Choosing an Enterprise Content Management Platform: What to Know
Choosing an Enterprise Content Management System is a critical decision for any organization as this system helps manage, store, and organize a company’s digital content and documents efficiently. No Enterprise Content Management Systems are a one-size-fits-all, but prioritizing your organization’s specific needs and goals when making your selection will help you get the most out of your solution. A thorough evaluation process can help you find the right system that aligns with your business objectives and facilitates efficient content management. So, when you’re looking for the right solution, what do you need to know?
What are my organization’s needs?
What your organization needs in an enterprise content management system depends on a variety of factors including budget, document type, document volume, and your organization’s overarching strategy.
Proper budgeting is important when it comes to choosing the right ECM platform as there are a lot of costs that people fail to consider. Calculating the total cost of ownership (TCO) is a great place to start and includes the price of the software itself, ongoing server maintenance, initial setup costs, and potential expansions. For a software as a service (SaaS) model used by most cloud solutions, the ongoing maintenance is taken care of for you along with the hardware component of the initial setup. This makes SaaS solutions compelling to those looking for more price stability.
Document type and volume are key to determining the amount of storage you’ll need. Invoices, for example, are significantly smaller documents than most contracts meaning that they take up far less digital space. Document volume plays into this as well, approximately multiplying the storage requirement by the number of pages of each document.
Your strategic goals, by contrast, affect the potential features you may want to consider. If you’re looking to streamline your accounts payable department, workflows for tasks such as approval routing would be highly beneficial. If your goal is to store contracts on the other hand, version control will aid greatly in helping to differentiate the terms of a contract throughout its lifecycle.
If you’re looking to automate document capture, both document type and volume play heavily into your capture strategy as well. This is because some documents need to be referenced more frequently than others, have easy ways of validating information, or can be more difficult for OCR programs to read. Volume on the other hand affects the quality assurance of a capture strategy as well as the level of capture you may want to invest in. You can find out more about Capture strategies in our expert OCR guide.
What will the user experience be like?
Naturally, if people within your organization are going to be working within an enterprise content management system on a regular basis, you’ll want the experience to be pleasant, intuitive, and frustration-free. Solutions with a user-friendly interface significantly increase their adoption rate and create less friction between the software and those trying to learn it.
In a survey conducted by product analytics provider UserPilot, respondents agreed to a degree of 3.8/5 on average to the statement, “If a software solution is difficult to use, we will not use it, even if it has all the features we need, and the price point is acceptable.” This highlights just how important ease of use really is.
Another piece to consider in your ECM selection criteria for a positive user experience is the degree of product training and support offered by the provider. Getting fast answers to potential issues and having the resources available to learn some of the more advanced features of your solution will almost certainly avoid frustrations and help you get the most out of your investment
Will it meet my security and compliance needs?
Many organizations work with sensitive information that can result in steep fines if not properly handled. This information includes personal health, financial, and identifiable information. Fines for violating HIPAA, for example. can be as high as 25,000 dollars, and even if the information your business handles isn’t protected by law, the promise of secure, careful handling of data builds trust and puts others at ease.
Access controls and permissions are absolutely essential security measures when it comes to enterprise content management. The option for each user to have a separate account with access to only the documents they need mitigates the risk of leaks and ensures those with access to sensitive information can be properly trained on how to handle it.
Data encryption is another highly effective measure of maintaining security within an ECM solution. By encrypting data both in storage and transit, cloud-hosted solutions protect information from hackers by ensuring it’s only readable to those who would already have access.
Some ECM providers even go so far as to become certified with privacy compliance standards such as SOC and HIPAA. These certifications ensure that solution providers are meeting best practices for securing information by providing proper controls, audit measures, and an effective remediation plan in the event of a suspected breach.
What are some of the key features I’m looking for?
ECM solutions features are designed to help organizations with countless challenges. Figuring out which features are most important to help your business meet it’s goals is a key part of ECM software evaluation.
One of these features, workflow automation is a powerful and widely applicable tool. It can be used to automatically index and archive documents into your ECM system from OCR software, automatically clear documents that have passed their mandatory retention periods, or even route documents through revision or approval processes like in the accounts payable example we discussed earlier. Understanding where you can apply workflow automation and how much of a difference it will make in your unique strategy will ensure you are putting your budget toward the right features.
If your organization uses other solutions such as an accounting system, an enterprise resource planning solution (ERP), a customer relationship management (CRM) system, or any other solution that houses data, there is a chance that these systems can integrate with ECM solutions for increased efficiency. With a CRM integration, for example, documents such as sales contracts may be quickly updated and easily referenced without ever having to leave the solution you were working in. For an accounting integration, data from invoices within your ECM solution can be shared with an accounting system to generate payable invoices and perform general ledger coding.
If your organization works with high volumes of documents, advanced searching options may help you find what you need. Being able to narrow searches by using more than one index field or searching a field within another field to drill down on your search increases the accessibility of documents dramatically in situations where a basic search would still yield numerous results.
Collaboration tools such as the ability to comment on, redact, and stamp documents can also be extremely helpful in situations where the contents of a document are subject to change. Contracts for example, often have changing terms. Perhaps a specific clause needs to be stricken or clarified. Comments and redactions ensure these updates can happen effortlessly and that all the right people have eyes on the changes as soon as they happen.
Is this system future-proof?
ECM solutions are an investment, but in order to reap a return on that investment the solution needs to last. The solution’s scalability and a history of regular platform updates both ensure that your solution will continue to perform for years to come.
Organizations rarely stay the same size forever and as such, an ECM solution needs to scale to meet their growing needs. Having the option to dedicate more resources such as storage and processing power towards an increasing volume of documents can help. Cloud solutions make this process even simpler as allocating these resources only takes the flip of a switch.
But document volume isn’t the only thing that grows with your business. Oftentimes, the need for new efficiency-driving strategies grows as well. Because of this, having a modular solution that can house additional workflows, archives, and other add-ons ensures that no matter what your business needs next, your solution can adapt.
As much as your business grows and evolves over time, so too does the latest technology. ECM solutions have evolved greatly over the years from basic digital file cabinets to the feature-filled, efficiency-drivers they are today and their evolution isn’t slowing down. Researching solution providers, how in tune they are with the latest innovations, and how frequently they update their platforms can help you predict the likelihood that they will continue to add new and helpful features, so you can continue to maintain your competitive edge from your solution.
What is the vendor’s reputation?
What other customers of a solution provider say speaks volumes to the kind of service you will receive. Independent review websites like G2, Capterra, and TrustRadius all base their ratings off of reviews from real customers and showcase various facets of the providers’ overall service. Implementation speed, support quality, scalability, security, and solution satisfaction are all factors that can be gleaned by customer reviews, making it an essential piece of ECM selection criteria.
How Square 9 Can Help?
Square 9 is an industry-leading provider of intelligent information solutions that help organizations take the paper out of work. With scalable, end-to-end solutions, top-level service, incredible ease of use and product education, and regular innovations and updates, Square 9’s solutions help businesses of all sizes work more efficiently and gain a competitive edge.