Sunday, 11 November 2012

ECM Strategy and the ECM Maturity Model ECM3

(This article will take 4 minutes to read)

What is an ECM Strategy?
AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management) defines Enterprise Content Management (ECM) as "the strategies, methods and tools used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to organisational processes. ECM tools and strategies allow the management of an organisation's unstructured information, wherever that information exists." 

In simpler terms, ECM is about taking a holistic view of managing your organisations unstructured information.
Through ECM, organisations are able to deliver business efficiencies through reductions in transactional costs. The fostering of ECM's inherently collaborative culture helps to drive growth, innovation and improve productivity, reduce costs and improve collaboration.  

Some practical business cases for employing and executing on an ECM strategy include the following:

  • Make ever-increasing volumes of unstructured content (mainly documents) more accessible
  • Reduce storage requirements by consolidating single sources of content
  • Share and collaborate more effectively, and allow for reuse of existing corporate content
  • Meet legal and compliance requirements
  • Reduce the amount of paper within the enterprise
  • Provide a more standardised way of gathering and distributing information (e.g., using forms)
  • Improve business processes to become more efficient
  • Increase value from investments in content technologies
  • Communicate in a more consistent manner with all stakeholders
  • Support knowledge management strategies

One of the key factors to executing upon a successful ECM strategy is to consider the strategy a journey and not a destination.  The journey can be mapped out through a road map that can be defined through an ECM maturity assessment.  Organisations evolve over time and with guidance and continual improvement their ECM maturity will improve leading to an increased collaborative culture driving the tenets of your ECM goals and objectives.

Why do Organisations need an ECM Strategy?

The question of why organisations adopt an ECM strategy vary from one organisation to the next.  For the purposes of brevity we will highlight a few of the most pertinent and most encountered.
  • Pressure to cut costs and increase efficiency.
  • Information becomes more difficult to classify and in turn to retrieve.
  • Content volumes increasing.
  • No archiving and disposition policies which can exacerbate the volumes issue.
  • Limited or no legal or compliance policies leading to risk.

The Value of an ECM Strategy?

Organisations looking to execute on ECM strategies face a myriad of human, information, and technology challenges. As a practical matter, enterprises cannot deal with all of these challenges concurrently. Therefore, to achieve business benefits from ECM, enterprises need to work step-by-step, following a roadmap to organize their efforts and hold the attention of program stakeholders.

The ECM Maturity Model (ECM3), which is a model created and continuously improved by the ECM3 working group (, attempts to provide a structured framework for building such a roadmap, in the context of an overall strategy. 

The framework suggests graded levels of capabilities -- ranging from rudimentary information collection and basic control through increasingly sophisticated levels of management and integration -- finally resulting in a mature state of continuous experimentation and improvement.

Like all maturity models, it is partly descriptive and partly prescriptive. The model can be applied to audit, assess, and explain an organisations current state, as well as inform a roadmap for maturing your enterprise capabilities. It can help to understand where an organisation is over- and under-investing in one dimension or another (e.g., overspending on technology and under-investing in content analysis), so that a re-balance of the organisations portfolio of capabilities can be made. The model can also facilitate developing a common vocabulary and shared vision among ECM project stakeholders.

The value in an organisations strategy can be derived from this assessment as a starting point and assessed over time to qualify the improvement in the key dimensions.  The strategy alone however will not facilitate a value result on its own – organisations will still need to apply weighting or values to the current problem and / or status and the cost of this compared to the destination which is sought on the road map.  

A simple example could be the reduction in the storage of paper based documents from a space, retrieval and risk of loss perspective compared to the movement of those assets to your ECM solution.  The problem could be costing an organisation ZAR150/m2 from a space perspective, 20 minutes per document to be retrieved by a researcher who is paid ZAR10,000 per month and the risk of loss could be placed at 20 hours of time by the same researcher to re-create the document asset.  Through this simple calculation an organisation could derive a base cost for this scenario which after implementing their ECM strategy incorporating the human, information and system categories and dimensions a reduced cost could prevail.

The Enterprise Content Management Maturity Model can be downloaded at under a Creative Commons license.  

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