Web Content Management (WCM) was the darling technology of the late 1990s. It was positioned as a tool to help IT overcome the complexities of hand-coding web pages and publishing them to the web. The use case for WCM has changed. It is now a marketing tool.

WCM enables marketers to effectively create content and push it to the web. More importantly, WCM solutions allows marketers to create and test content and to monitor how users interact with a web presence. This interaction is key for enabling things like prospect conversion and upsell. In some cases, the website can be customized on-the-fly to appeal to particular customer/prospect desires or expectations.

Of course, with increased complexity comes increased maintenance. IT and marketing professionals must work closely to ensure that the WCM solution is delivering to expectations. The key challenges with WCM typically aren’t related to traditional IT issues. Info-Tech data indicates that enterprises have a good handle on concerns like the usability or the adequacy of various tools. The real concerns include working with marketing to actually discovery up-sell opportunities and convert prospects. These are traditionally marketing issues but they go right to the heart of WCM success.

Recent changes in web user behavior is also forcing people to rethink their WCM and web marketing strategies. Social and mobile are particularly thorny issues. Social content, for example, can give marketers unique tells about a user’s preferences and interests. Mobile, meanwhile, presents challenges for both content delivery and user profiling since a mobile device can provide insights on user location and preferences.

These emerging issues speak to the need for integration. WCM is no longer a completely stand-alone system. IT professionals must consider integration with different tools for customer management, lead management, and social media management.

For more information on WCM, see Info-Tech’s recently published Develop a Web Content Management Strategy. Info-Tech also offers two Vendor Landscapes on the topic: VL: Web Content Management and VL: Web Experience Management.

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For most electronic content management solution deployments, there are three key factors driving the decision. Here is a look at each of those factors, including steps you can take to ensure success.

1. Compliance & Litigation

Key Issues:

  • Compliance initiatives demand that records must be retained in a certain way for a minimum period of time.
  • Compliance can be compulsory (e.g., publicly traded enterprises) or voluntary (e.g., manufacturers pursuing quality control initiatives).
  • Litigation is different and requires a proactive defense. Changes to the US Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in 2006 forced many CIO and legal counsels to rethink their defense strategy. While compliance typically deals with records, litigation deals with all information within the enterprise, including email. The best way to prepare for ediscovery requests is to know exactly what information the enterprise has and automate its disposition.

Steps to Success:

  1. Get legal counsel on-board. Issues like retention schedules are business issues, not IT issues (although they will have an impact on storage growth estimates). Counsel and the business units must determine the retention period so that IT can impose the appropriate controls.
  2. Remember email. It’s often the most difficult type of content to control, record, and archive. Get records out of the email archive so it can be dealt with based on IT considerations, not litigation or compliance issues.

2. IT Efficiency

Key Issues:

  • Many ECM projects begin due to a very practical IT concern: the rate of data growth.
  • IT managers are confronted with the challenges of managing storage growth rates of over 40% per year. They worry about the scalability of their systems and the impact this rapid growth will have on their ability to effectively meet backup and disaster recovery requirements.
  • IT efficiencies are one of the few areas that demonstrate real ROI for ECM in terms of: deferred investment in new storage technology, improvements to business continuity, reduction in storage, improved ability to meet business unit demands for new functionality (for both process and knowledge workers), and reduced helpdesk requests for recovering lost documents.

Steps to Success:

  1. Prepare for ROI rejection. IT efficiencies will produce compelling ROI numbers but many CFOs will dismiss the storage concerns by saying “disk is cheap”. Remind them that adding disks to an array might be relatively inexpensive but major storage infrastructure upgrades are not cheap. Nor are business disruptions caused by the decay in business continuity provisions.
  2. Corral the key documents of the file share. ECM will never fully replace the file share. Use it for the most heavily used or process-dependent contents in the enterprise. The shared drive will always have a role for ephemeral documents (e.g., the folder “Summer Vacation Photos 2003”). It is, however, crucial to minimize the cost of maintaining the shared drive. It may, for example, be appropriate to support the shared drive on low-cost NAS storage with no business continuity provisions.
  3. Help end users to help themselves. The storage benefits of ECM are significant, but the greatest benefit comes from employee self service. Many ECM systems enable business units to create their own repositories and workflows, without the need for IT’s help, resulting in considerable reductions in developer effort.

3a. Business Efficiency: Knowledge Workers

Key Issues:

  • Knowledge workers must use information to be successful in their roles.
  • Typical roles include: analysts, engineers, managers, directors, producers, writers, and editors.
  • Knowledge workers value technologies like shared workspaces, search, document, collaboration, and document management.
  • The ECM business case for knowledge workers depends on a variety of factors: cycle time reduction to produce deliverables, reduced time spent finding information, increased productivity, and the reuse of knowledge assets (e.g., using existing marketing materials as opposed to creating new ones).

Steps to Success:

  1. Engage the end user. Process workers buy in to electronic content management because they have no choice. Knowledge workers must be sold. Identify and address their concerns. Ask questions like: “What are the biggest problems in your role?” and “In an ideal world, what technology would help you to do your job?”
  2. Bring collaboration back into content management. Many enterprises have content management and most have some collaboration tools. These tools are often not integrated, leading to workflow and productivity concerns.

3b. Business Efficiency: Process Workers

Key Issues:

  • Process workers complete documentation. They may process forms, complete transactions, or file updates. Their jobs are structured and related to key output metrics such as the number of invoices processed or claims filed.
  • Typical roles include: clerks (government, accounts payable, etc.), front line staff, inside sales people, and brokers.
  • Process workers rely on technologies like forms automation and business process management.
  • The ECM business case for process workers differs from that of knowledge workers. Key elements include: cycle time reduction (cash cycle, time to process inventories, etc.), reduction in paper and storage space, increased productivity due to online information access, and improved customer service and responsiveness to inquiries.

Steps to Success:

  1. Know the process. The ECM project will fail if the strategy or tool doesn’t completely address what the users require. Engage the business units to model the process and to explore ways of improving or streamlining it.
  2. Remember the outputs. Most enterprises focus their efforts on business process management and on the use of forms to create documentation. They often neglect output: how the documents become records, how they are rendered for external use (e.g., printed bills), and how they are stored for future reference.
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Even the most thorough ECM strategy can hit some bumps in the road. Take the time to assess and address these risks before they throw your ECM project off course.

6 Common ECM Deployment Risks

  1. Security: Risk of client information becoming accessible to inappropriate individuals due to incorrect control settings.
  2. End-user skill limitations: Staff experience and technical proficiencies may limit the functionality of the new ECM solution. The learning curve for any new system – especially an integrative and company-wide system – can be large and time consuming.
  3. IT staff resource limitations: Due to the complexity of ECM implementation and development stages, IT staff may not be able to do everything.
  4. Business buy-in and commitment: Business push back can cause serious delays and even project failure.
  5. Storage: Data is cheap, but storage can be very expensive.
  6. Scope creep: The more people and business units that are involved, the larger the “requirements” list grows.

How to Mitigate These ECM Risks

  1. Implement policies that indicate appropriate conduct by employees and train them appropriately. Audit the system to ensure accessibility controls are in place.
  2. Automate wherever possible to avoid error and ensure accuracy. Provide regular mandatory training sessions. You should also perform skill set audits to determine end users capabilities and difficulties. Try to select an ECM solution with help functions and vendor support, as well as built-in end user friendly features.
  3. Hire on consultants or additional employees if necessary.
  4. Involving business stakeholders throughout the planning, implementation, and deployment stages will ensure that requirements are addresses appropriately.
  5. Consider cloud systems or outsourcing as an alternative to purchasing hardware.
  6. Use steering committee. Identify need-to-haves, want-to-haves, and nice-to-haves early on, and stick to them. Define roles and responsibilities early on, and defer any scope confrontations to the steering committee for review.

The Business Plan: Is it Necessary?

Absolutely… but it will be tough to put together.

Info-Tech is commonly asked a basic question: “What numbers should I put in a business case?”

The numbers for an ECM business plan can be exceptionally difficult to determine. What is more important is to establish a solid business purpose for the project. Consult with the different business units to determine the needs and direction and use those to create a common direction for the ECM project.

Be aware that any numbers will be subject to criticism from other stakeholders. IT’s concerns about storage growth may be dismissed with “but disk is cheap” while counsel’s fears about litigation are met with “it’s a rare event.”

ROI may not be important but common purpose is. If there is no common purpose there is no ECM project.

Are you ready for an ECM project? Use this tool to find out: Enterprise Content Management Readiness Assessment Tool.

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Electronic Content Management (ECM) is the strategies and tools to manage content. There are several vendor solutions for ECM on the market, many of which are over-kill for organizational needs. It is essential to consider actual requirements and garner feedback from the end-user community to ensure a best-fit before finalizing on a vendor.

ECM is an incredibly complicated technology with a large array of add-ons and specialty products. The success of ECM depends on its popularity with business users. These users generally have very specific requirements that they struggle to articulate.

A focus on IT efficiencies and niche technologies like collaboration, business process integration, and search provide the best complexity tradeoffs. Improved internal technology efficiencies, better response and adherence to compliance and litigation, as well as increased employee productivity all contribute to the bottom line and drive ECM adoption.

Before taking any steps into the ECM implementation process, the enterprise should complete an ECM readiness assessment. This assessment provides recommendations on where to focus before jumping into ECM.

Do You Need ECM?

Most enterprises have some sort of ECM. Those that don’t need to pay attention to the triggers related the volume of information, corporate mandates, and process handoffs.

If you fit one of the following descriptions, it’s time to look at electronic content management:

  • Over 2TB of storage dedicated to unstructured data.
  • More than 500 employees.
  • Knowledge workers spend more than 15% of their time looking for information or integrating different data sources.
  • Process workers manually handoff records or documentation more than three times.
  • More than 300 documents that are deemed crucial for ongoing business operation.
  • Corporate mandate to comply with regulatory frameworks or establish proactive defense for litigation.

Explosive data growth is driving interest in ECM. But the business case depends on three key factors:

  1. Compliance & Litigation
    1. Changes in regulatory compliance are forcing increased scrutiny of records and document management.
    2. Enterprises must comply with key regulatory frameworks like Sarbanes-Oxley, USA PATRIOT Act, NASD 3010, and various state and federal guidelines. These regulations mandate how documents and records are to be used and maintained.
    3. Enterprises must also protect themselves from litigation by securing documents and disposing of them appropriately.
  2. IT Efficiency
    1. Data growth rates in excess of 50% forces new investments in storage technologies.
    2. Enterprise Content Management strategies can be effective in reducing growth rates and delaying new investment in storage technology.
    3. IT can also off-load development effort to business units and may see improvements on the help desk.
  3. Business Efficiency
    1. ECM benefits both knowledge workers and process workers.
    2. Knowledge workers gain shared work spaces to collaborate and tools to improve their ability to find information.
    3. Process workers gain standard workflow functionality that reduces paperwork and improves throughput.

Business efficiencies are the most important popular driver of ECM but both compliance/litigation and IT efficiencies are important parts of the business plan.

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Microsoft SharePoint is a great tool for internal collaboration and portal functionality. It is very effective for recognizing users and identifying their preferences and authorizations. This functionality opens up a lot of capabilities for workflows, document libraries, etc.

However,  SharePoint is not as effective when user preferences are unknown. Instead, SharePoint will deliver content based on generic personas.

SharePoint is not a tool for designers. It takes a surprising amount of care and feeding to keep it up and functioning. Issues like backup, for example, can be difficult. Many web content management (WCM) projects are driven primarily by designers rather than developers and those designers may be in marketing rather than IT.

With SharePoint, IT almost always has to stay actively involved in the project.

So how do you choose between them?

  • SharePoint has tremendous workflow capability. It can do almost anything. But designers mostly need design-oriented workflows for approval and can dispense with the added functionality.
  • Sitecore, along with other platforms, offer new stock features that remain the domain of custom development in SharePoint (e.g., blogs, comments, RSS, ratings, marketing management, dynamic personalization, etc.).
  • SharePoint is typically very expensive for external deployments.

To be effective, external deployments have required MOSS to take advantages of features like publishing templates, web content editor, document conversion, page libraries, content deployment, etc. For external deployments, MOSS is about $50K per web front end server  – considerably more expensive than Sitecore licensing or alternatives like Kentico, Ektron, Umbraco, etc.

Wow, expensive! Can’t I use WSS?

Theoretically, yes; practically, no. It’s possible to use WSS to create templates and then scrape and publish them externally, but they end up looking like stock SharePoint sites and marketing people get disappointed.

Won’t these problems go away with SharePoint 2010?

For the most part, no. SharePoint 2010 is a much better product (it even looks more like Sitecore!). New features like metadata management, compliance management, and support for non-IE browsers make it a better WCM option. But it’s still not perfect for the reasons identified above.

Bottom line: If marketing is going to own the site, give them Sitecore (or something similar). It will likely be cheaper to acquire, develop, and maintain and it will provide those Web 2.0 features that the marketing chief wants but that seem complicated to deliver with SharePoint. That said, SharePoint can do pretty much everything with the appropriate third-party add-on, but this scenario means that IT will always own WCM.

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