Build vs. Buy

Over the course of my last 12 years in the Enterprise Content Management space, I have seen many progressions and changes.  When the industry was in its infancy stages, we relied on specialized PCI cards to drive the scanners at rated speeds, high resolution graphics cards to display clear images on a monitor, and every system installation needed holy water sprinkled on it to ensure that there weren’t any compatibility issues or conflicts with the operating system.  There were hundreds of software vendors that claimed to be the premier document imaging / document management / scanning / (whatever new term that AIIM came out with) system.  Systems were sold, installed, and many failed.  We have seen progressions where the hundreds of vendors have consolidated to a few leaders that are recognized as true ECM platforms.  We have seen Microsoft enter the market with SharePoint which has driven the need for a new wave of products and services to bridge the gaps in its functionality.  Along with these progressions and changes with the vendors, we have also seen how internal IT departments look at ECM.

In the beginning, there was many components, many moving parts, and technology that the IT staff wasn’t readily familiar with.  As the first and second generation systems were installed, the product sets matured where the IT staff technology professionals could be trained in a platform that was sustainable.  As this progressed software vendors could switch their focus from making the systems work in a rudimentary sense, and switch the focus to the development of features and functionality that led credence to aspects such as compliance, accountability, governance, and security.  The successful Tier 1 vendors (see Gartner report for leaders) now have scalable products that address all aspects of ECM – document imaging / document management / web content management / forms management / records management / workflow – Business Process Management.  With this, training is now readily available to equip any IT staff with the tools and resources to maintain and build upon systems where compliance, accountability, governance, and security are all part of the core.  Knowledge and education are now key determinants for success.

With this knowledge and education comes empowerment to the IT staff.  In the industry today, I am seeing an increasing number of corporate IT staffs choosing to forego their existing systems and internally build components that allow them to store, retrieve, maintain, and manage scanned images and data.   I understand that there are many talented programmers and systems architects in the workplace that are capable of building database management functionality and that can build user interfaces that allow for searching file structures.  What I don’t totally understand is the value to organizations when a top resource is consumed in developing a product / system and maintaining and supporting the product / system.  It has taken Oracle Stellent, IBM FileNET, EMC Documentum, OpenText (to name a few) each over 15 years to come up with a product offering that is stable and that meets 85% of most organization needs without customization.  Why reinvent the wheel when there are cost effective, proven solutions that can automate business processes that will show efficiencies and pay for themselves over time?  There are many technology focused companies that have invested multi-millions of dollars, and many years  in developing methodology and products.   I don’t know how an organization that is focused on their specific expertise – retail, manufacturing, healthcare, banking, can morph into a software development / systems delivery organization.

Build vs. Buy – no correct answer, but definitely worth discussing.

Feedback welcome.

Jeff Blissett
Senior Account Executive
ImageSource, Inc.
www.imagesourceinc.com

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Benefits of Enterprise Content Management In A Slow Economy

ECM is a maturing technology.  In the early days, solutions were built to meet the needs of a single department .  Index fields were often pre-defined, allowing very little flexibility for expanding the solution throughout the enterprise. While the only option in those early days was to purchase separate, departmental systems, the result was siloed solutions, redundant costs, and a compliance and records management nightmare.

The industry has matured.  Solutions now use open standards and are designed to be flexible in terms of application design, workflow processes and integration with Line of Business Systems.  Major ECM software platforms such as Oracle, IBM, EMC, and  are designed to be deployed to the enterprise..  The top ECM vendors are experienced at analyzing business processes and designing their solutions to meet the needs of each department within the enterprise, while at the same time providing the ability for each department to search across the enterprise for needed information.   The ability to design and deploy such solutions provides better records management, compliance and business intelligence.

In a slow economy, major cost savings can be realized if organizations will deploy ECM technology in a well planned, strategic manner.  Premier vendors of ECM technology offer education in the form of webinars, white papers, case studies, and ECM conferences. These educational offerings can expand the confidence and knowledge of organizations evaluating ECM solutions.  Any cost incurred by attendance of these educational events and programs will pay for themselves many times over in costs saved by avoiding  labor and redundancy.

It seems that now is the time for organizations to really examine their ECM strategies with the goal in mind of leveraging ECM technology to help the survive and thrive in this economy.

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