You know that document you just finished editing, but don’t know where you saved it? Or that other important document that you can never find easily? The simple act of saving a file in the wrong folder or incorrectly entering the file name makes it much harder to find it the next time you need it.
You probably already know about ECM (Enterprise Content Management) solutions and all the benefits they provide for managing content. If you don’t know about them, or just want to refresh your memory, I suggest you read the post found here.
The focus of this article is not content management per se, but rather the role it plays when integrated with other potential content-generating solutions.
If all of my organization’s information was in one place, it would all be so easy! But it is just the opposite. It is stored in different places, follows different flows and has a number of different formats.
A smart approach to integrating ECM with the main sources of information reduces time spent on research and the likelihood of errors, while also helping you to get more productivity out of your existing business systems.
Here are the main three business systems you should consider integrating with your ECM solution:
ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning)
This system is definitely the most important tool to integrate because it is a channel for all the accounting information that enters and exits. Integrating ECM with ERP provides a number of ways to simplify accounting processes.
For accounts receivable, for example, you no longer need to print paper invoices and save the digital files separately. Instead, you simply “print” it virtually in the ECM. Then, the ECM sends it to the client via email, while automatically storing a copy for your own records.
This helps save time in the process because the accountant has all the relevant information at hand: invoice, proof of delivery, original purchase order and initial quote. This ease of access reduces errors and speeds up the process, which tends to result in reducing delays for payments and better cash flow.
For accounts payable, ECM integration offers an efficient way to obtain information in your ERP system. For example, during the payment approval process, you have probably already captured a lot of information, such as the vendor name on the invoice, invoice number, total amount, and so on. If your systems are not integrated, it usually means that someone has to enter this data manually into the ERP system.
Instead, ECM integration makes it easy to upload payment data to the ERP system. This improves productivity and accuracy, helping to ensure that you only pay for the products and services you have requested and received.
CRM (Customer Relationship Management)
Integrating CRM and ECM platforms improves efficiency by storing and retrieving customer documents such as communications, emails and invoices.
Imagine you’re working on the CRM system and have to create a communication. The CRM probably has an available template that generates a Word file with the proper layout and uses the customer record to automatically fill in multiple fields (address, customer name etc.). Once the letter is ready, you can print it or send it electronically to the customer and save a copy.
If you print the document and try to use the “save as” function to save a copy in another place, opportunities for errors start to emerge. You have to worry about saving the copy with the correct filename and in the correct folder, and sometimes even copying it two or three times to store it in different places.
If you are relying on users to manually enter the metadata, you may be compromising data consistency. A person can type “XYZ Company” in the CRM, but then shorten it to “XYZ” when saving the file. This kind of inconsistency results in problems when it comes to finding the necessary documents.
With ECM integration, all archiving and indexing is carried out automatically in the background. The ECM solution saves a digital copy while printing the hard copy of the letter and automatically indexes the document for easy retrieval, capturing the company name, invoice number etc. With ECM, you create a reliable digital file with consistent metadata, with no additional work for employees.
If your company uses Microsoft Exchange or Outlook, each employee’s email folder acts like an information bin. They cannot easily share the information contained in these emails, except by forwarding them to everyone (who may or may not be interested in them). Ideally, e-mails relevant to the entire organization should be directed to a central document center, where they are easily accessible.
ECM integration with your email system allows users to selectively archive incoming and outgoing messages. You can simply use a plugin that automatically stores and indexes the selected emails, making them available to other colleagues, depending on the access settings.
In the end, ECM is much more than just a central repository for all your documents and information. It is also a tool for capturing, retrieving and sharing this information efficiently. Integrating ECM with your existing business systems (especially your ERP, CRM and E-mail) provides important benefits across your organization.
Want to know how an ECM solution can improve your efficiency and productivity? Download our free eBook “How to improve document management in your company“