Measuring the ROI of Enterprise Content Management – in Real Business

— Submitted by Brian Lincoln, Senior Product Line Manager, DocuShare Business Unit

I recently had the privilege of sitting down with a group of industry analysts, DocuShare customers and DocuShare  integrators at AIIM in Philadelphia to discuss return on investment (ROI) of enterprise content management (ECM) systems.

ROI on ECM gets a pretty bad rap. A Forrester Research survey found 49% of companies couldn’t calculate the value of their ECM systems. Analyst firm CMS Watch recently called technology ROI “fiction,” and Gartner has written about the alternative “value of investment” (VOI).

The bottom line — today’s economy is forcing companies to calculate ROI to justify ECM purchases.  It’s really not as hard to do as some may think. Here are a few interesting points from the discussion:

  1. Automating processes is where you gain the real ROI, Dan Wheeler of Sitrof Technologies pointed out the real savings in ECM comes not just in replacing file systems, but in creating workflows in areas like contract management that save time and money by automating processes and improving cycle times
  2. Start with a proof-of-concept and establish measurement before you start, Patrick Maher of SRC Solutions uses tools like ROI calculators and analyst research to help his clients justify projects.
  3. ROI becomes clearer as your ECM application grows. Mike Britt of Tulane University said it can be challenging measuring a first ECM rollout (expenses may be in one budget, savings in another) but the ROI became clearer as they added new applications.
  4. ECM supports “priceless” benefits such as compliance. David Mitchell of Copernicus Group IRB, a pharmaceutical review board, mentioned that their ECM application enabled 21CFR-11 compliance, an essential to doing business.
  5. “Soft” benefits really add up. Hard-to-measure benefits such as making decisions faster, improving client relationships, and going paperless really make an impact that some government agencies are starting to measure.
  6. Think tactically and strategically. Benefits from ECM accelerate as more users leverage the system, enabling cross team collaboration and process improvements. This requires a strategic long term view balanced with more tactical ROI based purchase decisions.
  7. ECM can drive efficient use of your scan and print infrastructure. ECM can lower costs by reducing printing and faxing. When Copernicus put its content management system in place, it no longer had to print incoming documents to meet compliance regulations. ECM systems also help companies better leverage their existing infrastructure. The hardware becomes an “integral cog” as an on-ramp that funnels paper documents directly into efficient digital workflows.

Want to learn more? Click on the link to listen to the full podcast:

— Brian Lincoln, Senior Product Line Manager, DocuShare Business Unit

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  1. alan pelz-sharpe May 11, 2010 - Reply

    Thanks for the mention – but to just to clarify that my gripe is against ROI calculations. The past 20 years have shown me that ECM/DM can generate a good return on your investment, and also shown me that most ROI calculations are based on wishful thinking and poor math. Two different things.

    Alan Pelz-Sharpe
    Principal Analyst
    The Real Story Group

  2. Brian Licnoln May 11, 2010 - Reply

    Thanks for clarifying your position, Alan. I think the roundtable was in full agreement about the value of ECM/DM.

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