Several AIIM Conferences ago, one of the top tier Enterprise Content Management (ECM) vendors made a point of delivering a session based on the premise that no one actually wants to see an ECM platform doing its stuff. What they meant was that clients wanted the benefits without really seeing how the ECM platform works. Like we all like hot dogs but don’t really want to know how they’re made.
Note: Earlier this year someone claimed that ECM is dead (it’s not) and is being replaced by Content Services (wrong again, they’re the same thing). So, if you see something called “Content Services Platforms (CSP)” or similar, it’s the same as ECM platforms.
In an ideal world, ECM works with your other enterprise and business applications to provide the content in holistic, end-to-end processes and workflows. However, that is rarely the case. Despite the fact that it’s easier than ever to make applications interoperate, most content is still stuck in silos and not available to people and applications that need it. And the content that is available to everyone that needs it is made available by sending copies around as email attachments, insecurely stored and completely ungoverned. The result is a chaotic mess of multiple copies of documents that no one knows where they are until they’re produced as evidence against you in some court proceeding or other when you’d actually thought you’d (legally) disposed of them ages ago. But it doesn’t have to be like that.
We’re going to present a couple of use cases to highlight why content needs to be freed by using Content Integration Services (CIS) to connect ERP applications with ECM platforms. They’re not really complicated, but they are the type of use cases that many organizations waste many, many hours dealing with.
Timesheets are a pain for many companies and contractors. In addition to having the correct information on timesheets (e.g.: project codes, PO #’s, dates, etc.), there are additional challenges related to printing, scanning, routing, and signing them. By building a solution from components that include ECM, digital signatures, ERP, and CIS, timesheets time becomes a joy. Okay, maybe not really a joy, but certainly less cumbersome and onerous than before.
By leveraging ECM, digital signatures, and ERP, and then gluing it all together with content integration services, organizations end up with a timesheet process that is nimble, complete, quick, error free, and auditable. The basic steps in the process are:
- Within an ECM platform, a contractor fills in their timesheet with all relevant information and digitally signs it;
- Using collaboration capabilities of the ECM platform, the contractor submits their timesheet for approval;
- Using digital signature integration in the ECM platform, the approver approves the contractor’s timesheet (or not);
- If not approved the timesheet is routed back to the contractor for corrections.
- Content integration service “strips” relevant data from the approved timesheet and passes it to the ERP application;
- ERP application processes the timesheet for payment;
- ERP application generates a payment slip;
- Content integration service takes the payment slip and stores it in the ECM platform;
- ECM platform presents the payment slip to the contractor.
While not applicable to every industry, many industries need to service equipment in the field. Providing field personnel with the appropriate environmental standards, health & safety manuals, repair & maintenance procedures, and technical / engineering procedures & standards is critical. This documentation helps to save time and money, and also helps to keep field personnel from harm.
The following diagram illustrates how work order details are passed from an ERP application to an ECM platform, to provide field personnel with the right documentation to do their work safely and cost effectively.
- ERP application issues a work order;
- ERP application assigns field personnel to the work order;
- Content integration service passes work order details (personnel, location, job type, asset id, etc.) to the ECM platform;
- ECM platform uses work order details to find the relevant documents;
- ECM platform delivers documents to field personnel;
- Field personnel execute the work order.
Above are only two examples of use cases that can be made better by using CIS to connect ERP with ECM. The fact is, any process that relies on both ERP and ECM can be helped by content integration services.
Assuming that an organization has an ECM platform and an ERP application, it’s the content integration piece that allows the full automation of the entire process. Content integration is the connective tissue that allows ECM platforms and ERP applications to work together holistically and harmoniously.