10 Pitfalls to Avoid in ECM Projects21 Jan, 2010 By: Jim Thumma imageSource
10 Pitfalls to Avoid in ECM Projects
Pitfalls: as hidden dangers, we work hard to learn where they are so we can
avoid them. The roads we travel are full of pitfalls, including potholes,
winding roads, and dangerous intersections. Fortunately, helpful signs direct
our driving so we can avoid the bumps, cracks and turns, and reach our
Unfortunately, avoiding ECM pitfalls isn’t as easy at first glance. Each
content management project is unique, and there aren’t any signposts. Yet the
most common pitfalls in ECM projects are universal. If you understand the
challenges that typically arise and plan with the pitfalls in mind, you can
travel the path to ECM success with confidence. This article will help you make
sound choices as you walk the path to document and process automation.
ECM challenges typically result from:
1. Lack of vision & leadership
Establish and communicate your company’s vision.
- What will your company look like in a year? Three? Five? Ten?
Communicate how ECM supports your vision. If people are expected to embrace
your project, they need to understand why ECM is important, and how, with staff
help, it will help the company to meet its goals.
2. Poorly aligned business & IT goals
For an ECM project to succeed, goals must be aligned. Make sure:
- Your IT staff understands the business goals, routine processes
technology is expected to support, and business challenges it’s expected to
- Your business managers understand IT’s limitations based on the
project’s human resources & funding parameters.
In today’s world, Business and IT need each other to succeed. Work hard to
understand each other’s goals, needs, challenges, and limitations and
collaborate on a plan.
3. Projects that are too broad or too narrow
Walk – don’t run. If your project is too ambitious, it will be overwhelming
and won’t be embraced. If it’s too narrow and doesn’t consider long-term
business needs, it may become irrelevant quickly and breed frustration. Note:
- Even if you start with a departmental implementation (which is wise),
consider how your documents and processes intertwine with other business
areas, and how you might lay the foundation now for added efficiency later.
- Classify information that has value. Don’t over-index (cumbersome and
wastes time) or under-index (delivers poor results). Index logically and
uniformly so people consistently find what they need.
Don’t scan every piece of paper. Only capture information that will be
needed later for business purposes or compliance. Keep your taxonomy focused.
4. Failure to involve everyone who will be affected
Staff members who handle documents and related processes understand nitty-gritty
procedural details that are essential to smart automation. ECM requires a
drill-down approach to content management that delivers those details up the
management chain so document handling issues can be addressed effectively. Ask
- Who needs to handle each document type, when, and for what reasons?
- Are there document types that could be consolidated, resulting in fewer
forms to store and search?
- For which business processes is each document type needed?
- How can those processes be streamlined or improved?
To ensure complete buy-in, you must involve your managers, IT, & end users.
If they’re not consulted, you’ll make assumptions and costly mistakes, eroding
enthusiasm & jeopardizing your project.
5. Overlooking front-end capture
Storing documents in an electronic filing cabinet at the end of their useful
life deprives you of tremendous cost savings from point-of-receipt capture and
electronic processing. From email to faxes, software applications, voicemail,
audio, video and more, business content is scattered and growing. Capture
valuable content as it’s received or created for maximum value.
Scanning documents upon receipt or creation makes content immediately useful
to everyone who is authorized to access or act on it. If you don’t engage in
front-end capture, you’re not managing your content effectively. Start with
day-forward scanning and image historical records gradually. Get the most useful
information into your system first.
6. Failure to integrate business systems
Digitizing your documents is an important step toward content management, but
its effectiveness is limited unless you get all of your digital content under
one roof. Ask yourself:
- What software systems are used in our business?
- Where else does business information reside?
- What information is shared between systems (such as customer contact
information) that could be re-used in multiple systems through effective
- What information is recreated for use in multiple systems that could be
extracted and reused to save time?
- What infrastructure is needed to make integration possible?
Unless you integrate your business software systems, accounting, human
resources, contract management, and more, you will still have data duplication,
redundant or conflicting documentation, and errors.
7. Poor project management
ECM implementations need a knowledgeable enthusiast at the helm who
understands people’s diverse needs, is well organized, highly motivated, and
works well with different personalities. Make sure your project champion:
- Understands business needs as well as IT capabilities so s/he can bridge
- Has experience creating realistic timelines, milestones, benchmarks, and
proactive recourse in the event expectations aren’t met;
- Is an excellent communicator, verbally and in writing;
- Is aware of best practices and is committed to following them.
A second-rate project manager results in a second-rate solution. You deserve
8. Underestimating time requirements for proper implementation
Time is money; no business can afford waste. Yet if you fail to assign
sufficient resources for each project phase, you’re inviting failure. Allow
adequate time for:
- Candid needs assessment
- Appropriate vendor selection
- Solution design
- Project planning
- Thorough testing
- Change mgmt.
- Staff training
Inevitably, as projects progress, discoveries will be made that cause you to
re-think details. Drive your project forward steadily to ensure timely
completion, but allow enough time to do things properly. It’s more difficult
and costly to make changes after an ECM project is already in place than it is
to invest time up front.
9. Solution is implemented too slowly
If everyday business challenges are threatening steady ECM progress, take
advantage of your vendor’s professional services or hire additional staff for
the project. Also, remember that as business needs change in response to the
marketplace, your solution may require alterations. Remain focused, yet
flexible. Keep in mind that if your ECM project is constantly shoved to the
back burner, the solution you wholeheartedly pursued may no longer be
appropriate by the time it’s implemented. If it loses relevancy, it may be
Steady momentum is critical if you expect to see results. Choose vendors
whose solutions offer you the flexibility you’ll need to adapt.
10. Insufficient change management
Just as fashion designers must create clothing people will wear, and road
crews must design highways that people will traverse, ECM systems have to be
intuitive and user friendly for people to use them. Many robust technologies
fail because end users’ needs haven’t been thoroughly considered, or they’re
simply too hard to learn. Make sure your ECM solution is:
- User friendly, with flexible work spaces, helpful online tool tips, and
drop-down menus to guide your staff through scanning, indexing, and
- Easy to administer, so your IT staff isn’t overwhelmed trying to support
- Even intuitive systems require basic training. Assure your staff they
will get the support and instruction they need to be confident and
successful. Prepare, train, and empower them to succeed, and they will.
Jim Thumma is Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Optical Image
Technology. A session on the “Common Pitfalls in ECM and How to Avoid Them,”
with Jim and a Kodak colleague, will be spotlighted at the ITEX tradeshow in Las
Vegas in early March. For more information visit