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It’s disheartening—and a regular occurrence—to encounter companies that have invested heavily in sophisticated enterprise content management (ECM) and business process management (BPM) solutions that, years later, have realized minimal value.

There are many reasons for this: Sometimes, information technology (IT) buys the technology but then fails in the attempt to push it “onto” the business. Other times, the early adopter has a horrible outcome and taints the technology, when, more than likely, it is simply a badly planned and executed deployment or just the wrong solution for the problem (no doubt caused by the lack of user participation in the requirements development). In most cases, it comes down to one simple problem: improper staffing for a successful rollout.

If I’m engaged by a client to help with an ECM procurement, I make it clear up front that to be successful, there must be a commitment to resourcing the project. Whether it's SharePoint or FileNet, software doesn’t implement itself. We recommend a center of excellence (CoE) approach for ECM program governance. A CoE isn’t a new concept, but it is an effective one. I find that the CoE isn’t a successful approach when it does not have sufficient attention in the organization or lacks decision-making authority. Let’s be clear: ECM must be considered a program—not a project—a program with no end date and continuous projects delivering value.

The CoE must be represented in IT's strategic and tactical planning process. Limited resources, where they overlap programs and projects, have to be allocated to gain the most value while keeping projects moving forward. ECM programs that have constant starts and stops will lose the interest of business owners who will turn to other, less effective methods of solving problems.

Proper staffing for a CoE recognizes the difference between three levels of support staff:
  • Interested
  • Committed
  • Dedicated
Unfortunately, it is common that there are one or two dedicated resources, with no priority given to committed and interested resources. Here’s the difference: Dedicated staff are obvious—full-time employees (FTEs) that are 100% dedicated to ECM, typically, a system admin or a business analyst at a minimum. Committed staff fill in the needs across IT and the business, such as database admins, programmers, web developers, graphic artists, forms designers, etc. Interested staff are the subject matter experts (SMEs) and managers needed to develop the truly powerful and valuable cross-functional processes or even simple store-and-retrieve applications.

Too often, "Committed" and "Interested" resources haven’t been explicitly assigned ECM support duties with a percentage of their time committed to ECM. Instead, requests from the "Dedicated" resources are either ignored or put into the project queue to languish in obscurity until the business owner screams for action. Projects stall; the business becomes frustrated: two steps forward, one back, and ECM gets a bad name.

The same resourcing issue applies to "Interested" resources. For simple deployments (“quick hits”), the necessary SME time can be carved out easily. For more complex deployments that require multiple SME and manager resources across functional areas, SME time has to be backfilled so they can commit effort to the project and see it through to success.

It is the CoE's responsibility to present the value proposition to the program/IT steering committee and get resource commitments, including backfill resources for SMEs. Some organizations will not have a formal “steering committee,” but there will always be an informal resource allocation team. Creating a CoE is the first step in gaining the commitment to ECM that it deserves.

Jim Just is a Partner with IMERGE Consulting, Inc., with over 20 years of experience in business process redesign, document management technologies, business process management, and records and information management. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter @jamesjust10.

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