independence from existing IT infrastructure, etc.

Avoiding data entry is an easily calculated savings number. According to international statistical reports, this saving consist about 6% of the total operational cost in an organization.

It appears that the investment required to eliminate data entry cost with current technological tools is too high.

On the other hand it is important to stress that ROI results have proved to be impressive due to savings and benefits achieved from, fast and better decision making processes, continuous real time monitoring of operational activities, data integrity and security, immediate access to information from one central depository that incorporates all information otherwise scattered in different systems included in the company’s infrastructure.

Finally, how can anyone evaluate additional non tangible benefits, such as process simplification with lean management applied in operational workflows, as well as identification of operational redundancies and bottlenecks that this technology helps to eliminate?

This is where major improvements have been achieved.

So in conclusion, any decision for an ECM implementation needs to be the result of a careful study that will identify the areas investments should take place.

Integration  

The final part of an ECM implementation project that needs to be considered is the capability of an ECM platform to intercommunicate with any existing IT infrastructure to avoid process duplication, to allow data interchange and interoperability but most of all to ensure independence of the central ECM information repository and workflow designs to remain when any IT infrastructure is to be replaced.

A big advantage of an ECM system is to retain its centralized data repository for a long period even after changes of the rest of IT infrastructure.

NK