While working on a 2012 roadmap and strategy for a client, I was asked “How do successful organizations deploy and manage ECM systems?” Since it’s a question worth some thought, I took the opportunity to conduct an informal survey of TSG account managers. What follows are observations about what we see working at clients when it comes to making ECM decisions and getting things done.
Our clients that seem to run the smoothest have established a separation of duties for managing their ECM systems and have set up balanced IT and business relationships.
Successful organizations have built IT teams to manage both of the front-facing (user visible) and back-end (invisible) components of the ECM system. The back-end components, or ECM platform, consist of the databases, web application servers, and core software products. These components are completely managed by the IT organization and budgeting activities include annual maintenance and upgrade of these components. In contrast, the ECM front-facing components are managed by a separate application team and the business is a strong stakeholder. In smaller organizations, the IT resources may be on the same team.
The business stakeholder is more specifically known as an Application Owner. Many of our clients have more than one ECM application installed. Typically there is a different business owner for each of these applications. The ownership and active participation by the Business leads to a more accountable and balanced relationship between IT and the Business. The Application Owner handles the budget for any application projects to add new functionality. If a system is large enough or complex enough, a committee or group of Application Owners might be established where IT and Business can discuss projects, business plans, and enhancements for the ECM System.
While having accountability, budgeting responsibilities, and well-defined interactions is a necessity, the Business and IT teams that operate in the top tier of efficiency also have very good soft-skills. Typically Director-level people with a knack for negotiations, internal politics, and an accommodating technical philosophy are chosen as Application Owners and IT leaders. With these talents they work well cross-departmentally resolving issues and prioritizing projects as well as understanding and communicating the balance between application customization and maintainability.
It is rare for resources working with ECM systems to be isolated to strictly one or two business domains. Partnering or regularly communicating with other groups, such as Legal, IT Architecture, or Process Improvement teams lead to more robust solutions that are capable of greater business value. In the case of Legal, this team provides the records management requirements for the ECM system. The IT Architecture team can help determine the most efficient way to build a solution in keeping with company standards, and Process Improvement teams help identify how the ECM system can continue to add value for the business.
It takes years for many organizations to achieve a high level of maturity in managing their ECM solutions. Please post a comment to share your journey and experience.