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Overweight ECM

July 18, 2010
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I work day in and day out with clients on ECM, and over the years I’ve come to view ECM as a fairly straightfoward discipline. But despite that, I still find some things pretty puzzling about ECM. I think it’s particularly interesting that you have a business domain that is:

  1. Essential to what any organization does
  2. Almost universally broken
  3. Painful for everyone, from the CEO to a new hire administrative assistant
  4. Not difficult to solve conceptually, i.e., we all know what the problem is
  5. Very difficult to get funded, and
  6. Almost impossible to get anyone to view as a strategic capability

In this respect, ECM is a bit like obesity: the problem is universally felt and the solution is simple (diet and exercise), but the execution of that solution is incredibly difficult, so much so that most folks never succeed at accomplishing it. Your doctor can advocate for diet and exercise all she wants, and you can buy a gym membership or a home treadmill–but none of this guarantees a commitment to a healthy lifestyle or the results that come from it.

In the end, it’s exceedingly difficult to get any given organization to act on ECM, even if you succeed in getting them to buy an ECM strategy: more often than not, the project team doesn’t have the ability to motivate the organization to act on ECM, whether because they don’t have the political capital required to execute an enterprise strategy around ECM or because they can’t muster the organizational momentum to move ECM forward.

Given this, all you can do is to advocate for ECM at the enterprise level and be a spokesperson for best practices. If you succeed you succeed, but if you don’t, at least you can console yourself that most organizations fall down on ECM in one way or another, at one time or another–it may be end up being due to shortcomings in the project when all is said and done, but it’s as likely to have been exacerbated by the organization and its practices.

So dig in, tackle your content management problems and “make it happen”, best practices be damned! Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good enough–practicality is the end game, in ECM and beyond.

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