In 2011, mobile computing and smartphones will become more and more popular portals to enterprise knowledge. Finding an ECM solution that combines the flexibility of mobile devices with the security and manageability of centralized control is vital to success.

In today’s mobile world, employees aren’t always sitting in front of their desktop computers, ready to add information to -- and access information through -- the organization’s enterprise content management (ECM) system. However, granting users secure, real-time access to mission-critical content and allowing them to automate content-related business processes is generally the goal of an ECM implementation, so organizations with large mobile workforces can find themselves in a bind.

Carl Friedrich, President and Founder of Friedrich Wealth Management, a financial planning firm serving the Long Island/New York City area, says,

Our clients have small children, so we needed a way to manage client information where we could be mobile enough to meet our clients within ten minutes of where they work or live.”

At the same time, however, Friedrich wasn’t willing to sacrifice information security for mobility.

It only takes one incident to blow up a practice,” he says. “We needed an ECM system that offered iron-clad security and audit-proof compliance alongside the flexibility portable devices afford.”

Central Control and Mobile Flexibility

Striking the right balance between mobility and central control over content can be a challenge. From an ECM perspective, the advantage of mobile technology obviously lies in its ability to make information more accessible. At the same time however, it’s difficult to control mobile content that rests outside an organization’s IT governance structure.

Of course, agile ECM systems have offered thin client options for years, allowing employees to access and upload information via laptops when they’re travelling or in the field -- all while meeting the organization’s overarching content standards and security policies.

For example, the Long Beach Police Department’s ECM system uses browser-based thin clients to give officers secure, real-time access to organizational content directly from their patrol cars. The initiative has strengthened LBPD’s gang injunction program so much, in fact, that gang-related murders in Long Beach decreased by 53.8% in 2010.

Jonathan Stafford, Administrator of LBPD’s Records & Technology Division, explains,

Our ECM system allows us to deliver information to officers in the field in as few clicks as possible. The impact on gang activity has been huge.”

But even thin clients have their limitations. After all, employees in the field don’t always have access to Wi-Fi, or might not be carrying their laptops, but they always have their mobile phones.

Authorized project managers within the Facilities Department at a large university in Virginia for instance, can access building plans and schematics stored in the department’s content repository on their iPhones, saving them from carrying around fragile paper files. In fact, Facilities estimates that it saves US$ 25,000 per project on paper costs alone thanks to the marriage of ECM and mobile technology. With hundreds of renovation projects executed each year, those savings add up quickly.

Smartphone, Meet Central Control

There are few industries that have a greater need for secure and centralized control over organizational content than the financial services industry, which is faced with an ever-increasing flow of rules and regulations. And yet, it’s often financial advisory firms that are ahead of the curve in using well-vetted ECM systems in conjunction with smartphones and other mobile devices.

For example, Asset Dedication, a sub-advisory firm offering individualized portfolio management to registered investment advisors, has integrated its ECM, CRM and portfolio management systems and made the integrated solution available on its advisors’ iPads. This way, an advisor can meet a client offsite, initiate a client agreement, store it in the firm’s secure content repository and have it automatically routed to the appropriate manager for review and approval.

According to Brent Burns, Asset Dedication’s Founder and President, “Combining ECM with mobile technology accelerates and automates key processes, while still giving regulators confidence in our approach.”

Organizations like Asset Dedication that are able to extend their information governance strategy to encompass mobile technology will reap a wealth of benefits by enabling “enterprise content mobility” with mobile ECM.

Selection Criteria for Marrying ECM to Mobility

To ensure that the ECM system you select has the appropriate level of mobile flexibility, make sure that the mobile interface isn’t simply a scaled down version of the full-fledged user interface; it should be designed specifically for a smaller screen size.

At the same time, users must have access to a full range of ECM functionality, including the ability to:

  • Access document images, OCR text and metadata.
  • Upload content to the repository from mobile devices.
  • Search for stored content by field, entry name or full-text search.
  • Take photos and apply advanced image processing features.
  • Trigger, and participate in, workflows.

Finally, activity occurring in the ECM system via a mobile device must be secure and auditable.