In my travels, I have often been told how complex enterprise content management (ECM) is to understand and implement. I find this somewhat curious and disconcerting. Perhaps this is due to my longevity in this industry, as I do not see ECM as being inherently complex but that the level of complexity is most often self-inflicted. There is a tendency to view ECM as a complex set of intertwined technology that only a few can understand or implement. In many cases, and I have learned this from teaching thousands of people about ECM, it is not the technology at issue, but the way it is presented to the user community.

Community engagement

This is an area most often overlooked by many organizations,
the target audience. It is amazing to me how much time and effort is spent preparing for a go-live date and the only thing discussed early in the project is the technology. No discussion with the user community, the intended users of this technology. If they are not involved, how can the technology align with and properly support what they do? If they are not involved, how can you expect them to understand and embrace it?
"When planning for ECM, the user community should be involved. IT, project management and the user community must work as a team, not in isolation."

Many of the folks I have talked with over the years tell me that software and hardware were installed and rolled out to the workforce. In many cases, no one wanted to use it, and the reason is that it did not support the roles and activities of the intended user community. When I ask about user involvement in the project, I am told it was an IT-driven project, too complex for users to understand, and that the users only needed training.

When asked about the training, I am told that user training is a four-day workshop teaching everything from capture to disposition, including how to set up user profiles and other administrative activities that they will never use. In addition, the training focused on the ECM technologies and not how it functioned with the line-of-business applications used in the department. By the time they get back to their desks, users are overwhelmed and now see it all as complex when compared to their actual role and daily activities.

What to think about

When planning for ECM, the user community, or at least the target group intended to use the technology, should be involved. They do not have to know how integration will be done, but they should be part of the conversation around what is actually needed for them to get their job done. IT, project management and the user community must work as a team, not in isolation.

Training should focus only on what will be used in conjunction with daily activities. For example, if the integration is such that a press of a button within the line-of-business app will call up documents from the ECM repository, and this is all the user needs to know, that is the level of training they should get. Why make it more complex than it needs to be? The level of training should match level of functionality required to accomplish the task.

MORE: Technology Implemented for the Sake of Technology Will Not Work for Your Content Organization

When it comes to the technology itself, only those functions required to get the job done should be installed and available to the targeted user community. Line managers need reporting capabilities, while the customer service rep need only access individual files. Every employee does not need a scanner, and if occasional scanning is required, perhaps a departmental scanner or multi-function device is made available to him or her. In this case, training is required on how to properly use it and capture information into the repository.

In my view

Complexity, or at least the levels of complexity surrounding ECM, is often self-inflicted. Many in the user community understand the basic concepts of ECM and the associated technology when it is presented properly. The key is to understand the audience and present the what, why and how of ECM in their terms.

If they are to use ECM as an integrated part of the SAP application they currently use on a daily basis, present how these fit together and will support their daily activities. If access to a document requires a simple press of a function key, that is what they need to know. Back-up and recovery is not something users deal with and is, therefore, not something they need to be trained in.

Everything can be simplified, once the audience is understood. Use of relevant examples tuned to the audience delivers a greater and lasting impact, while at the same time, reduces reluctance and resistance. Complexity is not inherent and should not be self-inflicted. Take time to know your audience and focus on them.

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