Records Management

Legacy ECM Takes a Toll on the Entire Enterprise
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Records Management

Legacy ECM Takes a Toll on the Entire Enterprise

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What if your search engine required you to type a website address, subdirectory and folder name each time you wanted to find something online? Or if your e-retailer made you enter individual order numbers to find out if you bought batteries in the last six months?

What if your search engine required you to type a website address, subdirectory and folder name each time you wanted to find something online? Or if your e-retailer made you enter individual order numbers to find out if you bought batteries in the last six months?

That sounds absurd but it’s not far removed from the way many legacy enterprise content management (ECM) systems work. ECM, which is rooted in the document management systems of the 1980s and 90s, was meant to reduce paper use by turning documents into electronic files and images.

The technology was fine for those limited conditions, but the business world has changed in ways that older ECM systems were never designed to accommodate. Organizations typically have used legacy ECM to scan and digitize printed documents and then manually assign metadata according to a set classification taxonomy such as customer number, policy number, account number and the like.

The purpose of those systems was to make it easier for people to find information if they knew what they were looking for, usually within the context of a transaction. Their content domain was typically limited to documents and records, not individual data elements, which were managed by a separate, usually disconnected, database management system. Optical character recognition capabilities in legacy ECM were crude or nonexistent and they couldn’t find content that wasn’t explicitly tagged for retrieval.

Legacy ECM was also installed in a data center or office in a process that often took months and came with stiff licensing and maintenance fees. Their vertically integrated, monolithic structure made them inflexible and complex, required special skills to maintain and they had limited flexibility to integrate with third-party platforms for such uses as collaboration, customer relationship management and workflow automation.

‘Good Enough’ No Longer Good Enough

Many organizations have held on to these aging systems because they satisfy a basic set of needs and because the owners have so much invested in them. But investment considerations also need to consider the opportunity cost of their functional limitations and lack of integration with the business.

ECM today isn’t just the domain of just a few internal custodians. Take self-service, an overwhelmingly popular feature that saves customers time and businesses money compared to the cost of operating call centers. Customers value having the ability to access and update profiles, purchase histories and account information without needing to know transaction IDs or order numbers. However, few legacy ECM systems can accommodate such requirements.

Inside the organization, employees want the flexibility to find whatever information is relevant to their needs, whether that be in documents, records, email messages or even audio and video recordings. They are accustomed to the search engine experience and the power of information discovery: Type in a search query, find information you didn’t expect to see and follow the results wherever they may take you. Legacy ECM can’t do that. 

Modern ECM platforms are built according to cloud-native principles. That means they scale almost limitlessly, integrate seamlessly with both internal and customer-facing applications and manage both content and data in the same way. Updates and enhancements are transparent to the user and involve no downtime. They can also be connected to other specialized platforms for such functions as recognizing images, integrating geolocation data, assessing sentiment in conversations and serving content into existing workflows.

Delivered as a platform rather than as a product, modern ECM systems require minimal startup time and are priced based on usage. Service providers shoulder the maintenance burden and equipment doesn't take up space in the office or data center. 

Sometimes it's less expensive to scrap the old and go with something new. There has never been a better time to take a second look at your old ECM system.

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