Why a good ECM Integrator is important?

I am a big fan of HGTV, especially one particular show “Holmes on Homes.”  For those of you who are unfamiliar, it is about a general contractor who is on a crusade to weed out bad contractors who take short cuts when performing the job they were hired to do. Because the “bad contractors” took short cuts and didn’t do the job right in the first place, they created more problems over and above those which they were originally hired to fix in the first place. “Doing it Right the First Time” has become the mantra of the show.

By now, you may be asking yourself what one of my favorite TV shows has to do with ECM…well, frankly, everything. After 43 years in the computer industry and having worked in many aspects both in the technical and sales side of the business, it will still continue to amaze me that I see as many failed implementations as I do.

The sad part is that it does not have to be if customers would take more care in the evaluation process and place more focus on the integrator who understands solutions and less on the software vendor who provides a tool.

First let’s define an expert. An “expert” is someone who does 12 things, 12 thousand times, not 12 thousand things 12 times.  A good integrator is just that, they are” good” and can be an asset to the customer looking to implement any ECM solution.  Many times a customer will focus on the software vendor to provide this expertise. Software vendors sell software. The problem with this is the software vendor is interested in selling their software or selling you additional software and possibly ignoring the fact you already have what you need or supplying you with the incorrect software for the solution you need.

I have witnessed this many times and to say it can create a messy situation is quite an understatement.  In one such case, the customer purchased well over a million dollars in software, but the software vendor and his reseller never understood the requirements of the implementation and certain costly components were left out of the solution. Worse yet, false expectations were set for the customer regarding professional services and implementation costs.

How does this happen? First and foremost, neither the software vendor or reseller had any actual experience with ECM nor the costs associated with implementation. Neither understood the solutions requirements and they purposely deflated the services costs fearing they would jeopardize the software sale. Using an “expert” integrator would have provided the necessary solution, protected the customers’ interests and a positive experience would have been the outcome for the customer.

Another unfortunate circumstance we all share is the state of our economy. Economic times like the one we find ourselves in have a way of bringing out all kinds of new so called “experts.”  In this environment the customer must make sure they are able to separate “the contenders from the pretenders”.

I am a firm believer you get what you pay for. It continually irritates me to see a customer pay for the same real estate multiple times because they hired someone unqualified to implement their solution.  Following a few simple steps can prevent this from happening.

  • Remember the definition of an expert
  • Check  multiple references
  • Ask for a list of customers with similar solutions and have honest and open conversations with these customers about their experiences
  • Beware of the integrator who tells you they can have someone on site in just a couple of days to begin work. Any integrator worth working with will be worth the wait.  An expert integrator will typically have a 30 – 90 day interval before project start date.
  • You get what you pay for

Bob Garrido
Senior Account Executive
ImageSource, Inc.

Utopia ECM

Utopia ECM (Enterprise Content Management) can be defined many different ways.  My definition is when the ECM system is so intertwined with the business process and business software applications that one really can’t exist without the others.  The users of the systems don’t even think about the fact that they are using ECM technology. Here are some examples:

  1. The sales rep submitting an expense report and scanning their receipts into an electronic workflow, doesn’t even think of the technology that they are using to start a business process.
  2. Traveling executives can retrieve, review and approve invoices and expenses from their laptop computer in a hotel room anywhere there is an internet connection.
  3. The employee on the order fulfillment line pulls up the supporting documents for the order details and instructions directly from their business application, but the source of documents were really from an integrated ECM system.

Remember how things like this used to happen without imaging, document management, workflow and system integration?
This concept of Utopia ECM became very apparent to me recently in an upgrade and migration project for an existing customer who is moving from an antiquated ECM application to ILINX.  It made me actually stop and wonder how they went from the simple concept of creating an electronic file cabinet, to a system that is virtually integrated into every department and many of their business processes throughout the company.  What I found out is that they took things one step at a time and have been sticklers about the following: 1) You get what you plan for, not what you pay for and 2) select vendor/supplier partners who have your best interests at heart.  The rest is just details.

Utopia ECM, isn’t that what we all want for our businesses?

John Smetana
VP, ILINX ECM Sales
ImageSource, Inc.

Invoke Change

Recently, I had an opportunity to visit a former colleague that I hadn’t seen in almost 15 years. This individual works for a company that happens to be one of the top 5 hospitality organizations in the US. I can remember, like it was yesterday, having just graduated from school and being granted the opportunity to work as an operations analyst for this company. At this capacity, I was responsible for reviewing a multitude of business units, tasked with seeking areas for operational efficiencies and cost containment (an assignment that is not too different from my role today). Recalling how convoluted some of their paper processes had been at the time of my employment is what prompted the recent consultation with my friend. Today, I work as a sales consultant for ImageSource (www.imagesourceinc.com), a major ECM solution integrator and software manufacturer. I felt that, with my current knowledge, I might be of use to them. After all, I have helped numerous organizations with similar problems.

I could not believe my eyes. I walked into the Shipping & Receiving Department to meet my friend, the Director of Procurement. To my surprise, they are still manually receiving goods from paper content, and then walking down the hall, down the stairs, and submitting this paper to the Finance Department. Upon receipt, the Finance Department manually enters the invoice data and cross references the content with the paper sent to them by Receiving. In darn near every major business unit I walked through, there were paper and files overflowing off of desks. I couldn’t stand it anymore and felt compelled to ask my old friend a question… ”Why are you doing it this way? With all of the technical innovations within the enterprise content management space available to you today, why not leverage one to streamline the processes here?” My buddy replied… ”I’ve been here for 30 years and that’s how we’ve always done it.”  Sadly, my dear friend was layed off just a few weeks ago.

This reminded me of an interesting story:

A very old traditional brewery decided to install a new canning line, so as to enable its beer products to be marketed through the supermarket sector. This represented a major change for the little company, and local dignitaries and past employees were invited to witness the first running of the new canning line, which was followed by a dinner banquet at the plant.

After the new line had been switched on successfully, and the formalities completed, the guests relaxed in small groups to chat and enjoy their dinner. In a quiet corner stood three men discussing trucks and transport and distribution, since one was the present distribution manager, and the other two were past holders of the post, having retired many years ago. The three men represented three generations of company distribution management, spanning over sixty years.

The present distribution manager confessed that his job was becoming more stressful because company policy required long deliveries to be made on Monday and Tuesday, short deliveries on Fridays, and all other deliveries mid-week.

“It’s so difficult to schedule things efficiently – heaven knows what we’ll do with these new cans and the tight demands of the supermarkets…”

The other two men nodded in agreement.

“It was the same in my day,” sympathized the present manager’s predecessor. “It always seemed strange to me that trucks returning early on Mondays and Tuesdays couldn’t be used for little local runs because the local deliveries had to be left until Friday…”

The third man nodded, and was thinking hard, struggling to recall the policy’s roots many years ago when he’d have been a junior in the dispatch department. After a pause, the third man smiled and then ventured a suggestion.

“I think I remember now,” he said. “It was the horses… During the Second World War fuel rationing was introduced. So, we mothballed the trucks and went back to using the horses. On Mondays, the horses were well-rested after the weekend – hence the long deliveries. By Friday, the horses were so tired that they could only handle the short local drops…”

Soon after the opening of the new canning line, the company changed its delivery policy.

There is a valuable lesson in this story for all of us.

I believe that it’s easy to fall into routine. Let’s challenge ourselves to question what we might do as individuals to better our companies. How can we invoke necessary change? Perhaps your company is trapped in a state of inefficiency (like many others), utilizing an archaic process. Given present economic conditions, it’s imperative that we remain competitive and relevant, or it could cost us our own jobs. 

The method that we may have used 30 years ago may not be the best one today. When was the last time you checked for movie times in the newspaper? Today, I use my IPhone. When was the last time you called your travel agent to book a flight? I just booked mine online this morning. Do you still keep Thomas Guide in your car? I use Google Maps.

Invoke change. Change keeps us relevant.

Ed Figueroa
Sr. ILINX Account Manager
ImageSource, Inc.
http://www.imagesourceinc.com

New Directions in ECM

I have been spending a good amount of time talking with ECM users recently.  I am noticing a shift in priorities among these ECM users.  In the past, conversations have been centered around core ECM solutions.  While it is important to select an ECM solution that is appropriate for your organization now, it is probably just as important to have the ability to scale that solution to meet future needs.

The ECM users that I am talking with are interested in integrating their current ECM solution with their line of business systems.  They are also interested in  expanding the abilities of ECM to the enterprise with such enhancements as remote capture, the ability to provide portal access and to rapidly an efficiently respond to requests for information whether in the form of an audit, request for information, or other action. 

Not all ECM solutions providers offer the ability to expand on your COTS solution.  ImageSource, Inc.  has taken the lead in this area.  Check our the ILINX solutions at www.imagesourceinc.com.  ImageSource offers solutions that allow for efficient web based capture, connection with other systems, and sharing of content througout the enterprise.  Check out the website.

  

The Importance of ECM Education

We all know that the economy is not as robust as it was two years ago.  That is a fact.  It seems that the immediate reaction when the economy slows is to cut back on “non essential” items.  The question is, what is essential and what is not.

The obvious answer is that items that directly produce revenue are essential and everything else is not.  Often the ECM strategy for an organization is to “limp along” with the status quo and not to spend money on upgrades, updates or even education.

The down economy will not last forever.  Would it not be wise to position ourselves to take the best advantage of new opportunities when they arrive?  One of the best ways to do this is to study the ECM environment and to learn about new trends, new solutions, and new methods.

When the economy rebounds, organizations who have prepared will be able to move quickly and move ahead of the competition by deploying new and innovative ECM strategies.

Educational events abound.  Many are very expensive and should be examined in terms of their potential value.  However, there are values in the arena that should be taken seriously.  These events offer “best of breed” presentations on a variety of ECM and management related topics.

A good example of such an event is the annual Nexus conference sponsored by ImageSource www.nexusecm.com  Nexus is a two day event that provides information on all aspects of ECM including Software, Hardware, Project Management, Records Management, Business Analysis, Planning, and Return on investment.  Attendees learn about Capture and Integration and to participate in general discussions about ECM.  Additionally Nexus provides an opportunity to network with ECM peers.

This post may seem to be directed at organizations that may or may not fund education for their employees.  But the same ideas apply to the individual.  If the company won’t fund you, think about investing in yourself.  Wouldn’t it be advantageous to be a few steps ahead when the job market expands?

Think ahead, do you want to be stuck with the status quo, or do you want to be poised to take advantage of a rebounding economy?

Kathleen Fish
Senior Account Executive
ImageSource, Inc.

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