2014-22-July-No-Heroes.jpgFixating on the cheapest and seemingly most user-friendly solutions can ruin your enterprise content management (ECM) strategy. What should IT departments do to resist the lure of cheap fixes and easy launches to ensure a successful, long-term ECM solution?

1. Treat the initial ECM purchase and implementation as a milestone, not the end-game

Investing in ECM software is akin to buying a home. If you are driven to purchase a home based on the fear of spending too much, you may be stuck with a money-pit you don’t like and can’t get rid of for years. Or, if you buy a home based on features but forgo a thorough structural inspection, you may end up with a home you really can’t afford to fix and maintain.

Look at purchasing ECM software as a long-term investment is not a one time project. ECM software should be used as a platform for continuous operational improvement, one that requires a sustainable change in mindset, behaviors and ways of working.

2. Make lifetime total cost of ownership (TCO) central to ECM investment strategy

Cost management should never be the number one priority, but delivering and maintaining IT solutions that add sustainable business value should be. Many enterprises feel they can afford to buy ECM software only to find out later they can’t afford to own and yield sustainable value from their investment.

Factoring in lifetime TCO into your ECM investment calculations can be a challenging but sobering exercise. According to Gartner, “For a business application that is used for 15 years, the cost to go live is, on average, 8 percent of the total lifetime cost of ownership.”

3. Acknowledge that end user adoption is critical but that ease of administration is how future changes and upgrades are accomplished quickly

It’s widely understood that end user adoption is necessary for enterprise software to deliver value. Naturally, most ECM buyers make it a priority that an ECM solution be easy to use. Unfortunately there are leading ECM systems that deliver an exceptional user experience but have all the adaptability of granite.

If IT cannot easily modify an ECM solution for changing requirements, the most compelling user experience in the world will not save IT from the wrath of process owners when the software isn’t meeting their needs.

Surprisingly few organizations make it a priority to purchase software that is easy for IT to change. This is particularly important with respect to configuration of workflow. Many ECM vendors are quite adept at disguising how much custom script is required to execute the capabilities being shown in a sales demonstration.

Challenge your vendor to make significant changes to the workflow configuration in front of you:

  • Can they make these changes using menu-driven configuration wizards or will it require script?
  • Would a trained business analyst be capable of making these changes or would you require a resource who can write code?

4. Scrutinize ECM providers’ history of software upgrades

Some ECM vendors have made such dramatic changes from one version of their software to the next that an upgrade to the latest release is no longer possible. Instead, the only way to get on the newest version is to purchase new licenses and services in order to migrate to a brand new platform. During the selection process, be sure to ask: Has the vendor ever severed the upgrade path between releases of the software?