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10 Critical Steps for Successful ECM Implementation

Bill Dermody
06/29/2021
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Are you assessing whether an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) system is right for your company and what it takes to be successful? An ECM can transform a business from an unorganized administrative mess into a smooth and streamlined operation by managing, storing and organizing its documents. The benefits of ECM software go far beyond creating efficiencies in the front office, however — it also improves security and remote access for employees across departments, reduces the need for expensive infrastructure, helps companies go green by saving paper, and much more.

The process of implementing an ECM project can be challenging, but the rewards are well worth the effort. But how much effort? An ECM consultant will provide guidance, but it’s still important to understand the process to ensure a smooth transition. We’ve developed the following 10-step checklist to give an overview.

1. Identify Key Areas for Improvement
2. Quantify ECM Benefits
3. Get Organizational Buy-in
4. Communicate the Vision
5. Determine Infrastructure Needs
6. Take Ownership and Build a Team
7. Establish Security and Access Policies
8. Test the ECM System
9. Remain Agile
10. Ready. Set. Go!

1. Identify Key Areas for Improvement

Many companies implement their ECM strategy in phases, addressing the biggest pain points and areas of concern first. Prioritize and plan your project scope and avoid getting side-tracked with issues that may not deliver significant value. It’s easy to add on projects that aren’t necessary in the short term, which can delay the migration of more critical data and impede overall progress. Your ECM provider will help you conduct an information survey to determine:

  • Current content and where it’s located
  • The flow of information
  • How to eliminate duplication
  • Potential information gaps
  • Types of formats and other target areas

2. Quantify ECM Benefits

Quantify the reasons behind implementing a new system in both financial and practical terms, including:

  • Potential savings on infrastructure, labor and materials
  • Security safeguards
  • Streamlined business processes
  • Improved collaboration and workflows
  • Better customer service
  • Legal compliance
  • And more

With this information in hand, you’re ready to present your proposal for a new ECM document management system to key stakeholders and implementers.

3. Get Organizational Buy-in

For the benefits of ECM to be fully realized, more than just the project manager needs to be on board. Implementing an ECM is an organization-wide initiative that will impact many departments, so representatives from legal, records management, IT, the executive board and other experts from various lines of business need to be part of the process and serve as champions within their departments.

4. Communicate the Vision

One of the greatest mistakes when implementing an ECM is the failure to communicate the vision and desired outcomes, as well as the expectations placed on those who will be impacted. Remain transparent through the exploration and implementation processes, conduct training, discuss potential tools and infrastructure changes, and provide opportunities for employees to give feedback and engage in the process.

5. Determine Infrastructure Needs 

A robust ECM solution will require systems with equally robust functionality. You may find that you no longer need to house and service certain equipment and systems, while other systems may need to be acquired. Your ECM consultant will help you assess your current IT components to determine their capabilities and whether they align with your desired goals. Some of these items will likely include:

  • Computers
  • Smartphones and tablets
  • Networks such as internet, LAN, SAN, firewalls, etc.
  • Cloud software and services
  • Internal and external servers
  • And more

6. Take Ownership and Build a Team

You’ll need a dedicated team of project champions to take ownership of some initiatives to help make the implementation process a little less daunting. Some areas you’ll need to cover include:

  • ECM and IT design
  • System configuration
  • Building and testing
  • Support and training development
  • Data migration

7. Establish Security and Access Policies

Your key areas of concern likely involve securing your data. Be sure to identify who should have access to information and establish policies for its use. Permission controls can be created, allowing data to be shared among authorized users. Part of a security policy should also include recommended life cycles of data and procedures for how it should be discarded once it’s determined that it no longer needs to be kept.

8. Test the ECM System

Before you launch the new system company-wide, choose a select group of users who can test it in a real-world environment and get answers to the following questions:

  • Does it meet the functional and performance requirements?
  • Are there minor adjustments that can be made to a process?
  • Do they have recommendations based on their experience that can improve the project?

Having a test group and the resulting feedback can help you refine any processes prior to full ECM implementation so it goes as smoothly as possible.

9. Remain Agile

Adjustments to various processes are to be expected, especially as technology continues to evolve and business models evolve with them. An ECM function that may have seemed feasible during the ECM planning phase may prove to be impractical when it comes time to implement it. It’s important to schedule regular reviews with your ECM partner as part of the implementation process to ensure things stay on track and are meeting your organization’s current needs.

Try to forecast potential scenarios and risks that you may face, and establish contingency plans for any obstacles that arise. Remember that an ECM system is meant to adapt and iterate as your company grows, so expect to make refinements along the way. Going in with the expectation that things will likely change over time can help alleviate frustrations down the road.

10. Ready. Set. Go!

When the day finally arrives and you launch your new ECM solution, it will feel like a major accomplishment – and it is! However, continued communication will be key to its long-term success and, truly, an ECM project doesn’t ever really end. Be prepared for anything because, as is true with any new system install, glitches will happen. The key is to remain positive, informed, and work closely with your ECM provider to overcome any issues and keep moving toward your goals.

Are you ready to take the first steps to implement an ECM solution and to bring your organization to new levels of efficiency, productivity and security, all while saving time and money? Learn more about the ECM implementation process by accessing our Guide to ECM below, and reach out to us for a free, no obligation ECM consultation and we’ll help you get started.

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