An enterprise content management (ECM) program of any complexity requires some kind of formal governing body -- called variously an ECM Team, Center of Excellence, Center of Expertise, etc. -- but it’s hard to know where to begin.

This article should get you started by providing short answers to the following questions: What should be the goals of your ECM Team? How should you stand up your ECM Team? Where should the ECM Team live and how should it operate? What -- exactly -- does the ECM Team do?

1. What Should be the Goals of Your ECM Team?

The ECM Team typically serves several purposes, primarily:

  1. To develop ECM as a core competency. It can help your company focus organizational (line-of-business and corporate) attention on content as a strategic asset, and raise your ECM maturity from laggard to majority or leader status -- whether measured against your own ECM requirements or also against the maturity and performance of your peers and competitors.
  2. To increase the ROI of your ECM investments. It can help you wield your limited time and money more effectively to gain the benefits of increased process efficiency, increased revenue and reduced risk.
  3. To transform the organizational architecture. It can create linkages across functional and geographic areas. It’s particularly useful if your company is expanding from a regional into a national or global organization.
  4. To do better knowledge management. It can help you share expertise and experience, codify institutional knowledge, and connect people across the organization around a discipline or competency.

Identifying a handful of goals for your ECM Team is probably an obvious step. But most organizations don’t take the next important steps of clearly prioritizing, articulating and then measuring and monitoring your ECM program against them.

2.How Should You Stand up Your ECM Team?

In most cases you should start with a lightweight team dedicated to ECM governance. If you’re reading this you probably have an ECM project planned or underway, with a project core team. Members of this project core team can form an interim ECM steering committee until a more permanent body can be established.

In the first phase, members will work only part time on ECM, while still having their main jobs. Then -- if there is enough ECM work and a solid business case -- you will transition to a permanent body with dedicated ECM roles to fill and resources to fill them.

3.Where Should the ECM Team Live, How Should it Operate?

Where the ECM Team should live depends a lot on your organizational context. It depends on such factors as:

  • Where did the impetus for ECM first arise? Did it start in IT, in “the business,” in Legal or Records Management?
  • Where does records management currently “live”? Is it part of facilities management (bad) or part of an organizational unit that also addresses IT or Legal (good)?
  • Where does the organization fall on the authority continuum from centralized to federated to distributed?

But more important than where it lives is how it operates:

  • Will it include participation from the lines-of-business, IT, and other governance functions?
  • Will it have top-level executive support?
  • Etc.

A picture will help clarify how your ECM Team should operate:

how the ecm team operates.png

Learning Opportunities

Many ECM Teams start at the upper right -- as Strategy Advisory bodies. But in an ECM program of any complexity, the other three cells should be filled. ECM programs require alignment of strategy and efforts and it’s wise to do this well rather than stagger into it. Most successful organizations therefore expand the authority of the ECM Team leftward from just providing advice to provide more control over what should be done. They also expand the focus of the ECM team downward -- to facilitate not just what should be done but how it should be done.

4. But What - Exactly - Does the ECM Team Do?

To explain what an ECM Team does, let’s break the high level responsibilities of ECM Teams into those activities with a Strategic versus Operational focus. There’s a table for each below. The first table shows the primary Strategic activities of ECM Teams. The top row explains the high level purpose of Strategic activities that are either Advisory or Controlling. It then breaks those further down into Ramp-Up versus Steady-State activities.

ramp-up activities.png

The next table shows the primary Operational activities of ECM Teams. The top row explains the high level purpose of Operational activities that are either Advisory or Controlling. It then breaks those further down into Ramp-Up versus Steady-State activities.

operational activities.png

The tables of ECM Team activities make it sound much more complex than I intended -- this is a Quick Start Guide after all. The important point I want to convey is that you need some kind of formal team to align your ECM planning and management over the next several years. It can serve as a good map to get you started and show you where to go as you move from a small informal advisory group to a more formal steering group that provides both strategic and implementation guidance.