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What is ECM? The Benefits of Enterprise Content Management

Bill Dermody

Increasing productivity and efficiency is the battle cry of every organization in 2021, especially when it comes to manual processes, managing data and, ultimately, improving profitability. ECM is perhaps the best tool to achieve these goals.

What is ECM? ECM stands for Enterprise Content Management, a technology collaboration solution designed to manage, store and organize business documents in real time, allowing organizations to streamline business processes and make day-to-day operations more efficient. Because of the explosion of digital data and the need to keep it organized and secure, the ECM market is expected to grow at a 16% CAGR.

Organizations that want to improve operations and remain on the forefront of business technology need to consider implementing ECM. But how does ECM work and what are potential risks of not implementing an ECM solution? To help, here are five key components and benefits of ECM that businesses of all kinds can realize when they implement ECM software:

1. Digital Capture

Managing your business’ content begins with capturing and importing your information into a secure digital repository — a digital library, of sorts. Documents can be captured and digitized using a variety of methods, including scanning paper documents and creating electronic forms, or importing content that was already digital, such as Microsoft Office documents, photos or PDFs. Not only do electronic files help eliminate the chaos of storing and managing paper documents, it also helps your organization’s green initiatives.

Documents that are typically archived in the repository include:

  • Invoices from vendors in the finance department
  • Resumes from job applicants from human resources
  • Contracts and sales orders
  • Email correspondence linked to specific individuals
  • Research reports with proprietary content
  • Miscellaneous documents and unstructured information

2. Central Repository

Many organizations maintain records and data in multiple formats and locations, including everything from online platforms to personal desktops and file cabinets. The pitfalls of keeping critical business data in such a hodgepodge of formats is apparent and can lead to lost data, security breaches, duplicate files and more.

A central digital repository allows users to view or edit any document, view document metadata, manage content and organize documents contained within. The repository makes it easier to find documents and store them securely. It also improves employee collaboration, since employees across departments and enterprise-wide will have access to any document.

3. Document Security

ECM systems optimize records management practices and protect against the risks of security breaches and cyberattacks, while also providing a hassle-free way to stay up to date on increasing compliance restrictions. By using customizable security settings, ECM allows organizations to protect information from unauthorized access or modification.

ECM helps increase security by allowing users to:

  • Restrict access to folders, documents, fields and other information
  • Monitor system login and logout data
  • Monitor document creation and destruction to ensure compliance
  • Monitor password changes

Without proper security protocols, the long-term implications can be devastating, leading to loss of employee data, trade secrets and customer information. Just as importantly, it can also lead to a loss of customer confidence.

4. Document Retrieval

An ECM system is different from a content management system (CMS) or file sharing program. Within the repository, you can find any content by searching different aspects of a document, including:

  • Creation date
  • Keywords or full text
  • Phrases contained within the document
  • Names of users who have edited the document
  • Metadata or metatags
  • Or any other metadata

The ability to perform a simple search can significantly cut down on the time spent looking for information, which improves employee productivity and customer service. Without an ECM, employees will likely spend way too much time searching for data instead of doing the actual work they were hired to do, the work that helps drive your company’s growth and profitability.

Don’t think this is a problem in your organization? In one study, employees reported that they couldn’t find the information they were looking for 46% of the time. In short, an ECM practically serves as your company’s own customized, super-powered search engine.

The ability to retrieve all the information you need quickly and accurately is a major advantage for every area of your business, but especially for the finance department. Having real-time data and reports on demand streamlines month-end close, payment services, and that all-import audit process that requires extensive documentation. You and your employees don’t need IT or a specialist to extract data and run custom reports, meaning that information is available to whoever needs it whenever they need it.

5. Automated Document-Driven Processes

The automation of document-driven processes increases workplace efficiency by eliminating manual tasks, such as photocopying and hand delivery of different documents. By automating these processes, they become more cost-efficient, streamlined and error-free.

The benefits of enterprise content management systems are endless, and ECM can be used for any department in any type of industry including healthcare, construction, finance, manufacturing, distribution, education and more. Many businesses find that after integrating an ECM solution into their workflow, their document management system helps improve staff productivity and engagement by about 18%.

But what is the ROI of ECM? Admittedly, it varies based on the company, degree of employee adoption and the type of ECM system used, but among several companies surveyed, ROI reportedly ranges from 38% to over 600%.

By implementing a custom solution, business analysts can help determine the right ECM applications to optimize your unique business processes, and they can guide you in using the software in a way that will best benefit your business. Implementation isn’t just a plug-and-play process, however. There are several considerations before jumping in, so check out our Keys to Successful ECM Implementation guide to understand more. Just click below.

Think your organization could benefit from an ECM solution? Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation!

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