The 2009 drywall crisis – hazardous gypsum boards made in China and placed in American homes – raised eyebrows among homeowners, builders, insurance companies, state departments and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Hundreds of complaints were filed about corrosive gases, which caused structural damage to homes and acute and chronic health issues. It was necessary to remove drywall and replace fittings. How can more than half of a billion pounds worth of hazardous, defective materials be imported, delivered and installed without any detection? Why didn’t these problems get caught earlier? Why wasn’t anyone looking?
While the legal system can provide answers, I think the root of the problem is our need for everything to be fast and cheap. Time is money. Planning, production, oversight and quality control are all difficult tasks when there is limited funds. A well-defined plan, an agreement on quality and a fair price, as well as patience, might have resulted in better suppliers, more thorough inspections and proper reporting that revealed potential problems before the goods even passed through the port.
We all want the best price. But what we really need to do is pay fair prices for the right products and services. Anything less is a recipe for disaster. It applies to material goods, products that insure, and enterprise content management (ECM).
Get the ECM solution that your business requires
While many insurers have succeeded in implementing ECM to centrally access their business content and manage it, almost as many have failed to do so or have been disappointed. Why? Sometimes, it’s due to poor planning or a blurred vision. Sometimes vendors are selected without thorough scrutiny or reference checks. As often as not, the vendor or the insurer cut corners at the wrong time and in the wrong places, which can have disastrous consequences.
You need to be aware of five key points so you don’t get sucked in by the lure of Quick and Easy.
1. Learn about your needs
A thorough needs assessment is the best thing you can do to help your project. This should include all people affected by the project. This includes asking your employees in each department questions to get a better understanding of how the business works every day and what its challenges are. To achieve this, candor is essential and you will need to hear the perspectives of everyone. Create an environment that encourages openness, constructive analysis and collaboration if you don’t have it. This will help you make improvements to your ECM implementation. Your digital storage and management of content should not reflect your current practices. You need to optimize and improve before you implement ECM.
Your business is a maze of interconnected processes. They are linked to customer documents and governed and managed by policies and regulations. You may find yourself in a mess if you don’t know who is responsible for each document, under what circumstances, how it’s used, when it’s necessary, and whether any of the content can be reused elsewhere to benefit your company. You won’t be able to communicate what you want if you don’t understand it. It is possible to end up with an inefficient solution if you do not communicate important information. Vendors need to have a detailed and precise picture in order to deliver what you ordered. Don’t just think about what you want, but what your company and workers actually need.
2. Learn what you are getting
Consider the pros and cons of the ECM products you are considering. It is it:
You can access and work securely with your files from anywhere, using a browser-based system.
Flexible and adaptable enough to meet changing requirements as your business grows
It is possible to configure security features such as who can view, approve, sign or delete documents and what pages are available for different users.
It is fully covered in standard Web services, so you can integrate all its functionality with legacy and line of business systems.
Completion of detailed reporting and audit trails to ensure compliance.
With drop-down menus and online help, it is easy for end users to use and understand.
3. Carefully read the Statement of work/contract
Clearly state your expectations in the vendor’s Statement of Work. Don’t allow any details to be assumed or implied. All parties benefit from written documentation. Be sure to include:
You, the client, need to have certain things in place before your vendor can start a project. This will ensure that your vendor doesn’t waste your time or increase your costs. Consider the equipment, upgrades, and staff requirements that might be required.;
The vendor’s deliverables (including milestones/ benchmarks and dates for collaborative review, if the project has been complex)
If either party fails to meet their objectives, timelines, expectations, or other requirements, they can always resort to the other.
Include members of your team that will be involved in the implementation of the project to ensure they review the contract expectations, timelines, and other details. Before signing, everyone should review the terms. There should not be any surprises if everything is clearly stated and all parties have agreed to the terms.
4. Find out where you can compromise
Unexpected obstacles can occur even though your plan is well-written and detailed. This could include a drop in company revenues that may affect the project implementation, or the loss to critical staff members.
Prioritize your project goals to ensure you stay focused in the face of an unexpected setback, merger or other challenge. In the face of major organizational changes, such as unanticipated mergers or large turnovers, it is possible to make rash decisions. Therefore, it is wise to have backup plans. To ensure your project remains on schedule, on-task and on budget, it is important to keep multiple people updated on project details. You should remember that delays can cause a project’s relevance to deteriorate. To ensure the best fit, it is important to stick to your schedule. Avoid problems before they happen. You can plan ahead.
5. Be clear about what you cannot compromise
There are several things you cannot compromise on if you want your solution to succeed and be fully embraced.
Give yourself enough time to complete process and document analysis.
Regular meetings are necessary to plan segments of the project and review progress. Milestones can be reviewed and discussed at regular meetings.
Ensure that you communicate with your vendor regularly and in depth during and after implementation to ensure that any issues are resolved promptly. This will help you get the results and satisfaction that your implementation promises.
End-user training should be provided so that staff are confident and can succeed.
ECM has many benefits that aren’t possible in paper-based offices. It includes multiple levels document security that are enforced and rules-based control which reduces data inaccuracy through enforcing consistency. You should never compromise the information you purchase, or how it is implemented.
Say hello to success
Don’t allow your project to become like dangerous drywall everyone wants to throw away but cannot. You need to know what you want, understand what you are getting, have backup plans, allow your staff time to evaluate the project step by step; and only make compromises that will not negatively impact your project.
Do not look for a low-cost solution. Instead, look for the best solution. Look for a vendor that will work with your budget to determine a price range or offer subscription pricing. This will allow you to move ahead without having to make a large one-time investment. Your ECM implementation can be a key component in the management of all your documents, content, business processes, and other information. Once you get used to it, you will wonder how you lived without it.