Enterprise CMS is an expensive investment that usually comes with a need to demonstrate ROI in order to justify purchase decision. In times of economic downturns and tight IT budgets, this task is even more crucial.

While there's no one nice, scientific formula to calculate ECM ROI (despite much talk about it in the industry), here are some ideas you might want to consider if you need to showcase the return on investment -- before or after the implementation. And, most importantly, how to protect your ROI projections from possible negative influences.

Calculating ECM ROI from the Benefits Perspective

Inspired by a recent roundtable hosted by Xerox Docushare on why ECM can be a wise IT investment, we thought we'd sum up the ideas voiced at that event and look beyond.

The roundtable participants have identified that the following benefits could be the base of your ROI presentation or calculation:

  • Increased workforce productivity: effective use of Enterprise CMS allows organizations to let their workforce do their jobs quicker and be more satisfied with the results. That, in turn, results in improved customer service.
  • Better use of office equipment: transforming multifunction printers (MFPs) into a cornerstone of business processes allows for automation of routine office activities. Moving from paper to electronic records via scanning, OCR, and a multitude of other records and documents management capabilities is a way to manage documents centrally in one system and route them directly to an ECM workflow.
  • Supporting the mobile worker: ECM is rapidly moving towards mobility and managing content from anywhere, from any device. That allows your workforce to do their jobs on the move and access information from anywhere.
  • Compliance: in regulated industries, compliance is not up to negotiations. Most ECM systems provide GRC tools for audits, workflows, ensuring proper security permissions, digital signatures, etc.

What Else to Consider for ECM ROI

In addition to the above, you may also want to consider that an Enterprise CMS can help your organization in the following business areas:

  • Business efficiency and cost reduction: even though the initial investment of buying and implementing an Enterprise CMS may look formidable, leveraging an ECM system can help cut the costs based merely decreasing the time needed to get work done. Going hand in hand with increased workforce productivity, cost reduction can occur also in virtual and distributed working environments across multiple time zones will less paper handling and more collaborative work in a centralized, easily-accessible system for sharing business-critical information.
  • Business Intelligence (BI): something you may want to consider if looking for better ways of decision making and improving quality of goods.
  • eDiscovery and risk reduction: risks and costs associated with litigation can mount up quicker than you can say ECM. Collection and preservation of data, early case assessment and legal hold, archiving, cloud compliance -- all good things to keep in mind.
  • Content management: yes, as trivial as it sounds, content management. Sounds easy, but are you doing it properly? Some of the benefits of implementing an ECM may include content findability and re-use, content optimization, analytics, management of rich content and other content types, content lifecycle management, reduction of the number of siloed systems.
  • Extensibility: many ECM solutions support application-specific business processes, such as human resources and accounts payable.
  • Collaboration: some ECM systems offer enterprise collaboration tools in forms of blogs, wikis, microblogging, forums and other social media and social networking capabilities.
  • Storage: as one of the most quantifiable items, content storage can play a great role in your ROI calculations, as you probably would have a good idea of how much content you have and how much it costs to store it outside of the CMS in a myriad of file storage systems.

Change Management and Minimization of Negative Outcomes

As lovely as all these ECM benefits and capabilities may sound, Enterprise CMS projects still fail and fail quite often. Imagine doing all this hard work on proving the ROI of the system you're looking to buy only to see all that money spent going down the drain a few months later.

It's one issue whether you can provide ROI projections that will actually be correct as the time goes by. Another issue is to present those projections with a clear understanding, accountability and a game plan for possible negative influences.

It is important to choose a CMS that fits your requirements best. It is also important to find the right implementation partner. But what very often is being ignored are the notions of organizational adoption of a new system and change management -- major triggers of possible negative outcomes of your ECM project.

We are all humans. For some of us it is harder to accept change than for others. As a result, it is not uncommon to see organizational resistance to change (read: new Enterprise CMS) -- be it from business or IT.

What to do? The following are some tips to help you logically grow your ECM investment and minimize the negative, as you start small to be successful:

  1. Ease down the learning curve
  2. Carry out incremental, separate, departmental implementations
  3. Engage internal or external evangelists, who see ECM benefits and can help grow adoption in the company
  4. Deal with this shift in the organizational culture via educational seminars and user groups
  5. Communicate with the entire organization how they can/are using similar tools and share common experiences
  6. Break down departmental silos to move the entire company forward
  7. Make sure you have top-down leadership and executive buy-in.

An Enterprise CMS implementation cannot happen magically in one day (read: one year). Be patient with the process and be prepared to deal with unplanned and unpleasant contingencies.

With that in mind, it would also make sense to look beyond the ROI and think about the VOI -- Value of Investment.