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Transferring Documents to Enterprise Content Management (ECM) — The Why, What & How

Bill Dermody

Do you find yourself constantly searching through hundreds of computer files trying to retrieve a single document? Or perhaps you have file cabinets jam-packed with old invoices, HR files and who-knows-what taking up valuable office space.

There’s so much that it can feel overwhelming to organize it all. But not doing so can have consequences: lost productivity, security risks, noncompliance and more. 

With today’s Enterprise Content Management (ECM) software, you can mitigate those risks. Here are some top reasons why you should consider implementing the technology and some considerations when planning and choosing which documents to transfer to ECM.

Consistent File Storage with Easy Retrieval

Each employee who accesses or creates files will inevitably come up with his or her own system for naming and organizing them. When someone else comes along and needs to find documentation, that person can waste a lot of time searching through a labyrinth of computer files and folders or physical documents. The problem becomes compounded when there are multiple users who share drives and add their own methods into the mix.

Even when IT creates shared drives and tries to implement proper storage guidelines and processes, the system eventually becomes a big mess over time. New or indifferent users inevitably name documents with a different pattern or start creating entirely different folder hierarchies.

An ECM tool helps implement consistent processes for naming and storing documents, and includes an easy and intuitive search function, even for non-techy users. Metadata can be attached to documents to enhance search functionality even further so you can also retrieve related files easily.

For example, if you search for an invoice, you can select an option to view the original purchase order, packing slip and a copy of the check sent from finance to pay that invoice — all without having to perform a separate search or click away from the screen.

Additional Workflow Security

Every business has data that needs restricted access, especially as it relates to compliance, such as personal identifying information for employees and other HR-related documentation, proprietary information and more.

A workflow process can limit access to certain files on permission-based criteria to help ensure that only authorized users can view them. Additional measures can be taken during an approval process and allow only certain users to view or modify a draft version of a document, whereas others can only see the final approved version.

This not only helps prevent errors and duplication; it also makes folders appear cleaner by only displaying files you have the authority to access. 

Preparation Tips for Migrating Documents to ECM

1.  Review and Purge Unnecessary Content

Not every document or email that comes across someone’s desk needs to be saved. Many employees, especially those unfamiliar with stored data best practices and compliance, aren’t sure which documents to keep and which to destroy. The tendency, then, is to save everything “just in case.” But doing so can be just as risky. Some HR documents, for example, are required to be destroyed after a specified amount of time, and failure to do so can result in noncompliance and stiff fines.

Consistently purging unnecessary data is imperative, not only as a best business practice, but to streamline the migration to ECM and make it less complicated. Assign each department the task of cleaning up their files in accordance with industry standards and compliance requirements prior to implementing ECM.

2. Establish Personal File Policy 

It’s not uncommon to find folders of someone’s personal files interspersed with important company data. Granted, Judy from finance had a lovely vacation in Florida, but photos from her time on the beach shouldn’t be in the same folder in which income statements are kept.

Having personal documents intermixed with company data will not only create unnecessary clutter; it makes migration difficult.

Establish a policy to keep personal files separate so decisions about what needs to remain or be purged can be made more easily – without inadvertently deleting someone’s personal or treasured files.

3. Map Out a Plan 

As old files are cleaned up, you’ll be able to more easily organize them into associated types of content in your network, such as HR records, board reports, accounting records, marketing files, etc.

Migrating that much content at once can be challenging, however. Rather than transfer everything as one big import, consider moving over smaller batches based on metadata. This might happen based on department, or you could choose to only upload a portion of documents created in the last six months, or even specific document types such as all Word files. Smaller batches also make it easier to address any issues that may interrupt the process, such as unplanned maintenance or a network outage.

A robust ECM software makes this kind of functionality possible and allows for reporting mechanisms and analytics to confirm that content was successfully migrated or if something didn’t get mapped correctly in the system.

Of course, planning out a migration to an ECM solution is not something an organization should go alone. Make sure you partner with a reputable and experienced ECM provider that can help each step of the way and provide recommendations to make the transition go as smoothly as possible.

To find out even more benefits and how to leverage ECM technology for your organization, contact the experts at the Gordon Flesch Company for a free consultation. And if you’re still wondering if your company is ready to make the move, check out our quick quiz below and answer five simple questions to help you know if the time is right.

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