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July 2020
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7 reasons why ECM projects often fail

Dorien JorissenDorien Jorissen

Digital transformationHave you read an IT Magazine lately? Then you must know that you can’t turn a page without reading about digital transformation. If you want your project to sound sexy and hot, just put in the word “digital” and you’ll be fine.

A large percentage of these digital transformation projects are content-driven. But not all of them are as successful as you might think.

Based on 20 years of industry data (source), we can see that nearly 50 percent of all ECM projects fail just from a technological perspective. Of the 50 percent that succeed, half fail to really provide value to the business.

In this blogpost, we’ll explore some recurring causes leading to ECM project failure.

1. The challenge of commodity

The existence of package-based solutions tends to sharpen expectations. The fact that a standard solution is available makes business owners think that installing the software and pointing users to the platform is enough. They don’t need any adaptations. Processes and governance rules should be provided by the software solution or service providers.

Although you save budget by installing out-of-the-box, without customizations, you need twice this budget for change management and support after go-live. Besides the budgetary issue, you will also have to force your end users to change their daily habits and processes to the out-of-the-box tool. This could lead to less efficient teams, frustration and unfinished processes.

Your user group is more than willing to follow new rules. Yet, on the micro level of day-to-day activities, they want full flexibility and freedom to continue their work the way they used to until now.

2. The belief in technology

The belief in technologyOr… the sequel of “the challenge of commodity”: you just need to introduce the right technology and your issue is solved. A number of people are still convinced that this will do the trick. They don’t consider the connections to business processes or concrete activities in that context.

In case of failure, the tactic is to blame the tool and change the underlying technology. If you really want to gain maximum results and value from ECM, you must take the time to look at the people, processes, governance and business requirements before applying any technology, let alone a second.

3. The sneaky habits

End users can be very stubborn. And although you provide them with a wonderful DMS, it’s often easier to create a new document not using a document management platform. By creating a document locally or using a shared drive, the end user can simply create the document in Word and store it anywhere they want.

Not uploading documents to the DMS after editing, however, means that other colleagues will start from an outdated version. Not only will it be nearly impossible to search, retrieve and access your documents, clarifying merge and version conflicts is not the most fun job in the world. But if you cannot convince your end users to use your DMS, you better hire someone to handle all these conflicts.

The flexibility of paper4. The flexibility of paper

Have you ever thought about what you can do with a single piece of paper? Let’s say you have a contract sitting on your desk. You can sign it, hand it over to someone, make notes, archive it, scan it, mail it ( by regular land mail 😉 ), collaborate on it, … Sure, you can do all of these things! But you can also spill something on it, hide it, throw it out, give it to the wrong person, lose it, make a paper plane or even a boat out of it, … You see, the options are limitless. In the paper world, document use relates to long-standing, ingrained practices of which one is not really aware.

It’s impossible to exclude paper from your document-driven processes, but please make sure you regulate and integrate paper flows in your document process. At least audit the workflows which pause or end when a paper document comes into play.

5. The infrastructure perspective

When replacing shared drives, a content management platform is introduced as part of the infrastructure. Business often implement the platform in its standard configuration. Infrastructure teams lose themselves in the gigabytes and back-up plans without ever wondering what kind of documents will be saved in the DMS. A file plan or content strategy is the last thing on their mind. Some small changes such as content types and metadata, though, already mean a world of difference for the end user.

6. Expectations and benefitsInvolve your end users

The benefits of ECM and document management platforms are usually located at an organizational level. This doesn’t fit the immediate expectations of the people doing their daily job. They are often stuck with the question “what’s in it for me?” or the “it was easier before” syndrome.

Involve your end user when drafting the requirements. Turn them into evangelists by automating or facilitating repetitive tasks.

7. Newer, therefore better?

In a lot of projects, the implementation of an ECM focuses on transforming paper into digital. Although this transformation opens up a world of exciting possibilities, it should never be an end in itself.

Look for the added value of the platform: how can you automate tasks, integrate data and reduce administrative tasks? Even though people tend to keep to their daily routine, they are more open to accepting change when there’s something in it for them. So, offer them added value and reduce the volume of routine administrative tasks.

ECM lessons to take home5 ECM lessons to take home

Some tips to make sure that your ECM project will succeed:

  1. Your ECM project team should be a magical mix of system engineers, product specialists, content analysts and end users. You want to combine the most suitable and performant technical architecture with the most efficient product features. The best solution for your company is based on your content plan and validated by your end user.
  2. A good product takes you a long way, but try to configure and customize it to your company’s processes. Don’t just adapt to the product. Focusing on efficient custom development will give you a faster ROI than trying to change your end users.
  3. Train your end users, but above all educate them. Tell them about the what ifs and the added value of using the product the way it’s designed.
  4. Don’t ban paper work flows, but integrate them in your processes and audit and manage them in your document-driven workflows.
  5. If you feel like something is going wrong, but you can’t put your finger on it… ask for help … ACA is more than happy to help give your ECM project a boost!