Seven best practices for enterprise implementations

Open Text and Gartner recently release a document titled "Seven best practices for ECM implementations". For anyone that has been involved in enterprise scale implementations in the past, there is not a lot of new information here. In a nutshell the 7 listed are:

1. Understand the project

2. Secure Management Support

3. Create a project plan for the entire project

4. Get user buy-in

5. Use phased implementation

6. Encourage continuous user involvement

7. Create a competency Center

Like I said, nothing terribly startling in that list (though I do recommend you read the document, even if only as a refresher, its available here But I'd like to pick up on number 5 and discuss in a little more detail. Why number 5? Because number 5 has not always been easy (some might say, not even been possible)! I come from the "old" ERP school where every enterprise implementation was big! ECM wasn't much better (in fact in a lot of cases it was worse) - primarily because many people in the organisation didn't know exactly what it was! Today, most people in the organisation will understand the concept of electronic documents, scanned invoices, storage and management of emails etc. We have better understanding in the organisation and the ECM solutions available are advanced enough that you can actually bite off smaller chunks based on a larger, longer term ECM strategy. Not only is there better understanding and the products able to support this strategy, but our methodologies for implementing are far better at allowing this approach as well.

I was recently speaking with a SAP customer looking at ECM. They were scared that starting down the ECM path was going to be big, expensive and a far too audacious goal for them to complete in a reasonable time. Having completed an ECM strategy review with them we sat down and broke out each of the components that would make up the project and all of a sudden it started to look manageable to them. They still have a long term ECM strategy that will be delivered over a period of time, but they can now see that it will be completed in small chunks that will allow some of the other 6 best practices to be easier to deal with (like keeping the users involved and maintaining your executive level sponsorship). As well as getting some quick wins in place and establishing a platform on which they can build out the other pieces.

So when you get to a point where you know your unstructured data is out of control, where you have holes in your SAP data and workflows because of all the docs that live outside the system, when compliance is becoming a real issue, you can address these problems gradually and implementing ECM does not need to be the next massive, big bang project failure that will scare the heck out of your CFO at budget time.