Often one of the hardest things to do in this industry is to explain why an enterprise needs to have one CM application talk to another. The scapegoat answer is to say, because the customer wants it. But most of us know why, without even knowing it. We just don’t know how to say it. But waiting for my holiday purchases to arrive it dawned on me, the shipping metaphor.
Think of ECM in the context of a shipping company. You start off small, as you’re not sure how things will exactly pan out. So you buy a few panel vans. This allows you to be nimble and change routes as necessary, maybe run several routes at the same time, with minimal investment to see what workss. As time goes by you realize that all your routes can’t be handled by the panel vans so you buy some trailers to tow behind them. In some case you add standard trailers for more carrying capacity but some are open trailers to carry larger objects and you may even add a few that include climate control. But all in all you can now handle things with what you have.
If you’re new to ECM, sometimes it’s best to start small. Even when you are familiar with the benefits, others in your organization may not be. For this reason a small flexible CM applications often takes hold the best. By being able to put the controls in the hands of the end user, allowing them to make changes, the ECM solutions gain adoption without the users even knowing it. This is why CM applications tied to departmental collaboration systems get so much attention.
Growing Beyond Capabilities
As time goes on a fleet of vans and trailers is not enough. While you could tow another trailer behind the first trailer, it just won’t do the job efficiently. It’s difficult to drive the van, especially when you need to change directions. Also the amount of stuff you’re carrying really starts to bog down the engine.
So instead you decide to add a few trucks to your fleet. You now have more capacity and improved performance. This time you also buy a few that are flat-tops and others that are climate controlled. But you also keep the panel vans, to test out new routes or to temporarily split up a route when demand suddenly picks up.
As ECM starts to gain adoption, some of those systems that started with a simple CM application will grow beyond their capabilities. While you could continue to build customizations and integrate 3rd party components, you are moving away from efficiencies another application provides. It is at this time that it’s best to consider ECM applications that support a wider integrated feature set.
At the same time, it may not be the time to get rid of the smaller CM applications. There may be adhoc process or other business problems that may not be ready for the ECM application.
Everything Working Together
While many vendors would love to believe in the Highlander Principal, “There can be only One”, this is rarely the case. An enterprise will have multiple ECM applications, but these can still be from one vendor. It is all of these applications working together that create an efficient ECM System.
When you ship a package from Ft Lauderdale to New York, it probably gets picked up by a van, placed on a plane, transferred to truck, and maybe even peddled over by bicycle messenger to an office on Park Ave. Any one of these could have done the job on their own, but it’s only together that system works efficiently.