The end-user is key to enterprise content management success
By Greg Lock, ECM solutions architect at Itec.
The end-user must be one of the key considerations when selecting an enterprise content management solution in order for it to work effectively. This, according to Greg Lock, ECM solutions architect at Itec, will result in a user-friendly solution that can be deployed quickly and is used to its full capability. "Developers will develop software that they think is easy to use, but the true test lies in ensuring that your end-user, who is often not as well versed with the software, is able to understand and use the software effectively."
He believes one of the biggest shifts in the market is that the technology has become a lot more user-friendly. "In the past, enterprise content management (ECM) solutions were limited in their ability to balance end-user needs and business processes, which means it was complex and not necessarily well-structured." In today's ECM market, solutions are being designed with the business, its workflows and processes, as well as the end-user in mind, making it a lot simpler to use and a lot more effective. "The technology is also becoming a lot more accurate, for example, optical character recognition, or OCR, which allows for the conversion of scanned images into machine-encoded text and improves search functionality dramatically."
According to Lock, the way in which organisations manage their content has changed dramatically over the past couple of years. Gone are the days of straight-forward archiving, where documents were scanned or imported into a storage location to be retrieved at a later stage. "With the evolution of enterprise content management solutions and the improvement of technologies such as optical character recognition, there is a lot more user functionality available than ever before," he says. "This includes enhanced searching capabilities, security, configuration, confidentiality processes to lock down information that should not be broadly available, and automatic workflows to simplify the way in which documents and business processes are managed."
Mobility is another trend that is impacting the ECM market. "We are seeing an increasing need for clients to access their documents remotely through mobile devices," says Lock. "Regardless of the size of the client, ensuring mobility is built into the ECM solution is becoming absolutely critical nowadays."
The stability of the system is critical and service providers must work with clients to ensure there are adequate backups and recovery methodologies in place to restore data should there be any downtime. He adds that the solution provider must get involved from the infrastructure level through to the end-solution to ensure continuity and system uptime. "Customisation and configuration requirements must be taken into account - each customer has their own unique needs and the responsibility lies with the solutions provider to ensure their software meets those needs." He believes post-installation support is also critical, as this allows for the system to continuously be improved and also ensures the system delivers in the long term.
"Another key consideration is the accuracy on the detection of document information," says Lock. "Some solutions claim to have a 95% accuracy, but they don't state upfront what happens with the remaining 5%. This is a major problem, as you run the risk of losing this information." Lock adds that it would be prudent for clients to ensure that their ECM solution of choice has the necessary processes in place to ensure that this information is retrievable.
Lock says the way in which ECM solutions are deployed is changing, making it a lot more affordable for mid-market companies. Through Itec's modular approach, they are able to supply clients with only those modules they require, making it a lot more affordable. "This allows for smaller companies to implement an ECM solution that is affordable, powerful, yet doesn't compromise on quality," he adds.