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The new enterprise content management (ECM) system has been implemented, users trained, documents migrated, and everyone is happily working. Three months later, the human resources (HR) department needs to add a new PDF government form, add security around it for personally identifiable information (PII), add a place for it in the document repository, and create a new workflow around it.

They send a trouble ticket to information technology (IT). They wait. They do a status check. They do another status check with a “hello, anyone there?” They finally call IT and are told, “It is in the work queue.” HR then asks, "Can we do it ourselves?" IT says no, stating that “there has to be a change to the tables, security, and workflow, and you don’t have permission to make those changes.”

So, in the meantime, HR has already started using the form, printing it, completing it manually, passing it around (in a “secure” work envelope) for signatures, and, when complete, scanning it into an established, secure library area that is set up for another document, hoping to move it to the new subfolder when it is created.

As time goes by, these types of change requests, “how do I?” questions, enhancement ideas, and a few “I accidentally deleted my subfolder” requests are given minimal acknowledgement or remain unanswered by IT. As the users begin to struggle with the ECM system, they create workarounds, print and scan more documents, save more “working” documents to their “C” drive, go back to their personal file share, and revert to sending the document to themselves as an attachment and keeping it in their Outlook folder.

Within a year, users are voicing the same issues that led to implementing the new system. This is not to blame IT or the user community for the resurgence of these old problems. Quite often, neither group expects the amount of involvement and commitment needed to keep the ECM system current and usable. Typically, designated “superusers” in the user community have limited knowledge and access privileges to make changes, while the IT group is often undertrained on the application itself due to time, resources, and budget.

So, what do you do if this all sounds familiar?
The first step is for your company to acknowledge that the ECM system is an important one, that there is a problem with it, and that it needs to be solved in order for it to remain a viable system. If an accounts payable clerk told his boss that he couldn’t process a payment check because SAP was broken, guess how quickly that problem would be solved?

The second step is to determine that the IT department and the user community have neither the training nor the resources to perform day-to-day service requests and maintenance for the ECM system. One thing to consider is that these are long-term, line-of-business systems, and, most likely, the IT tech who will get the trouble ticket will say, “What ECM system?”

If you can get past both of these, the answer is managed services. Managed services is loosely defined as the practice of outsourcing the daily management responsibilities and functions for an ECM system to a third-party company that assumes responsibility for the operation of that system. In short, if you have a problem or a request, it goes to the managed services provider (MSP). Depending on the contract type and budget, the MSP can be on call 24/7 or can be used on a time and materials basis. Either way, the MSP is contracted to be your outsourced IT department, or user community's "superuser," and is a dedicated resource—so your trouble ticket or enhancement request does not automatically go to the bottom of the pile.

MSPs can range from independent technical companies to the original software provider. It may take some research to establish a list of MSPs for your ECM, but here are a few to start with:
  • Go to the original software provider (such as OpenText, OnBase, Laserfiche, etc.) and ask if they provide managed services.
  • Ask the original software provider if they have value-added resellers (VARs), system integrators, or original equipment manufacturer (OEM) resellers who provide managed services. For example, the system integrator, who originally built and installed your application, may provide managed services and has the benefit of actually having built your application. A system integrator can range from a small, local technical company to a large, international company like Deloitte.
  • There are some technical companies that specialize in specific industry areas, like manufacturing, legal, accounting, medical, and food services, and provide services specific to that industry, including document management. These companies tend to have an in-depth knowledge of your business and can help you make better use of your ECM system.
  • Office equipment providers, such as Ricoh, Fujitsu, Canon, etc., might still sell hardware and multifunction printers (MFPs), but they also have a high-tech component to their business that sells, implements, and services document management software. Plus, they have been a part of your business for years and have a good grasp of your business requirements and needs.
  • Service bureaus are companies that specialize in scanning large volumes of paper documents as a backfile conversion, day-to-day scanning of new incoming documents (e.g., insurance claim forms), and generally manage paper and electronic document repositories. Service bureaus typically work with the leading ECM companies for their own internal ECM system, and they generally resell them. Service bureaus have a deep understanding of document management processing requirements and needs—like the Farmers commercial, “We have seen it all.”
In conclusion, a failed or floundering ECM system will decrease productivity, encourage old/bad habits to reappear, and may cause serious business-related issues. A MSP allows you to concentrate on your core business and not on the IT shop. In addition, the MSP will become a valued member of your team, providing insights and opportunities for improvement that would normally not be available to your company.

Bud Porter-Roth has over 20 years of experience as an enterprise content management (ECM) consultant, with a focus on cloud collaboration, electronic document management, records management, and paper document projects. He is also the author of Request for Proposal: A Guide for Effective RFP Development. Follow him on Twitter @BudPR or contact him at