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Transformational ECM II: Mining

February 4, 2011
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I’m in the middle of a series on organizational transformation that focuses on how enterprise content management (ECM) should be seen less in terms of technology, process, compliance, or risk management, and instead as a powerful force for transformational change at organizations.

In the last post, I took a close look at how ECM is transforming health payers, particularly in terms of their ability to respond to emerging health care reform legislation.

In this post, I want to get my hands dirty a bit to look at a vertical that’s been experiencing tremendous growth in the last 18 months and is poised for even more growth in 2011: mining. I’ve worked closely during this period with some global mining companies and had the opportunity to witness firsthand the potential ECM holds for transformation in the mining industry.

One big problem

The first thing to know about the mining industry is that the central challenge firms face isn’t finding raw materials to extract, solving the myriad of engineering challenges involved in extracting and processing raw materials, navigating the complex political, regulatory, and ethical issues surrounding the work they do, or even selling their products–it’s the market.

The global, incredibly complex operations of a large mining company are structured to do one thing: bring commodities to the market and get the best price possible for them. So mining companies are particularly susceptible to market fluctuations. Imagine trying to budget for the following year if you knew your operating costs and your production capacity, but couldn’t predict the price the market would be willing to pay for your product.

If the market sensitivity stopped here, mining wouldn’t be too much different from other industries. But one of the key factors in the price of commodities is the amount of them available for sale at any given point in time. And because mining companies are the ones who control how much of their commodities are on the market at any given time, by producing more of them, they can flood the market (and lower prices); by producing less, they can create scarcity (and raise prices).

What this means is that the more agile a mining company can run its operations, the less market sensitive it is–and the more successful it is. Operational agility is therefore a key competitive advantage for a mining company.

Broad ECM solution areas

Given that operational agility is job one for mining companies, ECM can be a powerful component of their corporate strategy. In general, the following are some areas where ECM can contribute signally to operational agility:

  • Document Management – by improving how documents are accessed across functions and geo locations
  • Collaboration – by enabling knowledge sharing, virtual teams, and workforce mobility
  • Storage Management – by reducing the volume of content stored on systems and applications to enable more agile IT delivery

Real world examples

This all sounds good on paper, but I’ve been fortunate to have worked with some global mining companies who’ve addressed these three ECM solution areas with real-world initiatives:

  • Establish a center of excellence (COE) to standardize the configuration of ECM solutions and speed the time to market for delivering them to end users
  • Adopt a corporate taxonomy and use it to standardize how content is stored in document management repositories
  • Move from shared drives to structured SharePoint 2010 sites, reducing storage volume and improving the ability to search for (and find) content
  • Create a service catalog of collaboration solutions tailored to the different types of end-users across the globe, from mining operations to traveling knowledge workers and back-office support staff
  • Link engineering and operational documents using consistent metadata to reduce the re-work, cost overruns, and production outages associated with the disconnect between day-to-day operations and new construction

As we saw in the last post for health payers, the organizations who’ve undertaken these real-world initiatives are by no means “done” with ECM or with fostering operational agility. Both of these are never-ending pursuits. But initiatives like these are critical steps to support their efforts to be as agile as possible in how they run their operations.

The final word

So that’s a quick overview of how I’ve seen ECM impact mining companies. In the next post, we’ll turn to the consumer packaged goods (CPG) vertical, which has historically been unconcerned with ECM; but with the rise in Enterprise 2.0 and social media, CPG companies have been increasingly concerned to manage the content being created about them and their products by consumers on the internet.

In the meantime, as always, I’d love  to hear what folks out there think about this post, the series, or just ECM in general–so jump in and get the conversation started!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jackie permalink
    March 2, 2012 9:59 am


    Enjoyed your article, was in actual fact quite excited to see something on ECM in the Mining Industry. I am currently working for a mining company, involved with ECM and BPM and have enrolled for a MRM (Mineral Resource Management) Certification through one of our universities. I have a passion for ECM and BPM, and my initial assignment (which I would like to take further) is basically on these two topics but in the Mining Industry. I have yet to come across information, research or resources that deal with this specifically in the Mining Industry. Would you be willing to perhaps direct me to some sources of information?

    Looking forward to hearing from you.


    • March 23, 2012 11:56 am


      Glad you found the post useful…unfortunately, I don’t know of other resources on ECM and mining–which is partially why I wrote the post!

      I can connect you with folks in mining who are responsible for ECM as a possible next step. Just shoot me an email, and we can work out the details.

      Thanks for the kind words!



  2. Anonymous permalink
    March 14, 2012 10:05 am

    hehehehe…this is so funny. you see this lady who commented above; she’s the reason i had to read through and understand this article. she was presenting about this ECM and BPM concepts here at wits for mining engineering students (i am one of them). now i have to write a report based on her presentation and obviously do a bit of research. This was a very good and clear article i must say. it helped me a lot. thank you

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