The only constant, the saying goes, is change. In your constant efforts to improve and grow your business, you will need to change business processes, continually upgrade your products, automate with technology, and keep your employees and customers happy. Change management is a key consideration in the acceptance of an enterprise content management implementation, because implementing an enterprise content management system involves a change in business processes.
The good news is that there are sound practices for managing change during any enterprise technology implementation, and if followed, these practices can take the sting out of any implementation. When considering an enterprise content management implementation, another piece of good news is that implementing a solution does not have to be as complex as it once was. The emergence of “lighter” ECM solutions – far easier to implement and far easier to integrate than earlier solutions – has made a tremendous difference in the success rate of ECM implementations.
Most enterprise technology implementations go awry because they are done in isolation without buy-in from end users, and they try to do too much too soon. The end result is alienation of the very end-users who could benefit most from the technology, creating a change management nightmare that is difficult to unravel. With careful planning, by starting small and building upon success, and by choosing an enterprise content management system that is easy to use and intuitive for users, an enterprise content management implementation can actually be accomplished with a minimum of disruption.
Here are five tips for how to minimize or eliminate business disruptions when implementing an enterprise content management system:
- Plan your implementation: A properly planned system minimizes the risk of disruption. When putting your plan in place, take a step back and make sure the planning process includes all the people along the chain. This helps you map out your workflows and processes correctly and make good choices on everything from the launch date to technical requirements.
- Communicate common goals and expectations: When you have all your stakeholders on the same page, it makes for a smooth implementation. Make sure everyone is prepared for some level of disruption so you’re able to stay focused on the outcome.
- Take one step at a time: Instead of trying to roll out your entire ECM solution at once, start with one process in a specific business area. Focus on perfecting that process, and keep implementing functionality one piece at time. Start to a pilot project and scale from there.
- Test early and often: There are many ways to test an ECM solution before you roll it out, and even before you purchase the software. Testing is often glossed over, but it’s a great way to avoid unpleasant surprises during the implementation that could cause business disruptions.
- Proactive training: Having to learn new systems and change behavior often creates disruptions and frustration when employees try to use new ECM tools for the first time. Planning and testing are essential as you approach your go-live date, but you also have planning and setup. To avoid this, develop a plan for user adoption and provide good training in advance.
It’s impossible for a company to avoid all disruptions during an enterprise content management implementation, because any change is disruptive. If you’re asking an employee to scan a document rather than stapling papers together and filing them, that’s a change and thus a disruption. What matters is that the benefit of this change far outweighs the short-term cost of the disruption.
Once you roll out your initial enterprise content management implementation, that’s when the fun starts. ECM projects frequently assume new directions as more of the organization begins to use the new system. Good projects can catch on like wildfire, and it is not unusual for process owners who were not part of the initial pilot implementation to quickly see the benefits, and seek to extend ECM functionality into their processes.
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Editor's note: This post was originally published in January 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.