Why Enterprise Content Management Is Essential for Your Business
An enterprise content management solution is key as businesses seek new ways to store and deliver data. Here's what ECM can do for you.
Jun 23, 2021
An Enterprise Content Management solution helps companies digitize, control, and automate their unstructured information like packing slips and invoices, resumes, tax documents, emails, and meeting notes.
An ECM system will capture, read, and index information to increase its understandability; give staff the ability to edit or annotate information; and provide comprehensive workflow tools and automation to ensure the right information ends up in the right hands in a timely manner.
Within this system, documents can be created, managed, processed, and archived securely and according to compliance regulations.
88% of office workers say they need a dependable, unified data search platform that would help them do their jobs better.
They can be available to all staff, whether mobile or in-house, and all document access, changes, and movements are recorded for better organization and forensics.
All communication—including that with customers, suppliers, and subcontractors—is intelligently managed and can be easily retrieved for better workflows and continual process improvement.
Why an Enterprise Content Management Solution Is Critical
Modern businesses are more focused than ever on digital processes and deploying the kind of digital transformation that drives success.
An onslaught of technological advances, including cloud technology, mobile capabilities, machine learning, and automation are spurring changes and creating opportunities.
By 2020, the global amount of data created daily will reach 44 trillion gigabytes and most of this data will be unstructured
An enterprise content management system provides a solution that helps businesses cope with these swift and prolific changes by providing ways to organize information in a manner that optimizes performance and minimizes error.
Additionally, escalating fraud and cyberattacks means data governance and compliance with regulations are more critical than ever.
An ECM allows for effective management of data and—importantly—integration with current business analytics to protect information from loss.
Finally, in an increasingly competitive market, businesses must leverage the power of productivity to keep their advantage.
81% of employees cite the need for mobile access to company documents
An ECM provides a secure and logically organized way to archive critical information so it is available to streamline workflows and increase efficiency with your data.
Breaking it Down: What Is Enterprise Content Management?
At their simplest, ECMs (modern solutions are typically cloud-based ECMs) are multifunctional systems used to catalog and store unstructured information for business purposes.
However, there’s a lot that goes into their makeup, function, and benefits that should be clearly understood in order to discern the true value they bring to the processes, productivity, and profitability of a business.
Components of an Enterprise Content Management Solution
There are five basic components of enterprise content management: capture, management, storage, preservation, and delivery.
To capture both digital and print information, an ECM must have both scanning and optical character recognition (OCR) capabilities.
Some may even employ handprint recognition technology (HCR), a form of intelligent character recognition (ICR) that allows hand printed text to be easily interpreted and captured.
This helps automate data entry tasks to reduce human error and allow for the tracking of large volumes of data.
Management tools will vary according to the requirements of each business. Typically, they include:
Archive and file management tools to make indexing, retention, and purging simple
Other tools can include web content management or document management tools.
There are three basic elements to storage solutions in an enterprise content management solution:
First; there is a repository to collect files.
Second; a library tool that picks up files that have gone through the capture and manage sequence.
Finally; the hardware—such as servers, cloud-based storage, optical disks, and more—that holds files and software for retrieval.
As opposed to the short-term repository of the storage component, preservation provides long-term storage or archiving of critical files.
There are many media choices that can provide appropriate archival, however it’s important to ensure media types are compatible with evolving technologies for long-term usage.
To be able to shift content to appropriate users throughout your system, you’ll require middleware that helps move information from application to application.
The delivery process can include distribution of media for access by end users through websites, social media, intranet, or even printed documents.
Security is critical at this part of the process so that unauthorized edits and access are prohibited as data is moved from place to place.
How ECM Works
The basic ECM process has all five ECM components working in tandem to organize and disseminate crucial business process information throughout the lifecycle of the data. In short:
Data is captured
Information is published internally or on a company website
Information is automatically and securely archived
Old, outdated, or unused information is periodically deleted to save space
To begin using ECM, businesses typically identify each type of content used within the organization and assign them to a business process and even particular staff members.
Then, ECM software targets duplicate content to reduce storage redundancies and then organizes the information in a central repository along with metadata that allows it to be accessed quickly and efficiently by the people who need it.
These approved users can use full-text searches to locate necessary content that they can then read, edit, or print.
Users can also use keywords or phrases to search for documents, reducing retrieval time and increasing productivity.
These simple but powerful tools allow departments—or entire businesses—to:
Reduce dependency on paper
Provide exceptional customer service
Easy access to critical information helps businesses make better decisions, complete projects faster, and collaborate effortlessly for increased efficiency.
How ECM Benefits Your Business
Because an enterprise content management system provides a unified platform for the dissemination, storage, and management of data, it can help businesses handle data in a way that meets security and compliance requirements for exceptional risk management.
Auditing capabilities including check-in/check-out and workflow oversight
Streamlined access and reduced information bottlenecks through version control
Reduced storage, paper, and mailing needs for minimized overhead costs
Reduced costs—and the potential for error—through the automation of manual processes
Improved customer services through real-time visibility
An ECM’s access to complex tools brings robust functionality to business processes.
For example, data mining becomes simpler and more accurate through the use of tools provided by the ECM system that allow parameters and search ranges to be pinpointed for faster and more accurate searches.
Moving forward, ECM systems continue to evolve and change as they target the needs of businesses that are seeking increased agility, integration, and competitive advantage in a rapidly changing world.
As the digital pace increases, ECMs continue to add features and incorporate evolving technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence to maximize effectiveness.
And businesses—large and small—are reaping the benefits of these systems to position themselves more solidly in the marketplace.
What Pain Points Does ECM Alleviate?
For many organizations, particularly those who have to deal with complex compliance regulations in industries like food distribution, manufacturing, and healthcare, an ECM can help enormously with records management.
By using an ECM, it’s significantly easier for businesses to maintain compliance. In the case of auditing, for example, using an ECM to store your business data means secure remote access can be given to information when required—drastically quickening the costs of mandatory audits and giving businesses peace of mind.
In addition to this, rules and proper governance of the data you capture and store makes regulatory compliance a lot easier in other ways, too.
For example, no longer does information have to be manually deleted—automatic controls can be established so that your ECM is taking care of your data compliance while you can get on with your business.
Just as control is hugely important for compliance, it also plays a large role in general business operations, and an ECM can play a big part in ensuring control over information.
Without an ECM and a central data repository, it’s common for companies to have data that is decentralized and unorganized.
What does this mean in a practical sense?
It can mean employees using different versions of business critical documents; it can mean a rep using an outdated sales agreement or order form.
In a Nintex survey, 39% of the interviewees claimed to observe a broken document process within their organization:
49% said they can’t locate documents easily
43% claimed to struggle while sharing documents and requesting document approval
33% had trouble with document versioning
With a central information repository and an ECM to organize data, documented workflows can show you who is being sent what; who has signed off on a policy and who hasn’t; who needs a document that hasn’t been sent to them—you get the idea.
Updating, distribution, and tracking of business critical data can be much more effectively done with a centralized system for data and an ECM at its core.
One of the primary reasons businesses look to implement enterprise content management systems is purely down to productivity.
Companies often recognize that their existing processes for document management are lacking.
According to AIIM survey, the overall average time spent searching for and managing information is 45 minutes, about 8% of a working day.
With outdated methods for data management, employees spend more time than they should doing the basic tasks, like looking for a document.
Not only does this frustrate workers who have to waste time looking for something they should have instant access to from anywhere, but it also costs the business money in labor being used poorly.
Adopting an ECM helps alleviate this waste and improve the productivity of your business operations as a whole.
IHS claims that ECM can reduce costs related to the inability to find documents per user per month from around $200 to $10 for medium sized businesses (100–999 employees).
Of course, improving the productivity of your operations goes hand-in-hand with running a more efficient process for your document workflows.
When we talk about the implementation of ECM systems, document workflow is close to the top of the agenda.
42% of knowledge workers admitted that paper-based workflows make their daily tasks less efficient, costlier, and less productive.
Enterprise content management is an extremely useful tool in improving business efficiency, not least because it helps break down data silos.
Data silos, which refer to separate data repositories that arise within an organization—often between departments using systems that are not integrated—are a big bottleneck when it comes to efficiency.
This pain point can be significantly alleviated by unifying business data across all departments with an ECM and providing company-wide access to data where necessary and beneficial.
One of the more obvious pain points that an ECM solution solves is the amount spent on paper by businesses, as well as its associated environmental concerns.
The benefits environmentally of going paperless are an admirable, if not entirely compelling from a business perspective, reason to deploy ECM.
It's an aspect that is not to be underestimated, however. One of the more interesting developments to come out of the pandemic was the increased emphasis that consumers began placing on customer experience—so much so that it is now the key competitive differentiator between businesses; even placing higher than price and quality.
With this in mind, it's actually beneficial to pursue an ECM and reduce reliance on paper to demonstrate to customers your stance on particular issues. If customers of a certain business care about environmentalism to any great degree, pursuing a digital-only approach can actually function as a key marketing tool for the company.
According to IBM, 81% of consumers worldwide belong to one of two shopper segments: Value-driven consumers (41%) who want good value and Purpose-driven consumers (40%) who seek products and services aligned with their values.
Of course, when it comes to paper waste, there are pressing concerns for businesses, customer or no customer—that is simply that companies print more than ever today, and these paper-based costs are piling up for SMBs.
Take a look at some of these stats from the linked infographic to see how much paper is costing an average SMB:
The average employee’s printing habits cost companies $725 per year
Employees on average print 34 pages of day, 17% of which will go unread
90% of companies do not track their printing costs
Companies that use guesswork to identify their printing costs on average underestimate by 40%
IT departments spend an average of 15% of their time fixing print-related issues
Over the last 20 years, paper consumption in the US has gone from 92 million tons to 208 million—an increase of 126%
The average business’ paper consumption grows by 22% each year, meaning in just under three-and-a-half years your consumption will have doubled
When you put it in this context, it's clear that the costs of printing are rising and will become—if they aren't already—unsustainable for businesses.
Because of this, investing in an ECM system to alleviate this costly pain point is a good way for an organization to effectively tackle this waste and unnecessary spend.
Where Is Enterprise Content Management Applicable In a Business?
Most businesses deploy an ECM for specific business processes within their organization. Let's take a look at some common applications of ECM.
If you deal with a lot of contracts, you know that managing them can be a pain, and an ECM solution can really help with these kinds of workflows.
ECM allows you to make sure contracts are reviewed by the right people at the right times, using automation to deliver contracts to the necessary stakeholders when it's their turn to review or edit the document.
Automating human resources
All stages of recruitment and onboarding can be automated to create a far more streamlined HR process than before.
Online forms can be used to capture applications, which are then sent to hiring managers through an automated workflow.
The same principle can be applied to many other aspects of HR, like policy and procedure management, I-9 compliance, and disaster preparedness (keeping information protected in the cloud rather than physically filing them) to name a few.
Automating accounts payable and receivable
AP and AR can be improved significantly with ECM implementation.
AP and AR are two of the most paper-intensive processes within organizations. How quickly and effectively invoices and billing can be processed will determine how efficient your operations are in these areas.
With an ECM, AP and AR can be digitized completely, with capture, storage, access, and management far more streamlined than traditional paper methods.
An enterprise content management solution will capture, read, and index information; give staff the ability to edit or annotate; and provide comprehensive workflow tools and automation.
There are five basic components of an ECM: capture, management, storage, preservation, and delivery.
An enterprise content management system is a solution that helps businesses handle data in a way that meets security and compliance requirements for exceptional risk management.
Other benefits include auditing capabilities, streamlined access and reduced information, reduced storage, paper, and mailing needs for minimized overhead costs, optimized security, reduced long-term expenditures
Make the most of ECM and similar tools to streamline and automate operations, and build a strategy for implementing them smoothly. Access Impact's eBook: Understanding Workflow Automation.