With the enterprise content management (ECM) market forecasted to grow from $4.4 billion in 2012 to over $9 billion by 2017, according to The Radicati Group, Inc., it stands to reason that a number of Microsoft Dynamics ERP and CRM users will be joining the ECM “evolution” within the next four years. In their current iterations, ECM solutions provide the technology necessary to capture, manage, access, store, search, and deliver content related to business processes and workflows.
With ECM, information can be collected from a variety of corporate content sources and formats including email, text documents, images, videos, audio files, websites, paper documents, and more. The question is, how does a Dynamics user go about selecting the right ECM solution – and one that works well with an existing ERP or CRM solution? For help, check out these five tips for shopping and selecting a solution:
1. Identify your business problems first
Instead of hunting down ECM capabilities and functions, consider what you really need from a solution. “Don’t buy a solution and then try to find problems for it to solve,” says Robert Nelson, a long-time ECM expert and director, project management office for Dayton, Oh.-based Crown Partners’ project management office. Instead, look at the short-term and long-term problems that you’d like to solve with an ECM system, and then shop around for solutions that can meet those needs.
2. Maximize Dynamics’ built-in capabilities
To attain optimal utilization of ECM, for example, Nelson says customers should consider tapping into Dynamics’ built-in business process management (BPM) capabilities. “Looking to an ECM to provide BPM in competition with your Dynamics system,” says Nelson, “would be a complete waste of time and effort.” If certain ECM functions aren’t handled by the Dynamics product’s workflow engine, says Nelson, then it’s time to ask yourself: What ECM functionalities can address this gap?
3. Don’t overlook the “Big Five”
In borrowing a page from AIIM, Nelson (an AIIM member) says companies should seek out fully-featured ECMs that handle content in five important ways:
“All of the features of the ECM should tie into one of these functions,” says Nelson.
4. Consider the implications of mobile ECM access
Mobile accessibility to an ECM may sound convenient, but it can turn into a real problem when a salesperson loses his or her iPad – loaded with proprietary information – in a restaurant. “Look at the functions that you really need in the mobile environment and the corporate safeguards around the information,” says Nelson, “before enabling mobile access.”
5. Think about the human element.
“An ECM system should not be a standalone entity,” says Nelson, who encourages Dynamics users to explore the collaborative capabilities of such systems. Consider how people interact with the system, he adds, and how a collaborative content environment can enable greater efficiencies among those users. “ECM will allow you to do things faster, better, or with fewer errors, but it doesn’t solve the problem of what people do when they get the content and have to make the decisions around it,” says Nelson. “That’s up to you.”