Successful enterprise content management (ECM) business cases align with organizational planning imperatives, demonstrate creativity and innovation in solution concepts, deliver value for money and offer a transitional delivery roadmap with phased benefits realization, an effective risk plan, with identified quick wins.

    The imperative for many chief information officers and champions of enterprise content management (ECM) projects is to develop a persuasive business case for the provision of the technology platform and services to implement, operate and support an effective and sustainable solution for managing unstructured and semi-structured content.

    The business landscape presents a myriad of complex factors that may need to be considered when an organization plans and prepares solution concepts and business strategies that form the foundation for the development of a business case for ECM.

    The types of factors to be examined include the regulatory environment, industry standards, business capability models and requirements for mobility. There are also considerations of deployment options (e.g., cloud, in-house), usability, user adoption, change management, risk management and a compelling financial strategy.

    Added to these are the challenges associated with information governance, the scope of requirements for managing social media content, long-term preservation of digital content, obligations for records management, the requirements for security and delivering business outcomes that represent value for money to the organization.

    Champions of ECM business cases are also faced with planning ECM solutions to manage a large assortment of documents and content, currently stored in a diversity of storage repositories. Usually, content has been stored in network file sharing systems, email inboxes/sent boxes, local desktops/laptops and removable media. However, changes in technologies have widened the scope of storage locations.

    For example, content may be stored and distributed using cloud file sharing tools, and there is also a diversity of mobile devices (tablet computers, phones, etc.) and USB drives where content might also be stored. Organizations are also facing the challenge of managing relevant content that is published to a growing diversity of social media sites.

    Mobility is now a key business driver in many organizations. The business case for ECM is complex because of the growing demand for mobile access to documents and content, thus, enabling field staff to collaborate and contribute and executives to review and approve content from a diversity of devices, including mobile phones, tablet computers and remote desktops.

    Cloud computing technologies and services also “cloud” the ECM business case. Cloud computing is marketed as a panacea for storage and management of documents and content. The actual service offerings for ECM are blurred because service providers may offer a range of capabilities, from simple storage to advanced capabilities for managing documents and content.

    The development of a business case that justifies an ECM solution based on tangible business benefits that represents a return on investment can be difficult when based primarily on notions of improving information management. These types of business cases focus on implementing effective controls over unstructured and semi-structured content, thus, supporting “best practice” for managing information.

    Quite often, ECM champions find it difficult to justify the significant investment required for the technology and services to justify an ECM solution where the focus is primarily improving information management. These types of business cases may not obtain executive support due to a lack of discernible tangible benefits, e.g., inability to identify increased revenues or reduced operating expenses; benefits are hard to qualify and quantify.

    It is not unusual for organizations to attempt to cost-justify “best practice” solutions based on statistical studies that publish data about the amount of time knowledge workers spend in searching for documents; industry examples are often cited to support the statistical data. The ECM champion needs to thoroughly examine the sampling methodology and related case studies to determine if the findings are applicable to support an organization’s business case for ECM.

    Furthermore, efficiencies achieved in searching for documents may be offset by the time spent by workers in describing metadata and tags when saving documents and content into an ECM repository. It is a significant change for users to add metadata and tags when saving documents into an ECM system, and users may view this requirement as an added burden. This may lead to overt or covert resistance to the ECM strategy.

    The developments in analytics and extraction techniques and tools, metadata inheritance via object structuring, driving metadata from operating environments, may help reduce the metadata/tagging burden. These may help to support communication strategies that emphasize usability of the proposed system, decrease investment in the change management effort and lessen the risk of non-adoption of the ECM solution.

    There are organizations that adopt a solution approach that is primarily technology focused, rather than oriented towards using the ECM to deliver compelling business solutions. The technology approach may be adopted when a document and content management platform is deployed as part of an enterprise technology strategy. 


    There is a risk that the technology solution approach is not aligned with organizational objectives, planning imperatives or improvement opportunities, or do not offer content-enabled business solutions that add real value to the business. 

    A technology-based approach to document and content management may simply replace network file shares with improved taxonomy, metadata and versioning services, with the consequential risk that the ECM system may become a “file server on steroids.”

    Organizations planning ECM solutions should strive to develop business cases that demonstrate value for money and solutions that offer an approach to managing content that helps change the way that organizations go about doing their business. Champions should strive to conceptualize and plan a combined business and technology approach to ECM that: (a) provides a fit for purpose and scalable foundational enterprise technology platform and (b) the progressive deployment of creative and innovative content-enabled business solutions that deliver real business value.

    Creative thinking and innovation are keys that are crucial to the development of a business case that differentiates an organization’s future state ECM strategies from the cow-path of many ill-conceived solutions that are often implemented, sometimes simply replacing existing content repositories with an expensive solution that offers minimal benefits.

    Content management must be integrated into business processes; the management of content should not be an extra burden for workers; instead, the ECM should be an enabling system that is useful and usable and supports (not hinders) workers’ day-to-day activities.

    Business cases should feature innovation in solution concepts and demonstrate how best to deliver content-enabled solutions that align with planning imperatives, support process improvement, meet regulatory compliance and deliver benefits progressively during the transition to the new system.

    The requirement is for the ECM champion to “think outside the square,” so that the ECM strategy identifies how content-enabled applications will support business planning initiatives and continual process improvement. The risk of inhibiting creativity is to follow a cow-path that may lead to non-strategic, less-than-optimal solutions.

    The development of an innovative business case, with a solid governance model, workable ECM strategy and transitional roadmap that includes a progressive deployment of content-enabled applications, may involve higher costs (i.e., professional services) and longer project duration than a conventional approach.

    The solution, however, may have a higher probability of success and higher likelihood that it will be flexible, scalable, extensible and sustainable to meet future demands. Benefits can also be realized at each stage completed in the transitional roadmap, including quick wins. Furthermore, an innovative solution that addresses user needs and usability, will provide for smoother adoption and facilitate change management.

    For additional information regarding the requirements for the development of an ECM business case that demonstrates creativity and innovation in business and technology strategies, contact Len Asprey at

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