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Let’s face it: traditional enterprise content management (ECM) solutions have a somewhat tainted reputation as being too big or too complex to deliver practical business value. Why spend a year and a million dollars when what the business really needs to do is share documents easily among teams and automate document-intensive manual processes as well as collaborate internally and externally with partners, customers, vendors, and others. You want to get work done wherever workers need to work.
Cloud ECM can quickly and affordably improve the effectiveness and efficiency of information flow in your business, ensuring the right information reaches the right person when and where they need it but without compromising privacy and security of intellectual property. Because it requires no software or hardware—just an email and a browser—a cloud ECM solution can be up and running in days without the long, complex implementation needed for on-premise software. The increase in mobile, outsourced, and distributed workforces means that access to your information is required in more places—some of which are located outside your corporate firewall. Cloud can easily put content where it needs to be, without the costly programming and integration costs of on-premise software.
With content exploding and businesses needing to reduce overhead, cloud presents a clear, secure, trusted alternative to traditional software implementations. How do you know cloud document management and workflow solutions make a good choice for your business? Consider these five guidelines:
- Need for rapid deployment—no time for long purchase cycles and implementation
- Lack of a large up-front budget or the time to get one approved
- Need for rapid change and evolution over time but within an envelope of common functionality
- Deployed easily without specialized support
- Lack of dedicated IT support
To determine whether cloud offers the best solution for your business challenge, use the five tests we’ve outlined below. These will help you determine whether your organization can benefit from a cloud Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solution.
TEST 1: COST VS VALUE
Do you face budget restrictions? Do you want to limit upfront monetary risk?
Implementing a new software system in any company involves effort. It also takes money. And regardless of software vendors’ promises of low license fees, the cost of implementing a traditional document management system involves much more than just purchasing and installing software. As mentioned previously, the cost of a typical installed software package is roughly 15 percent of the five-year cost of owning and maintaining that application. Simply put, a rough estimate of your five-year cost may be six times the application software license costs. By comparison, the cloud model eliminates virtually all of these costs by replacing them with a subscription fee. This approach leads to three major advantages:
• No large up-front cost or cumbersome budget approval process
• No annual maintenance fees
• A direct link between the value the solution provides and how much you pay
Cloud solutions are developed to meet the majority of many industry-specific needs. Because these development efforts involve input and refinement from hundreds of customers, cloud solutions deliver comprehensive functionality out-of-the-box. With a cloud solution, you can be up-and-running literally in hours. If rapid deployment is your key project criterion, cloud offers undeniable benefits. The risk is diminished because you can generally see your application working immediately,
TEST 2: FUNCTIONALITY VS COMPLEXITY
Do you need a solution that integrates many different ECM components?
If your application needs components not often found in off-the-shelf ECM software—or you lack the resources to integrate these tools yourself—cloud is right for you. For example:
- The ability to receive and send faxes directly from the application
- Optical character recognition (OCR) to transform faxes and scanned materials into text-searchable documents
- Scanner integration to convert paper documents into electronic content
- E-forms for combining form-based data with other documents and for augmenting document processes with structured data
- Zone OCR to read specific fields on forms and to extract key information for indexing and organizing your content
- Ability to view less-common proprietary file formats such as CADs
- Advanced workflow for document-centric process automation
To include all of these components in on-premise software requires costly integration and enhancement. This introduces more complexities and time delays. Many ECM suites include pricey add-ons, but these require customization and maintenance. Configuring the various user interfaces to work in tandem is often challenging. If you won’t use these components frequently, justifying the expense is difficult. By integrating multiple technologies once and distributing the cost among all users, cloud delivers broader functionality than other options at a dramatically lower cost.
TEST 3: SECURITY
Do you need to a secure space to share documents and collaborate with internal and external parties?
To earn the trust of enterprise customers, a cloud ECM platform must be able to demonstrate the strictest security standards. For example, a SAS 70 Type II certified environment. A best practice provider will use SAS 70 Type II certification as a base, building on that with additional security and technologies. While on-premise solutions enjoy the benefits of in-house security, in some cases internal IT budgets and resources will be unable to compete with this level of security. Cloud platforms can also typically integrate with an organization’s identity management technology through things like SSO and directory synchronization. To get work done between internal and external teams located beyond your corporate firewall, your IT department will need to create an integration strategy and then customize the programs. Cloud ECM can provide the secure integration work space between internal and external parties without the need for custom programming.
TEST 4: RESOURCE NEEDS
Is it critical that your software application evolve quickly as your needs change and new technologies emerge?
As highlighted earlier, with deployed software packages you incur the cost of maintaining and updating the application. But once deployed, on-premise software must be updated periodically, or a new version must be installed—a time consuming process.
Although customizations generally enhance a software application, the more you customize it, the less agile it becomes. With each new upgrade or version of the software, these customizations will not easily migrate to the next version of the software. As a result, when the application package is upgraded, you will need to re-customize the application or not carry those customizations forward to include those features in the new version. Cloud eliminates this frustration in several ways:
• Upgrades are applied at the data center and available to all users immediately with no installation or delay. The administrator can often approve upgrades through configuration screens.
• Because there is no software to install at each client site, software upgrades may be made more frequently. New features are added almost quarterly.
• The user community accesses the same core application, meaning new ideas and feature refinement feedback from each user benefits the entire user community.
• As a customer, you become part of this cycle, making enhancement requests that, if accepted, will be seen in the product in much more rapid fashion than previously possible.
TEST 5: BUSINESS VS TECHNOLOGY
Do you want to manage the business process or manage technology?
Implementing a traditional ECM software application involves managing and providing leadership on a host of software and hardware issues. A cloud software solution, however, means that you manage the business function, not the technology. If you’re short of resources that have the experience in implementing and managing technologies and software applications, cloud offers a less time-consuming alternative. Cloud enables you to solve the business problem and to reap business benefits while leaving the technology challenges to others.
As you review cloud options, you’ll see that the model offers tremendous advantages to quickly and easily transform business critical functions, streamline manual processes, and deliver fast time to value at relatively low risk for the organization.
About the Author:
Daniel Dosen, Vice President, Product Management, SpringCM
Dan Dosen brings more than 20 years experience in enterprise content management, both as a customer and a technology provider, to SpringCM. Prior to joining SpringCM he was VP Sales Engineers and Channels at the iManage Business Unit of Autonomy Corporation plc. In this role he had responsibility for over 100 reseller and consulting partners, as well as Sales Engineering for risk and governance solutions. Prior to Autonomy, Dosen held key technology positions at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal and Premark International. He holds a BS in Computer Science from Northern Illinois University.