I recently joined the Content and Collaboration team at Forrester, and I was happy to see Forrester data showing that 53% of organizations are looking to expand, upgrade, or implement their Content Management solution. Over the last six weeks, I’ve taken many inquiries that dealt with organizations looking at re-evaluating ECM programs, driven by the desire to both add new functionality and extend the reach of ECM to a broader audience. ECM is clearly alive and well.

But time and again I’ve seen this problem: Companies will jump directly into the RFI/ RFP process without fully developing their strategy and road map. But skipping this important step can result in poor ECM technology selection, lack of governance, and, ultimately, failure.

A good road map will address the three classical aspects of an enterprise application implementation: People, Process, and Technology. Outlining the tasks for each area is a good start down the path of success. Here are some sample points for starting your ECM project:

  • Define your ECM Strategy – Every organization defines ECM differently. When creating a strategy, focus on gaining an understanding of your goals and objectives for implementing an ECM solution. A good example of an ECM goal is to minimize the number of versions of the same document that exist in the organization. These goals and objectives will form the basis for the project’s critical success factors.
  • Access the ECM features – Talk to your users to gain an understanding of the types of functionality that they will need to help make their days more effective. This will help you create a prioritized list of ECM features to meet the users’ needs. From this list of features, the project team will be able to create a list of potential vendors. Try to limit your list to 3-4 vendors. Use the Forrester Wave (2009 ECM Wave) to help identify the vendor list.
  • Select the ECM vendor – There are many methods used to select an ECM vendor, ranging from simple demonstrations to a complex RFP process. Some organizations always require a formal RFP process when selecting any new technology platform. This is the most complete method to selecting an ECM vendor, but also results in the longest timeframe. What I have found works well and can streamline the selection process is a combination of an RFI to identify a select number of vendors, followed by a scripted demonstration session with each vendor. This scripted session will provide apples to apples comparison and can greatly reduce the selection timeframe.
  • Layout your ECM road map –Think of the road map as the ‘Yellow Brick Road’ in the Wizard of Oz. When Dorothy came to a fork in the road, the yellow bricks showed her the turn to take. The ECM road map is just like the yellow brick road; it defines the path to take to realize the maximum benefits. The road map maps the user requirements to phases of the project and defines the timelines and deliverables. This includes governance, communications, and training plans.

I’ve come to Forrester with more than 25 years in the document management/ imaging/ ECM market. Most of my time in the industry has been spent either helping companies implement ECM solutions or as an ECM vendor listening to companies about their ECM problems to insure that our capabilities met the market demand. I have found that when I approach an ECM project with the above steps in mind that I not only set myself up for a successful project, but I am also able to provide a foundation that addresses all three domains of an ECM project: People, Process and Technology. My experience has shown that this approach works, providing an ECM solution that is technically sound used by the organization. The benefits of the solution will never be realized if the users don’t accept and use it. If the solution is cumbersome or does not meet the requirements, the users will always find a way to work around it. But I’m also wondering if there are other approaches that have equally proved successful. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.