You’ll often need to explain the goals of your Enterprise Content Management (ECM) program in more detail than an elevator pitch. Here are the objectives and guiding principles applicable to most ECM programs.

Your ECM initiative’s goal should be to standardize on a portfolio of ECM solutions that can address the breadth of business requirements for ECM capabilities that exist across the enterprise. You should aim to use commercially available out-of-the-box software rather than developing solutions, and favor configuration over custom development.

Eight Requirements of an ECM Strategy

Your strategy should address the following 8 requirements:

  1. Content capture, indexing and a managed repository. Your ECM environment should provide mechanisms for users or processes to capture content into a managed repository. In addition, your ECM environment should be able to assign metadata to content to facilitate search and retrieval.
  2. Accessibility and availability. Your ECM environment should provide a mechanism for authorized users to search for and retrieve content. In addition, the ECM environment should allow certain content to be accessible to external users such as vendors, agents (e.g. in financial services) or customers.
  3. Security and protection. Your ECM environment should restrict access to content that is private, confidential, privileged, secret or essential to business continuity.
  4. Retention and integrity. Your ECM environment should retain content for defined periods of time, taking into account legal, regulatory, fiscal, operational and historical requirements. In addition, it should provide a suitable guarantee of authenticity.
  5. Lifecycle management. Your ECM environment should manage content throughout its lifecycle of creation, modification, retention and disposition (purging) of documents upon expiration of defined retention periods (both time- and event-based). In addition, it should support a formal approval process before purging, and support override of purging in cases where content is under legal hold.
  6. Integration. Your ECM environment should provide a standards-based architecture and open API that allows integration with other systems in use at your company.
  7. Scalability and performance. Your ECM environment should handle the ingestion volumes to provide users with access to documents when needed within business processes. In addition, it should provide reasonable search and retrieval response times.
  8. Ease of use. Your ECM environment should be straightforward for users to understand in order to encourage adoption.

Seven Guiding Principles of an ECM Initiative

Here are 7 guiding principles for your ECM initiative:

  1. Clearly define the “rules” for managing content throughout its lifecycle. Define the “rules” (i.e. policies, procedures and guidelines) that users should follow. I discussed these from a records management perspective in 3 Best Practices for Developing Records Management Policies and Procedures and The Difference between Records Management Policies, Procedures, and Guidelines. Communicate with and train users on corporate expectations and how to incorporate these rules into their processes, and institute mechanisms for regular monitoring of adherence to the policies and procedures.
  2. Capture content at the point of creation or receipt; reduce reliance on paper. Where possible, paper documents should be scanned at the point of origin or receipt. (But be careful if your distributed capture requirements are complex or high volume).  If documents originate in electronic format, keep them in electronic format rather than printing and retaining paper or printing and scanning. Use electronic signature capabilities where possible.
  3. Ensure that all content is properly indexed or classified. Define a taxonomy for organizing and profiling information, and use automation or manual indexing to ensure that all managed content is assigned the appropriate level of metadata to facilitate search, access, retention and disposition. Design the indexing process to ensure accuracy and error correction.
  4. Define practices to manage information effectively and to minimize unnecessary duplication of content. Where possible, create or author content in the same system where it will be reviewed, approved, archived and consumed. Share documents by distributing links rather than copies of documents. Minimize the use of email attachments and shared drives for sharing and collaborating on content. Implement oversight to ensure users are adhering to these practices.
  5. Optimize business processes to leverage ECM capabilities and take advantage of automation opportunities. Reevaluate business processes to determine how they could take better advantage of ECM capabilities to improve productivity, improve control and automate information capture to reduce user effort and improve quality.
  6. Ensure that ECM systems are usable and intuitive, making ECM as unobtrusive as possible for users to accomplish their tasks. Ensure that ECM systems provide acceptable performance and response times for all users, including those in distributed locations. Ensure that content can be found easily by authorized users in whatever business context needed (via indexing, metadata and search).
  7. Provide tight organizational control over content to protect the information. Use the security features and other capabilities of your content management systems and infrastructure to ensure that users can access only the information that they are authorized to access and to prevent unauthorized usage or content duplication.

Editor's Note: To read more by Richard, see his How to Develop and Implement Your Discovery Readiness Program