It is something that everyone can relate to, being at a dinner party and having to explain just what it is you do to someone you have just met. This can be rather difficult for consultants using the broadest of strokes, but also somehow can get even more convoluted when doing a deep dive into field of ECM. Even though ECM is something that almost nobody has heard of unless they are directly in the field, it is definitely something most people experience every day at their job.
The first mistake that is usually made when discussing ECM with your average party-goer is getting overly technical, at least at the start. When people hear words like “content stores”, “electronic transformations” and even “migrations” their eyes glaze over pretty quickly. A safer place to start is simply asking how often the person works with electronic documents, because unless they are preparing for an EMP to hit their place of work, the answer is almost always “all of the time”.
Now that you have them on some familiar ground, it is an easy transition into one of the things that plague most of our first-time clients, searching for their documents. This is normally where people who have documents sitting in giant share files, or in a giant Sharepoint site, have a light bulb moment and realize that there are ton of good ways they can be storing and searching for their data. Now you can actually get into a meaningful two-way conversation. They can tell you the horror stories of how is it impossible for them to ever find anything, even though their documents have some key identification pieces of information.
At this point, it is easy for someone to understand how an ECM consultant can help people use their metadata and systems in a more efficient way. You can then tell your fellow party goer about how often this happens to other companies, more often than not because they didn’t really understand what ECM was when they originally designed their system. With any luck, now they are actively listening to you and not just nodding along while pretending to understand.
Now that they have the base understanding of how you can help, you could even tell them about all of the other cool things a well-planned ECM solution can do for them. No longer will you have documents in the same folder listed “client-contract-final” and “client-contract-final-final”, you can just use real versioning that is baked into any ECM system. You can run more comprehensive workflows on your documents, or even just be able to inherit common metadata.
The party will wind down and your fellow party goer will be back at his desk one day, frustrated that they now realize how much simpler working with their documents can be. Hopefully, they are also in a position that actually promote some change from within, and, if that is the case, they will know just who to call.