I had a professor at the university who said “The computer scientist’s job is to take simple things, put complicated names on them and sell them more expensive”. I will try to explain what ECM Software is for everyone (and without raising its price …)
The ECM Software is a computer tool to help in the daily work. it really is like the Word, Excel or PowerPoint we all know, but instead of being used to write documents, create spreadsheets or make presentations, ECM software is used to organize and accelerate the repetitive tasks of a team of people, and even more, to make those tasks always done in the same way.
As it is not very commercial to put in the box “software-to-organize-and-accelerate-repetitive-tasks-of-a-team-and-help-to-do-them-always-in-the-same-way”, we the software factories had to put a short name to the product, and believe me when I tell you that it has not been easy. I will talk you about that later.
Not forgetting about the real meaning (software-to-organize-and-accelerate …) let’s go back to the initials. ECM is the acronym for: Enterprise Content Management this term is defined in Wikipedia as “the collaborative process of digital administration and application of a company’s information to support its business processes and objectives, ensuring that information be easy to access and as useful as possible at any point in the content lifecycle.”, which, I am 100% agreeing with you, does not help unless you are an expert in hieroglyphics.
I want to share with you the ten most important things that an ECM Software can do for your team one by one, but remember, the raw material is a task that is done among several people and we want to organize, accelerate and always do in the same way:
1. Create, list and categorize the different tasks you want to control.
And have a folder or section in the program where you go to find them. For example the management of commercial offers in a button, the vacations requests of employees in another button or the signing of contracts in another button (these three are just an example, there are infinite).
2. Save together the files related to a task and share them with internal or external people.
Beyond the typical folder system, (which all have) you can link files to a specific task, create a web portal in which your customers or suppliers can upload and download files safely. You can also create download links in the style of other popular tools such as WeTransfer, YouSendIT, HighTail … but keeping control of the links created (useful for the new GDPR).
3. Create a record with the most important information fields for each type of task.
You say which those fields are (customer info, department, employee name, presentation date… ). That record can be edited, changed or deleted as needed as you do for example with a mobile contact. You can also add or remove fields as needed. The system saves a database of those records. The technical name of those fields is “Metadata“.
4. Search Google style by any of the fields in the previous record.
Or even the contents of the tasks records so you can locate a task quickly as you would look for a web page in Google.
5. Allow the people responsible for the same task to have a better form of collaboration than email.
This is VERY similar to a social network. Basically just like you comment on Facebook or Twitter about a publication, ECM software will let you create comments and alerts about a task so that other users can read them on their mobile phones or when accessing the ECM Software after being warned by email or with the typical red circle notification that says “John has left you a message on task XXX.”
6. Define the steps of a task with all its variants using a simple graphics scheme.
This has the technical name of Workflow Management, Process Management or Workflow.
I usually use this simple idea: If a friend asks you in a bar how you work and you have a napkin and a pen handy, you make a simple outline of the steps of the work in your team, you explain who does what, and what happens as you advance through the process and its possible options.
Well, ECM Software lets you create that drawing and what is more important, it ensures that the steps drawn are followed! That is, when you sit in front of the ECM Software to lets say creating offers (proposals), if the first step is “Offer in creation“, you create the offer in Word. When you have finished you click a button and the ECM Software changes the status of that task and sets it to “Offer ready to review“. It is much easier to see it than to tell it.
7. Notify each person when it is his turn in the task.
Continuing with the previous example, when you have finished creating the offer document, you change your status (you advance through the process) and the ECM software will send an email to your partner in charge of reviewing it, and if your partner gives the OK, the ECM Software will send an email to the client with the attached offer like this: “Attached you can find your requested offer, do not respond to this email, blah blah”.
8. Normalize task documentation & emails using templates.
So you do not have to copy and paste the file that you used last time and make changes on it. It is much better to upload a Word template to the ECM software and write some labels that will be automatically filled in by the program with the values of the task fields (the metadata).
In the same way you can create email templates used in the previous advantage (number 7) since those emails can reach customers and save a lot of time when they are careful designed and have professional content, structure and corporate appearance.
9. Schedule and automate (without being a programmer) the repetitive actions of the task that a computer can do for you.
Examples: Converting the proposal document to PDF format and digitally sign it before sending it, check the versions of each document, notify the salesperson to update the status of the proposal (calling the customer to ask about the proposal) when it is more than 7 days in the “Sent to customer” status, move the offer to “Rejected” if it is 30 days in the “Sent to customer” status, send to admin people the information of all accepted proposals on the 1st of each month, send to the client an email saying “we have received your payment” at the right time …
10. Check that only the people in charge of each task step can see all the above and execute the pertinent actions.
That is, avoiding that some unauthorized person from another department can change the status of an offer or download information that he should not be able to. This is called managing users, groups and permissions. It is a somewhat tedious task but you only need to do it once and it allows you to sleep much more calmly.
In addition, the ECM Software will keep a record of each access, upload, download, message or change of status that users make, allowing you to audit and trace the actions that have been taken in the event of an incident or need.
I will write another post telling the main advantages that ECM Software brings to your busness, but today I just want you to remember one:
The tasks that you always do in the same way can be measured. What is measured can also be improved.
This is for me the most important value that ECM Software contributes to an organization: the process NORMALIZATION.
Oh, I forgot, I promised to tell you about the history of the Software ECM term … here is a list of all the possible ways by which this type of tool has been called until it is what it is today:
- Document Management Software
- Document Management Software with Workflow and Metadata
- Software to Share Files with Customers
- Cloud based Document Management Software
- Workflow Control Software
- Workflow Software
- “The Intranet” (I promise that I keep hearing it every day …)
- Cloud based Secure storage software.
Much like what happened with the acronym ERP, in the end all those terms has fallen in the ECM Software bag, a tool that I would recommend to any intermediate manager, CEO or entrepreneur who needs to organize a team .
Another interesting question is: What is the best ECM Software? It’s wrong for me to give my opinion because I’m an involved party, but this is a good place to get to know the market.
If you want to know more about the ECM Software, contact our team or better yet, try our ECM Software: R2 Docuo for free for 30 days to experience for yourself how this tool can help your team.
See you in the cloud!