ECM as Strategic Platform – Not a Tech Issue

photography-371215_640In this CloudPro article, Aaron Levie (Box co-founder and CEO) asks about content management “Why is this one of the only categories of technology that hasn’t actually been approached as a strategic platform for the entire enterprise?” Levie also suggests that organizations view content management systems through a similar lens as they do with ERP and CRM systems. That is, have a single system and manage it as a strategic platform for the enterprise. I both agree and disagree with Levie.

We both believe that content management systems need to be managed as strategic enterprise platforms. And I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to infer of Levie that he would agree with me and others that information be managed as a strategic corporate asset. There might be a contretemps over where (type of system) content to be leveraged as an asset should reside (I don’t care where it is, I just want to leverage it), but I think it would be a minor niggle. I think where there would be more palpable disagreement is over whether or not organizations ought to consolidate content repositories or not. As far as I’m concerned, it depends. (I’m a consultant. What did you expect me to say?) There’s a whole mess of stuff to think about when considering repository consolidation, and this isn’t the post to go through it.

Aaron and I are going to disagree over his points about viewing ERP, CRM, and ECM through the same lens. He says we should, I say we can’t. The issue is one of understanding. If I go into any organization that uses ERP and CRM systems, they know the point and value of those systems. The high level business processes supported by ERP and CRM systems haven’t fundamentally changed in decades. ECM systems are completely different. They are built to support all processes and no processes. I.e.: they’re a blank canvass, a few tubes of paint, and some paint bushes. If you’ve got the right people, rules, and tools you’ll end up with a masterpiece. If not, well, you won’t.

The value proposition and strategy for ECM has to be crafted to the stakeholder. I cannot and will not give the same message to someone from HR as I will to someone in Field Services. I may use the same platform and even the same content, but stakeholder context is going to drive the conversation and implementation. And that’s a huge problem. ECM as a concept is too big and complicated. So stop talking about it. Talk about business opportunities and challenges; talk about transformation and innovation.

So, back to Levie’s comment/question about strategic platforms …

He’s obviously biased and I’m on his side but, been there, done that. In the majority of implementations that I’ve been engaged on, a strategic platform approach is precisely the approach we took. The technology involved didn’t really matter (If you really care, the techs involved included Documentum, Alfresco, Oracle, SharePoint, FileNet, and OpenText). It was all about the mindset and having the right policies, procedures, and people. It also helps if the technology has open API’s and makes integration as simple as possible.

5 Comments on “ECM as Strategic Platform – Not a Tech Issue

  1. Chris………thanks good post. I’ll have to compose a more complete response to you but, in short, ERP and ECM type systems are, in some senses, giant spreadsheets and every cell has a function and data type to go into it. ECM-type systems are 1 giant cell and anyone can put anything in it.


  2. As usual, we’re on the same page. Now the question is, do great minds think alike, or does misery simply love company? 🙂 Nicely done, sir.


  3. Chris, great post. Correct that ERP/CRM process has not fundamentally changed in many decades (I don’t go quite back to clay tablets) including their known value. They just keep getting better especially CRM’s. ECM’s were too often created as a giant repository without the various end user processes so they became clunky tools no one liked using and gave up on. ECM’s are more successful when tailored to a specific process which really means what the end user does.

    I believe since the vast majority of companies still have not put their unstructured records in a giant system (by this time), it’s not happening. Especially if that is a main point in doing it. Companies operate the way they operate which also doesn’t change much over decades. Value is recognized by understanding what information provides the value and delivering it as quickly a possible in an acceptable cost/value ratio. If the end user is wincing at the delivery or cost, you’ve lost.

    As you said “Talk about business opportunities and challenges; talk about transformation and innovation” and don’t kill them with technology concepts. Show them what you can deliver to improve the business and their work (i.e. be an engaged business partner vs. anything else). At the end of they day, they don’t care if the content is used by others (who have a need), sits on the same blade, etc. They’ve got a pile on their plate and goals to meet.

    Liked by 1 person

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