How to Determine the Cost of an ECM Solution

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How much will an ECM cost my company? We get asked this question on a regular basis and, in short, the answer is, “It depends.” Costs will vary based on your needs and how you want the Enterprise Content Management solution to function. It’s kind of like buying a car...a fully loaded model will cost more than the base model. Can both get you from point A to point B? Sure, but your experience will be different with each.

The best way to explore the potential costs is to gain a greater understanding of the many factors that go into pricing a system, then assess your situation to determine if they apply. So, before you ask how much an ECM will cost, get answers to some of these foundational questions first!

What’s the Size of Your Team?

The cost of an ECM is partly based on the number of users you anticipate will need access to the system. User licenses are issued and there is a cost associated to each — 20 users will cost twice as much as 10. When talking with an ECM provider, be sure to thoroughly outline how many people on your team will be accessing the system and need it to efficiently perform their duties.

What’s the Balance Between Software and Service?

You’ll quickly realize that your company doesn’t merely need software; it needs that software to be configured to work as your company operates. To do that, you’ll need the support of an expert team that can implement any customized features, reports, integrations and more. Some companies make their ECM purchases based solely on price, only to later come to the painful realization that the services needed to maintain, upgrade, train employees and a host of other add-ons amount to many times more than the initial price of the software.

The software you choose should be intuitive and easy to use to avoid mistakes that result in the need for a service. Work with a provider that can configure its software to make it do what you want and can set up templates for each department. Talk with your provider to understand any associated services that may be required after the sale and get them in writing.

What Are the Upfront Costs?

There are various milestones to purchasing an ECM solution. Initially, there is the design phase during which you agree to have a consultant provide a statement of work based on very detailed research and analysis of your company’s needs; this typically takes about of 4–5 weeks. 

The proposal will outline the projected costs for implementation including the software, Help Desk support, potential upgrades and other services.  

Do You Want an In-house or Cloud-based Solution?

This decision will reflect your organization’s overall philosophy regarding IT infrastructure and applications. The pros and cons of the Cloud vs. in-house servers are often debated, and companies have their own opinions on which model is best for their business. While Cloud computing is certainly poised to be the prevailing model in the future and most companies are moving in that direction, an ECM solution typically can offer the same functionality for either option.

How Much Customization Do You Want vs. Need?

Many companies come to us with a laundry list of functions they want their next ECM system to provide. It’s great when we encounter an organization that’s thought through how a new system can improve its efficiencies and processes. While ECM software is modular, meaning there’s a base system that you can add features to, it’s important to prioritize the list of functionalities you want your system to perform to estimate a price.

On the other hand, sometimes when we consult with a company we collectively determine that their problems aren’t complex enough to warrant implementing an ECM just yet. Perhaps their operation is too small or only one department is struggling with processes and a simple document management solution can meet their needs. It’s important to work with a provider that is more concerned about helping you find solutions rather than just making a sale. 

How Will You Want Your ECM to Grow?

It’s likely that a year from now, you’ll want to change or adapt some of your system’s functionality. That’s very common and expected, especially as operations become more efficient and companies grow. As you anticipate growth, discuss any potential add-ons down the road. Perhaps you started out wanting to address issues in HR or accounting but once things are running smoothly, you may realize that targeting compliance or other areas within the company can help scale your business even more. It’s normal that after a year of realizing the benefits of ECM that you’ll want to tweak processes and utilize it in more areas of your operation.

Can You Afford Not to Implement ECM?

Certainly, there’s a price associated with implementing an ECM solution, but not using the technology and associated services could cost your organization so much more. Perhaps some of the most important questions you need to ask include:

  • Are competitors gaining an advantage because they’re leveraging technology and we’re not?

  • Is employee retention a challenge because of increased frustrations over outdated software and inefficiencies? 

  • Do we experience lost production and downtime that are costing the company money?

  • Is our data secure?

The right ECM solution can address a range of challenges.  One can understand how without answers to these and other questions, it’s irresponsible to throw out a “ball park” price. That’s why we talk with companies about their specific short- and long-term needs as a starting point for identifying the ECM solution that’s right for them. Is ECM right for you? Reach out to us today for a no-obligation consultation.

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