The Next Step In ECM’s Evolution May Come From Where It All Started

As the year ends, while we have many things wrong with the world, we can at least be sure that technology is heading in the right way – making businesses ever-more efficient, better coordinated and slicker.

However, there are still some parts of the average organisation that, despite having Document Management/Enterprise Content Management solutions in place for years – still haven’t joined them up to their core finance or ERP systems.

I’m genuinely shocked by that.

The evidence comes from the market research at AIIM, who have discovered that no less than 61% of organisations it polled are in that position.

What’s worse; it’s in finance that DM usually starts to be adopted by an organisation – which is the same place that ERP sits.

But somehow, CFOs and their teams aren’t making the mental connection – let alone the software and process connection that should be the next logical step – between the scanning of invoices that they now do and the advantages they’d get by locking all that into the accounts and core business processes the finance engine’s doing.

Why is this? What’s the basis for this psychic disconnect? Why don’t people see the information in those accounts systems as as much of an asset as what’s being processed in the bigger system?

Let’s raise the DM bar for our customers

I think it’s a matter of wood and trees.

CFOs and Purchase Managers have spent so much of the past few years battening down the hatches and hanging on for economic survival.

They have developed tunnel vision as a result: the onus is on saving cash and getting leaner. So, getting rid of paper suits that agenda, as it’s a way to speed up admin and save cost in things like physical storage.

But the bigger picture is getting lost here of what all that paper, now it’s electronic form, represents.

It’s an asset. Information is power and it needs to be exploited.

You’re not going to do that just by enabling digitization of an incoming invoice.

Managers need to take the next step.

Yes, payment is key, but it’s an enabler. A way to open up ERP and workflow around cash to a unified whole. It also needs to spread out and capture all the emails flying around the company – all the many touch points between your people, your teams, your customers and partners, from POs to contracts to project management to marketing outreach to new IP development.

It’s a way of working, in other words, and a way of looking at what you have in a new and better way.

A great basis to build on

I don’t do ‘New Year Resolutions’ on the whole, but I’m making an exception here.

I want Finance and the CFO to spend just a bit more time in 2016 thinking about this bigger picture.

I also want IT to help with the discussion around how easy it would be to join the organisation’s information flows up better.

A good place to start would be this great, genuinely thought-provoking presentation from the head of AIIM, John Mancini, which says all this a lot better than I have managed – and has some great data points along the way.

So, that’s my Christmas present to you: a challenge to raise the bar a bit when it comes to ECM in 2016, especially in what should be its natural heartland, the Finance department.

Have a fantastic Christmas break too, whatever you are planning!

Howard Frear is Director of Sales & Marketing at EASY SOFTWARE UK

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