There you are – sitting in your car – pulling away from the drive-thru window. You masterfully merge out onto the interstate, open the bag, and there’s a fish sandwich. Not a problem, except for the fact that you ordered a double cheeseburger. Or did you? An analogy stretch in the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solution world, or is it?
In the day and age when Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solutions are packaged and sold without understanding the underlying business issues and driving organizational need behind the purchase, what you see isn’t necessarily what you get. So, shop (and order) carefully.
How do I know if the vendor understands what I need?
If the vendor says to you, “this will work, it works for all of our customers – let me bag it up for you”, then run while you can. Worthwhile ECM solutions are not “one-size-fits-all” and, more often than not, an off-the-shelf solution may not be the fit you’re looking for.
Partner with vendors who are willing to invest time upfront in the discovery process to understand who, what, when, where, how and why you do things the way you do. This interactive process has a number of benefits. First, the vendor understands the processes most critical to your business and can leverage best practices and procedures harvested from other projects in your implementation. Additionally, you ensure your organization is taking advantage of the various functions and features the technology affords, while simultaneously increasing efficiency and materially lowering costs. Also, the implemented solution is configured to meet your needs rather than changing the way you do business to accommodate the solution. Finally, until the vendor knows the intricacies of your problems and processes, they can’t say, “sorry, our solution just isn’t a fit.” (Imagine hearing that!) In other words, you won’t have a lingering bad taste in your mouth after your needs assessment experience.
Is cost an issue?
Usually. But the old adage, you get what you pay for certainly applies in the ECM world. Make coupon clippers proud by validating the total cost of ownership includes, at a minimum, project management, software, hardware, implementation services (document capture, application training, go-live support, etc.), conversion services (if applicable), and support services (both during implementation and thereafter). Pricing will vary – even the playing field and make sure you’re comparing apples to apples, or in our case cheeseburgers to cheeseburgers.
Talk to existing customers.
Due diligence as a purchaser means minimizing your organization’s risk. This can be accomplished any number of ways and reference checking is critical. You might ask friends about favorite places to dine in the area or request a taste test before going all in on your selection (maybe not in the burger world but definitely in the ice cream world), so why not take the time to contact vendor references? It is imperative that you understand the scope of the work performed by the vendor for that specific project. So, ask questions and then ask more questions. This is as close as you’ll get to seeing if it will work for you before you implement a solution of your own. And if you really want to see the vendor at work, then visit their offices. See how they do what they do. In this case, seeing is believing!
Purchasing an ECM is an investment – one that is worth spending the necessary time upfront to ensure the right solution is selected. From discovery to reference checking, the time it takes to perform these tasks is necessary and critical to project success. If you want and need a cheeseburger, buy a cheeseburger. If you need a fish sandwich, buy a fish sandwich. Don’t get “on the road” and be surprised by what’s in the bag.