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2 years, 9 months ago
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Usually we place articles about our platform for development of business applications of CUBA, but today have decided to open one more subject on Habré connected with other our product? electronic document management system THESIS. We have noticed that selecting system of document flow, customers use different techniques of comparison, but all of them concern only functional characteristics of systems, and other not less important factors escape from their attention. What in general it is clear? on the Internet there is not a lot of objective and available information about that, on what it is worth paying attention at making decision on choice EDMS, what subtleties and nuances should be considered, what reefs to avoid, and the opinion of the developer is perceived as prejudiced.

We have decided to publish article of the journalist-analyst Stanislav Makarov and his opinion on problems at choice of EDMS or ESM-system. In our opinion, it is interesting information for all who selects system for the organization. In this material useful tips how selecting system are collected, not to lose sight of nonfunctional advantages which will influence long-term success of implementation of EDMS.

Disclaimer: in some moments our opinion can differ from opinion of the author.


Stanislav Makarov, journalist? the analyst, the expert in the field of ESM

? Today ESM-system? it is not simple to declare opportunity the innovation approach to business, it is urgent need, and absence it at the enterprise there is sign of insufficient maturity of business processes and weak culture of work with electronic documents.
Meanwhile, the choice of ECM became quite difficult business for customers: the market is very saturated, vendors in eager rivalry tell about the products, promising fast economic effect and other miracles. But it is insufficiently simple to buy and put some ESM-system to get competitive advantage; it is important that it was effectively used and it was actual to today of at least 5-7 more years. So, the error price at choice of such important component of enterprise information system is very great.

The ESM market has reached at the moment status of functional parity when products on technical characteristics of functional capabilities became similar at each other. Therefore often such factors as aggressive price policy, successful advertizing campaign or administrative resource become the last argument at choice of solution.

Actually all systems very different, but real distinctions between them lie in other plane? it is relevance of the used technologies, quality and convenience of the user interface, flexibility of platform, mobility, possibilities of development and some other factors. Has come it is time to change approaches to ECM choice? multipage questionnaires on functions and technical parameters of systems do not give definite answer, what system is better. It is necessary to change structure of criteria so that to consider realities of the mature market?.


How to select ECM in the conditions of the mature market


The market of electronic document management in Russia in 2014 celebrates the 20 anniversary. For these years the big way from the elementary recording systems and accounting of documents which copied traditional methods of work of offices, to the advanced solutions integrating functions of management of documents, business processes and collective work which we call ECM systems today has been passed.

For many organizations ECM is crucial application which failure can lead to full stop of activity therefore they approach choice of system especially carefully. Because their requirements are not limited to automation of traditional problems of document flow, responsibility for support of the most different business processes is conferred on ECM? managements of contracts, work of Boards of Directors and other joint bodies, quality managements, purchases, tenders, marketing campaigns, normative documentation, legal issues etc.
Perhaps, there is no such field of activity in business and in state administration where it would be possible to do absolutely without documents in electronic or in paper form? means, ECM solutions will be demanded everywhere.

EDMS and ECM

From the practical point of view, difference between terms EDMS and ECM is not present, any speculation on this subject is groundless. Simply historically the term EDMS is more usual to the Russian customers therefore domestic developers continue by it to use. Opposition of the western and Russian approach to document flow at the technological and functional level has also under itself no bases, distinctions are shown rather in scenarios of use of technology. In this article terms EDMS and ECM are considered as synonyms.

Therefore the problem of choice of ECM for the organizations has special relevance today? actually, it is necessary to select not simply one of applied systems which is if something happens easy for replacing; it is about choice of very significant component of IT infrastructure of the enterprise, here the price of error is very high.

Nonfunctional requirements in the center of attention


In the conditions of functional parity, characteristic for the mature market, detailed comparison of opportunities of products can be useless? the difference will be so small that it will not allow to make reasonable decision. Moreover: in case of carrying out official competition, especially at the conclusion of the state contract, the assessment of products on the basis of only functional distinctions can serve as the soil for the conflicts or even judicial claims from the lost participants because not to avoid subjectivity in putting down of points.

Other things being equal? that is, when functionally products are very similar, competitive advantages are implemented due to emotional impact on the consumer, the price policy, active marketing and other qualities which do not have a direct bearing on document flow? occasionally behind this? smoke screen? not to make out and the product.
It is worth paying more attention to nonfunctional requirements which can play role of differentiators, including:
  • Ease of use (usability);
  • Productivity and scalability;
  • Availability (reliability) of system;
  • Compliance to standards.

On each of these directions it is possible to make quite accurate criteria attached to infrastructure and features of work. For example, if to speak about scalability, it is better to remain within reality: at 100 users in the organization there is no need for that the system could support 100 thousand connections. Availability at the level? five nine? for document flow too there is no urgent need? after all EDMS it not payment system, where every second on the account.

Standards actually on ESM/SED in Russia are not present. Therefore it is reasonable to treat critically statements of suppliers about? compliance to the Russian standards of document flow?? any flexible platform can be configured so that to meet the functional requirements to work with documents.

Recommendations

  • Remain realists, do not impose the overestimated requirements to system. The stock coefficient on productivity, scalability and availability has to be reasonably? taking into account the maximum forecast for growth of dokumentopotok and number of the organization.
  • Convenience of use (usability)? not such subjective thing as it seems at first sight. In this area there are the standards and techniques allowing to carry out quite objective assessment. Address to specialists.
  • It is necessary to distinguish the standards shown to documents and procedures of their processing and standards to class ESM/SED IT systems. In some spheres really there are standards, for example, in quality management? ISO 9000 series. The supplier can propose ready solution which will allow you to pass quicker certification or audit on quality management, but it not quality assurance of the ECM system? consider it.

It is more? not always means better


In the mature markets, as a rule, the winner receives everything? the prevailing most of clients starts using its product. If it is some leaders, everyone receives the market share and these proportions remain steadily for an appreciable length of time. The mass consumer does not bother the profound analysis of technologies, and buys that others take.

Therefore one of the most popular marketing receptions on this phase of the market is the demonstration of large number of clients confirmed by authoritative digits of analysts. Of course, the broad client base testifies to reliability of product and to understanding the developer of requirements of target audience, but also and to well adjusted marketing (that not always correlates with quality of product).

It is necessary to realize that all these digits and achievements belong to the past, and you buy solution for the future. It is quite probable that the system is morally obsolete for a long time, and large number of clients is result of long presence in the market, lobbyings of system at the state level or other circumstances. Whether it is important for your organization? Hardly.

Professional investors have rule that at making decision on investment into this or that company, its last progress and the money which is earlier invested in it into consideration are not taken. Only future income is important? how many it is possible to earn tomorrow if to invest in this asset today. It is quite applicable and to ECM choice situation: buying system, actually, you invest in the future. When there was iPhone, in the market of mobile phones Nokia dominated. And where it now?

If in 2007 you received solution on development of the direction of mobile development, unless everything did not say what in many krat is more than users of Symbian, than users of iOS? However, the history has judged differently. By the way, the history adores repetitions: in the same way Android has bypassed on turn of iOS, and those from developers who else saves absolute loyalty of Apple, risk to drop out of mainstream of mobile revolution.

Let's return to ECM. Maturity of the market it at all not sign of its decline. Innovations proceed. Perhaps analysts will declare to us new reincarnation of ECM soon and the next cycle of development of technologies will begin. Stability in the IT market is deceptive, any leader is not able to afford to rest on laurels and the client base does not guarantee future prosperity of the supplier at all.

Recommendations

  • Exclude statistical data on sales volumes and shares of the market from your list of criteria.
  • As referens rely on rather new projects comparable on scale to your organization, do not pursue big names of customers? you not the press.
  • Remember that old merits are not guarantee of success of your future project. The converse is also incorrect: total absence of implementations or the only implementation is not innovation sign, select reasonable balance.

Planning horizon


The software is not subject to physical wear and theoretically could work eternally. However, there is wear moral which affects software inevitably and ruthlessly. Everything that was to the front lines a year ago, today it can be outdated. On the other hand, the organizations, unlike private users, are not able to afford frequent replacement of the software. Usually the term of operation of enterprise systems makes not less than 5 years. Add still time for preliminary study of the project and choice of solution, its implementation and trial operation? it from the 1st to 3 years.

Thus it turns out that the planning horizon you have to have not less than 7 years. That is, today you select system, to leave with which it will be possible only after this time. You represent, how many all new can occur! Certainly, it is impossible to consider and expect everything therefore it is necessary to make choice, to some extent, intuitively.

Recommendations

  • Study, on what phase of life cycle there are key technologies used in product. If they are close to the decline, you should not take such product.
  • Same it is applicable and to the ECM system? it is necessary to evaluate, on what phase of the life cycle it is. You have to have confidence that the selected solution will exist in the market within your horizon of planning.
    It is necessary to look not at the company, not at brand, and at product? what is the time he lives in the market in the current architecture. The version number is deceptive, sometimes versions one strongly differ from another in the internal device.
  • Look, how often there are versions of product. The system has to be updated regularly because environment constantly evolves and users are not ready to wait from release to release today to have new opportunities.
    It is possible to imitate the Google model: new functions are entered into product in process of their readiness. Updating has to happen most smoothly for users and for the companies that it did not turn into the separate IT project.

ECM in IT landscape of the organization


Selecting subjects of clothes or furniture, you think how it will be combined with other things and to correspond to your style. In the same way and with ECM: it has to become part of your IT landscape, fit into it.

New ECM in most cases comes not to blank space, and substitutes some legacy systems. Agree, hardly it makes sense to change old system for the new, just the same by the opportunities. Most likely, emergence in the organization of new ECM will lead to redistribution of zones of responsibility between several applications. For example, you had recording system and accounting of documents in office and separately? document management systems in personnel, in marketing and in contractual department. It will be logical if all of them are replaced by uniform ECM platform.

There are situations more difficult: let's allow, at you passes implementation of ECM and in parallel there is global project on automation of business processes on the basis of any BPMS. As everything modern ECM possess the built-in opportunities for business process management, you should select what to use for automation of processes of document flow? possibilities of the ECM or generalpurpose tools on the basis of the BPM engine.

Recommendations

  • To solve what of old systems will be taken out of service after implementation of new ECM;
  • To resolve issue with migration of data if it is required; (Not all old things should be taken with themselves in new life? it is not obligatory to transfer all historical data to new system at all, but only what are necessary for business.)
  • From where our ECM system will receive master data? If in the organization there is no single system of master data management, can be it is a high time to think of it.
  • If any functions of the systems taken out of service cannot be covered with new ECM, it is necessary to resolve two issues: a) whether so these functions are necessary; b) if yes, that with what systems it is possible to cover them.

Safety


Perhaps, safety it is given attention more, than to all other questions together taken including to functional capabilities of systems. Really, threats grow, information leakages happen. On the other hand, the industry of information security too develops and is capable to answer all calls of today.

Only it is necessary to protect not separately taken system (in our case of ECM), and entirely all information infrastructure of the organization. You should not load too applied system with tasks, not profile for it, it is better to solve problem of safety at the level of architecture of the enterprise.

It is also necessary to tell, what the main threats for ECM? the internal. Leaks most often happen because of the employees allowed to documents, is deliberate or on negligence. Therefore more attention needs to be paid to organizational measures, but not? to put the clamps? by access control complication.

Unfortunately, often practice approach when the document access is given to the employee only on runtime of task. For simple operations it still will descend but when from the performer the analysis and execution of some intellectual functions, for example, preparation of the draft agreement is required, it is necessary for it will address to last experience, not only the, but also colleagues. Whether it is reasonable to limit access in such situation, allowing to see only the current documents?

Generally, the main thesis to which it is worth adhering is as follows: the information security system should not disturb normal work of users at reasonable control of risks and threats.

Recommendations

  • Be careful of excess requirements for safety! It can unfairly increase the cost of the project and cut many interesting solutions.
  • Approach safety in a complex: the most protected ECM will be useless if confidential documents lie on the general disk.
  • The digital signature is necessary only where it is required under the law. All the rest? from crafty, it is not necessary to sign ETsP each service record.
  • In detail find out, what model of access control is implemented in system (discretionary, mandatory, role) and as it is configured. It can influence labor input of implementation of your requirements for access isolation.
  • If you continue to use paper documents, consider it in the requirements for safety: it does not make sense to do strict access isolation to electronic documents if paper copies freely pass from hand to hand.

Platform or shrink-wrapped software product?


Perhaps, time of box solutions has irrevocably left. Adaptivity of the adaptation of product to changeable conditions of the business environment? here the key requirement imposed to all enterprise systems.

? Box?, that is the finished closed product, even having ample opportunities of configuration, oriented to the maximum covering of certain data domain, all the same is the loser, because? the specialist is similar to gumboil, because completeness its one-sided?, as Kozma Prutkov spoke.

In business remains less the isolated areas where narrow specialists by means of specialized systems go about only the own business. Through business processes, work of design teams, output on the adjacent markets? it demands from employees of mastering of new functions and working methods. For example, the bank sells insurance products, retail business makes out the credits etc.

The ECM system has to support many business processes, providing services on work with documents to different specialists therefore the flexible platform will unambiguously be the winner.

It should be taken into account probability of merges or absorption also? at all advantages to business, to IT it is usually big stress. Because it is necessary to establish in a short space of time cooperation of different systems, and the single system of document flow has high priority here. The flexible ECM platform gives to IT service more chances to fulfill requirements of shareholders in such situation.

Recommendations

  • To find out limits of flexibility and possibility of setup of the product offered you. And it is better to get at the root at once? to understand the principles on which the product is constructed also its architecture, but not to spend time fine details.
  • To pay attention to other applications of platform, not only to document flow. It is quite possible that you will be able to solve more wide range of tasks one tool, and in total it will give economy.
  • Open source code? undoubted advantage. Let you will never be going to change something in source codes, but it gives the chance to understand more deeply as the system which you are going to implement is arranged.

Integration


Speaking about platforms, we have already touched upon subject of integration of ECM with other applications and systems. One of incentive factors we called need of support of various business processes when ECM is used together with other business applications? for example, helps to work with the financial? pervichka? directly in ERP.

Other factor? it is need of synchronization of master data (or the normative help information, NSI), including accounting entries of users, organizational and regular structure of the enterprise, directories of products, reference books of partners, address register and many other things. To work in coordination, all corporate applications have to use the same handbook data, and for this purpose systems have to be able to exchange these data.

It is impossible to forget and about interaction with the outside world. At implementation of ECM in public sector integration from SMEV and MEDO is necessary, in other tasks work with e-mail can be necessary, with participation in electronic auction? exchange of documents with trading floor etc.

Therefore availability of the developed abilities to integrate it is necessary to consider as the obligatory requirement to ECM, and it should be considered at choice.

Recommendations

  • Check availability of documentary API to the offered product. The closed systems have no chances of survival in the corporate environment today.
  • Learn about other ways of integration of ECM with external data sources? ready gateways, possibility of use of partner solutions etc. It is not obligatory to solve each integration problem manually by means of API at all.

Mobility


Sales of smartphones and tablets in 2013 have exceeded sales of the PC, and shortly mobile devices will exceed the PC and by quantity? realities of today are that. Corporate users also widely use mobile devices at work, reading from them mail, approving transactions, giving instructions and executing all other actions which demanded use of the desktop computer earlier.

Today mobile technologies? it not some special subsection IT, and it is also IT of the future. Therefore, projecting any business application, it is necessary to consider mobility factor? it concerns all aspects: architecture, usability, supports of various client devices, safety, possibilities of work in cloud, etc. So ECM without mobile client even should not be considered? work with documents is obliged to be mobile, and it has to be available not only to heads, but also all employees. Concept? only iPad and only for the head?? it is not modern any more.

The mobile world is multipolar, the monopolist on it is not present (at all respect for Apple firm which for us has opened this market). ECM offered you has to support all popular mobile platforms: iOS, Android, Windows. And development of stand-alone native programs for each platform hardly reasonable way? as from the point of view of economy as it is necessary to hold some design teams, and from the point of view of unification of the user experience (user experience). For mobile business applications more logical use of the MEAP platforms or HTML5 solutions allowing to project on a centralized basis business logic looks and automatically to adapt the user interface under specific form factor of the device and its operating system.

The concept of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is already accepted by many organizations which have understood, what it is much more than advantage to business from use by employees of own smartphones and tablets, than risks (often? quite hypothetical) as in the field of mobile safety there were quite mature solutions minimizing these risks.

Recommendations

  • Begin acquaintance to ECM system with the mobile client. If it satisfies you, it is possible to move further. Main criterion? it has to be convenient to work with system, everything has to be clear without reading documentation to what mobile users have already got used. Let it be partly subjective, however the first impression is very important.
  • Specify, support of different mobile platforms is how exactly implemented mobile cross-platformennost, that is. (What it is obligatory? even it is not discussed. On one iPad far you will not leave.)
  • Pay attention to support of different form factors? for the tablet and the smartphone different interfaces are necessary. Of course, hardly conveniently to read documents from the smartphone, but quickly to answer question, to redirect assignment, to read the notification on urgent task? all these things can quite be done and from the small screen.
  • Price policy for mobile versions? excellent indicator of understanding ECM developer of paradigm of mobility. Mobile ECM at all not goods of premium class, but the working tool which are necessary to each user.

Economy


Certainly, the customer wants to receive the best solution for smaller money. But direct comparison of offers of different suppliers can not give the final answer what of them is more favorable.

It is some reasons for that. First, suppliers try to make more favorable impression and to offer whenever possible lower price on start of the project? also you should not blame them for it. Secondly, there are things, from the supplier of ECM not dependent? for example, status of your infrastructure and the required volume of investment that the system has normally earned. Plus to everything is factor of unpredictability of behavior of complex systems therefore it is impossible to count in advance, what else costs should be incured.

Everyone who did repair in the apartment will agree with it? despite the most thorough training and detailed calculations, in life everything turns out in a different way.
The popular indicator of ROI (return on investment) is poorly applicable to systems of automation for workers of brainwork, and to ECM including. Acceleration of work with documents in itself does not give direct economic effect. Let's say your employees will begin to find the necessary documents quicker and will save on 1 hour a day? same does not mean, what you reduce their salary on 1/8? Influence of ECM on business has more mediated character, and not always these interrelations can be revealed and compared them quantitative indices. High-quality improvements as, for example, increase of convenience of work with documents, too positively influence business, though are not measured in millions of dollars.

Recommendations

  • To evaluate sentences of suppliers proceeding not from the purchase price, and from total cost of possession (TCO) of system for the term of its planned operation, that is on interval of 5-7 years.
  • To reveal all hidden expenses which are not included by the supplier in the offer. For normal work of ECM the additional equipment (servers, scanners, printers, equipment for work with barcodes), the additional personnel, training, upgrade of communication links, updating of system software, purchase of additional software, obtaining licenses and certificates can be demanded from the regulator, etc. Do not hesitate to ask? it is better to find out all nuances on start of the project.
  • Forget about calculations of ROI on the basis of saving of time. Or find more accurate criteria, for example, economy of FOT if you plan reduction of the personnel, or rely on high-quality improvements.
  • One more moment: implementation of ECM is not obliged to give you direct economy. It is logical to include expenses on automation of document flow in joint costs on business. ECM today? same need as e-mail and Internet access.

Not? sit down on needle? vendor


For life to provide with orders of the ECM developer does not include in your plans, isn't it? Your purpose? to provide competitiveness and development of the enterprise. While the selected ECM copes with all tasks assigned to it, you will support it and to update, get additional licenses. But as soon as it will become clear that your organization has outgrown possibilities of system, it should be changed.

There is also other situation: the system quite satisfies users, but the firm developer suddenly leaves from the market, because of adverse conditions or owing to unfriendly absorption. From it nobody is insured? neither large western vendors, nor domestic developers.

Therefore making the choice for this or that ECM, it is necessary to evaluate not only quality and availability of technical support, but also to be ready to accompany system independently or to replace it with another.

Recommendations

  • Avoid too exotic technologies; avoid the low technologies which are at the last stages of life cycle? deficit of specialists can appear critical factor;
  • Analyze financial position of the supplier, especially it concerns domestic developers.
  • Once again about the open code: perhaps, it is your lifebuoy if something happens to the supplier.


Other articles of the author on document flow can be read in the blog PRO EDMS.

This article is a translation of the original post at habrahabr.ru/post/237823/
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