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Right-Size Your Enterprise Content Management Pilots

September 12, 2022 Information Management
Laurence Hart
By Laurence Hart

Content system procurements are at long last improving. Of the many I see over the course of a month, most are much better structured than they might have been 20, or even 10, years ago. As an industry we’ve learned what doesn’t work when deploying content management systems — and word is getting around. Organizations are acknowledging that they need to assess and devise a content management strategy before making any major investments.

However, I recently saw one that called for a pilot across different groups within their organizations. No other details were given, which raised a red flag. While there may be one enterprise content management (ECM) platform that can meet all of an organization’s needs, there is rarely a single deployment setup that will meet the needs of every group. ECM pilots need to be aimed at a well-defined business use-case that shows how the platform can support the business.

Which Purpose Is Your Pilot Testing For?

Content systems can be used for multiple enterprise use-cases.

  • Collaborative content: This is old-school document management with the common-sense user experience of file sharing technologies.
  • Transactional content: Content services that can underpin business processes and systems.
  • Archival content: The governance controls, scalability and ingestion capabilities to act as a records repository for the organization.

Large enterprises have a need to manage all three use-cases. However, the deployment of an ECM platform changes based upon these three contexts. Collaborative content needs to seamlessly integrate into how people work with documents. Transactional content plugs into existing business systems. Archival content is ingested, categorized and managed for the long-term.

Three use-cases for content (excluding email and web which have their specialized solutions) doesn’t necessarily translate to three systems. It may mean one platform with multiple deployment patterns. Understanding that content is used differently throughout the organization is critical to defining a pilot.

Related Article: What the Next Few Years Hold for Enterprise Content Management

Pick a Content Management Focus

When defining a pilot, you want to ensure it will meet your organization’s needs. And while it's natural to want to involve all key groups in the pilot, if they all use content differently, the results will be lackluster, as it will only test the lowest common denominator set of features.

It is better to pick a select few pieces of content and address them. Select content from areas where the need for a content system is clear, such as:

  • Collecting new hire documentation.
  • Supporting the writing of procurements or proposals.
  • Applying information governance to the records from the last few budget cycles.
  • Managing the documents in an investigative case.
  • Archiving the content from an old system scheduled for decommissioning.

Avoid any high-pressure use-cases. The time to test new software is not when people are under stress or in a hurry. Finding scenarios that are important, and where people can take a few minutes to remember to use the new system, is key to accurately measuring its capabilities.

Related Article: Why Shadow IT Is Your Best Friend in the Digital Workplace

Define Scope and Measurable Results in Advance

A pilot can address multiple problems if you need to assess multiple capabilities. A well-defined scope, as well as measure of success, are key here. Organizations must define what success looks like, and how they will measure it before diving into a pilot.

Each use-case will have different metrics, and it may range from objective to subjective. Define what metrics would be a clear win, a limited success, or a complete failure. Examples include measuring the:

  • User adoption.
  • Time to deploy.
  • Balance between custom code and configurations.
  • Impact to business process cycle time.
  • Volume of training required.

Even a failed pilot has some purpose. Smart organizations can take the information learned from a failed pilot and apply that knowledge to make a different technology.

Related Article: Now Is the Time to Be Strategic With Content Management

A Successful Pilot Delivers Real Information

It may be that the pilot proves that the ECM platform is perfect for transactional content but poor for collaborative content. That would be a successful pilot as you would have learned the ECM platform could meet one of your content needs. In this case, you would have a good solution for a large chunk of your content.

Finding one platform to meet all of your content needs is challenging. That goal has kept many organizations in the ECM acquisition cycle for decades.

Define your pilot, measure the results and determine if the solution can meet all, or at least some, of your needs. If you are focused, you will learn a lot about your organization’s needs and determine if the selected ECM platform is the right choice.

About the Author

Laurence Hart is a director of consulting services at CGI Federal, with a focus on leading digital transformation efforts that drive his clients’ success. A proven leader in content management and information governance, Laurence has over two decades of experience solving the challenges organizations face as they implement and deploy information solutions.

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