Thursday, October 21, 2010

ECM: The Perfect Storm for Business and IT

The blizzard of ’78 conjures feelings of helplessness and anticipation of the thaw. Everyone knew it was coming and yet they went to work anyways which meant lots of folks were caught on highways and airports. The lack of communication as to the severity of the storm was obvious in hindsight. Likewise, with ECM, the lack of governance and communication usually culminates into a perfect storm of control and blame between the business and IT.

With so much marketing information on “best practice” solutions to legal holds, records management, learning management, business process management, etc., it’s easy for individual business units to fall in love with a solution before IT even knows about it. Good governance would never allow this wild west atmosphere, but growing companies are usually governance challenged. A chronic lack of IT resources over time creates easy ways for business units to push their own tools to innovate in areas the IT does not “understand”.

All this back and forth with whining on both the business and IT sides leaves an easy scapegoat: the ECM solution. It becomes easy for the business to exclaim, “The UI is so 1990’s”, or “I can’t find anything”, or “We don’t know what to delete so we keep everything”. Then IT chimes in, “It will take us over a year to upgrade!”, and “Why can’t we just use SharePoint, it’s free!”, or “We don’t have any functional specs, so what does the business expect?”.

The middle ground where the requirements meet software functionality and architecture is where the weak link sometimes is. This link is where the projects are vetted, resourced, and funded. The problem is that this middle ground is stuck between being not too business experienced and not too technical. The middle ground is constantly changing, but can be called portfolio management or business relations. If governance is not at the enterprise level for content management, then project priorities and resources are constantly stressed and projects fail.

Storm Formation

Sales professionals with hidden agendas sell the business on slick demos and solution X.0 capabilities. The business goes to conferences and comes back psyched to use the latest tools, only to find the dull, boring ECM solution in place. The business writes up requirements and gives them to their portfolio manager. The project doesn’t get approved. A year later the business pleads with their boss’s boss. The boss’s boss talks to upper management in IT and a pilot project is born.

History vs. Change
ECM Directors have with hidden agendas too. They have relationships with vendors, they know the software functionality. They are comfortable being experts with the system. They want to ride it out as long as possible. Change is too risky and fraught with functional gaps which the business won’t like, but meanwhile the business is secretly hoping for a new system. The license agreement has not expired and the cost to migrate is huge. There are always many reasons not to change if your vision is one to two years out.

Storm Aftermath
The period after the big storm affords some down time; hindsight to revisit any failures or damages sustained. Standards and rules have a chance to be implemented because there should be opportunists who understand architecture and governance who can exclaim, “I have a way out of this mess”. A new CIO is usually hired and new models are sold to IT. The new models promote ties with requirements and functions, budgets and accomplishments, and business to IT communication. The ECM system will most likely morph into something that is more suitable to the requirements, maybe a new application server (Sharepoint) or focusing the “E” of ECM to a system which archives and manages retention.

1 comment:

Amelia said...

Agreed. The trend has started by all leading organization to automated all their tasks even the basic one like the document management using profession tools that does all the things automatically. Now main importance is given to quality and time rather than saving cost. Everyone wants to speed up the process at any cost.
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