With the changes in the ECM marketplace over the past year, clients have asked us to recommend timing to plan system upgrades, data consolidations, and development of new features. When to start an ECM project entirely depends on the objective of the project. Delaying a project may be innocuous, or it may lead to issues in getting a product to market or meeting a compliance deadline.
The most important time to plan an ECM project is when there is a defined problem the ECM project will solve.
Per the 2015-2016 Information Governance Initiative (IGI) Annual Report the essence of the top four barriers for Information Governance (of which ECM is a major component) is lack communication of a clear problem statement and solution in non-technical language. Funding issues come in at 5th and 6th on the list. A project should be started when it has a good problem statement.
How does one create a clear problem statement? Generally, our clients have specific pain points that require them to take action. TSG tends to specialize in ECM for highly regulated clients because of the business drivers resulting from government regulation, such as for pharmas and utilities. A few of our clients also have a need to produce data quickly based on external requests or they have been on the receiving end of a judgement. The IGI Annual Report surveyed several companies and concluded 80% of IG projects are driven by regulatory, compliance, or legal obligations.
If your ECM project is not being driven by regulatory, compliance, or legal obligations, the next best driver is an internal technology or business restructuring effort. When the business is changing and adapting to the market, this is an ideal time to introduce changes to the ECM system. A transition generally causes upheaval and change throughout the company. To maximize the change management effort required for a transition, the ECM project can simply become part of the greater effort. When combined with larger initiatives, the ECM project can take advantage of training opportunities, process changes, and technology changes.
How long will the project take?
For many of our clients, the duration of a project depends on its scope and at what point the project enters the initiation or discovery phase. Timeline will also vary between projects at the same client. If a well-defined problem statement exists, a project may be as short as 30 to 60 days. If a problem statement is fuzzy the timeline may be 6 months, and if it is just a general idea and a solution using an ECM system is not well formed, a project may take 12 to 18 months. In short, the clearer the problem statement, the quicker the project can achieve its objective.
Where to start
We have been very successful with our clients by breaking projects into phases and starting the project with a Discovery workshop. This Discovery workshop reviews, analyzes, and questions the client’s system, business objectives, and pain points. While it sounds difficult, and it can be an exhausting 3 days, the truly exciting activity is identifying best practices and solutions that cross-industries and can provide jumping off points to accelerate the project. Finding a project pattern that can be repurposed is much easier with a good problem statement. It is hard to over-stress this point. A good problem statement provides the WHY for a project and can prevent a project from going out of bounds. It is like the bumper guards on the bowling alley lane. It won’t keep you from missing the pins, but it definitely increases your odds of hitting one or more.
Still not sure where to go?
ECM projects are hard. They can be immensely complex and cut across numerous business and IT units. The pinwheel graph from the IGI Annual Report provides a map for assembling a discovery team. It is often worthwhile to get together informally with a few different areas and float ideas and problem statements by them. Keep track of what concerns and pain points each area has and refine the problem statement(s) until it is suitable to use as a foundation for an ECM project.
We’d love to hear more about your journey to defining and starting your ECM project. Please leave your comments below.