In an information-rich economy, today's businesses are overwhelmed with the amount of content they have to deal with every day. Unstructured content - such as documents, photos, images or forms and e-mails - now representing up to 80 percent of enterprise information can hamper efficiency and productivity of an organisation.
Research house Gartner forecasted that enterprise data would grow at a compound annual rate of 913 percent between now and 2014, with 80 percent of that data comprising unstructured data.
With the increased levels in 'content chaos', more organisations are seeing the value in enterprise content management (ECM) systems, as they find themselves losing substantial time, money and resources to ineffective document and workflow management.
In the absence of ECM systems, managing the flow of content across multiple tasks and processes can be highly complex and frustratingly time-consuming. Time spent retrieving paper documents, manually gathering information and routing content between departments and locations equates to wasted resources which would be better directed to more critical tasks. The loss in productivity resulting from lengthy manual processes can result in major cost implications for an organisation.
On top of that, the essential area of information accuracy is frequently compromised and difficult to control, with human error and mis-routed documents leading to duplication and potential security breaches which negatively impact costs and efficiencies.
Choosing the right ECM system
Nevertheless, not all ECM systems provide the same benefits, and many organisations find that the predicted advantages of their ECM solutions fall far short of the mark. An ineffective, overly complex or non-integrative ECM system may result in a higher total cost of ownership (TCO) and lower return on investment (ROI).
This brings about the question of what are the important features in an ECM system and how an organisation can ensure that their choice of ECM solutions result in the best returns.
Ideally, content management solutions should provide a minimal number of clicks to access all documents and content from any existing business application. Most importantly, content needs to be delivered in a format that is relevant, instantly accessible and useable within the specific context of an organisation's business environment.
Ensuring visible ROI
The value of implementing an ECM can only be fully realised when the chosen solution integrates seamlessly with any of the business applications without the need for programming. Functionality and ease-of-use should be highly prioritised when selecting a particular solution to ensure minimal service requirements and flexible configuration options.
Leading solution providers have the ability to create streamlined automate workflow - from the capture of all types of documents (from anywhere, directly from the source) and fast collaboration, to high-level data protection and instant information access. Adoption of this capability provides an effective ROI which can be attained throughout the ECM program.
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