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OverviewRegulatory compliance should be a significant concern to most organizations. Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Document Management (DM) systems have been around for years, and their development was aimed to help organizations manage documents through their entire lifecycle—creation, revision, distribution, storage, and retrieval. These tools have a heaver weight on their shoulders these days, however, as customers leverage the technology to meet the increasing demands of regulatory compliance. The key is to adopt a system that will ensure information is tightly managed and secure, while providing increased flexibility in terms of how people can access, share, and utilize that information.
Companies often find that their existing systems are inadequate to address the stringent regulations they must adhere to. In addition, few have a strategy to deal with the complexities of compliance when it comes to electronic documents. In other instances, organizations focus only on paper and overlook the need to integrate multimedia documents.
Traditionally, Records Management has focused solely on physical documents—paper, microfilm, or tape. As business migrates to a digital platform, regulatory mandates present more acute challenges. High volumes of records, coupled with diverse formats from mixed sources, make implementing ECM strategies a daunting and uncertain undertaking.
The rising risk of litigation or penalty provides reason for organizations to overcome the challenges of ECM. And, especially when you consider the tragic natural disasters in recent months, increased protection of and access to vital documents and information becomes imperative for business continuity and recovery.
The Promise of ECMBeyond the issues of regulatory compliance, the right set of ECM technology allows organizations to automate and manage a wide range of content-centric business processes and activities. This can result in considerable cost savings and efficiencies. "Properly implemented, ECM and DM technology can form the backbone of ongoing cost saving and productivity initiatives," says Azar. "If you choose a flexible and extensible system, it should be able to grow with you and provide a variety of benefits across all business processes."
Leveraging the information within your enterprise, sharing it more dynamically, and bringing it to bear on strategic development are all aspects of ECM technology that can streamline your operational success. If your company faces the challenges of regulatory compliance, however, this may be all the reason you need to explore how ECM tools can make a difference.
Planning for ComplianceThe good news is that a variety of ECM systems and services are readily available. The technology and market has matured and pricing has dropped. Now may be the best opportunity to leverage those developments, especially for organizations that previously could not afford the enterprise-sized price tag of early solutions. "Compliance doesn’t just apply to Fortune 100 companies," says Carl Azar, VP of marketing, ColumbiaSoft Corporation.
Whatever the size of your company, realizing the promise of ECM compliance technology requires thoughtful preparation and planning, and a broad approach that includes active participation from key stakeholders. "Successful compliance strategies require the consideration of all aspects of business culture, process, and technology," says Brett. "While the technology is essential, it accounts for only about one-third of what is required to implement and maintain an effective program. It is important that the system support the way people conduct business and serve customers—not the other way around."
Azar agrees, stressing that unlike legal discovery, which is typically both rare and focused, regulatory compliance is ongoing and relatively broad. "It is important that any ECM system integrate intuitively within normal business processes," says Azar. "If it isn’t easy and intuitive to use, every policy and procedure in the world won’t convince your workers to comply with your compliance process."
Improving the ProcessIn order to ensure this type of management integrity, many organizations are looking for ECM automation features they can trust. "Often, companies must conform to different requirements by state," says Garth Landers, director of content management strategies, Mobius Management Systems, Inc. "Data must be 100 percent accurate and its validation must be automated to reduce dependence on labor-intensive, error-prone manual processes."
In most cases, implementing an ECM compliance solution will require significant changes to your current records management and retention processes. "Companies must often rework their data infrastructures and their financial reporting, and examine their overall risk-management practices," says O’Neil. "Executives often view this as a daunting task, but in the long run it positions your company to go far beyond mere compliance—it positions you to significantly improve your overall business operations."
Maintaining compliance and improving business processes requires a balance between the free flow of information and the need to comply with strict requirements and mandates. "The technology must facilitate communication and improve customer service while also maintaining the necessary controls," says Martin Brauns, chairman and CEO, Interwoven, Inc. Brauns sums it up with these essential questions; "How well does the system map into your business processes; how well will it improve how users organize and share information; and finally, how tightly does the solution integrate with the tools that users already use to get their work done?"
Documents, Data, and FormatsThe ability to effectively manage heterogeneous content types—electronic documents, scans, email, Web content, and rich media, is another important attribute of any ECM compliance solution. "You need to capture all types of relevant information and documents," says Azar. "Something like 80 percent of all business information resides in unstructured documents. You must be able to manage every type of document with equal facility."
The ability to integrate content of different types from different sources, across multiple, distributed platforms and disparate repositories is not only vital for compliance, but paves the way for process improvement as well. "Organizations must strive to build a database-independent repository capable of capturing content from any source," says Landers. "Most companies have multiple content repositories. When end-users make multiple requests for content—such as a request for a check, for example—the system should enable the retrieval of the statement as well as the related correspondence regardless of where the content resides."
Eric Stevens, director of research and strategy, Hummingbird, Ltd., advises organizations to avoid single-purpose, point-oriented solutions. "Expect that the regulations will change over time and that new legislation will be introduced," says Stevens. "This constantly-changing regulatory environment requires that all types of organizations have an infrastructure in place that will allow them to change and adapt on an ongoing basis."
According to Stevens, the internal process changes that are required to achieve compliance are the most important factors ECM users should consider. "Organizations can gain the maximum benefit from ECM compliance tools by first ensuring that the processes and activities performed within the organization effectively address the regulations," says Stevens. "Then use that basis to select the best tools to support those processes."
How our ECM Compliance solutions can help?Our Compliance solutions can help you shift your governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) efforts from people to technology.