What is Enterprise Content Management (ECM)?

By: Kurt Meemken
November 1, 2022

We may have self-driving cars and access to unlimited information on our cell phones, but somehow we still end up with an outrageous amount of paperwork. Processing paper invoices is notoriously inefficient and error-prone, and office supply scammers have been taking advantage of this quagmire for years. 

Fortunately, there’s a better way to streamline invoice processing and other workflows that traditionally involve a long paper trail. You just need the right tool for the job. That tool is Enterprise Content Management.

WHAT IS AN ENTERPRISE CONTENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM?

An Enterprise Content Management system is software designed to help you manage important content so that it’s kept safe, can be updated easily, and is always accessible to the people who need it. 

WORKFLOWS ECM SOFTWARE CAN AUTOMATE 

Document management software gives you control of the invoice process and much more. The top three processes document management workflows automate in today’s business environment are:

  • Invoice approvals
  • Onboarding and HR
  • Contract management

That said, these tools can be used to improve many more processes, including standard operating procedures, quality management, order processing, PTO requests, and more. 

Let’s take a closer look:

INVOICE PROCESSING

Traditionally, invoice processing has been primarily paper-based. Invoices are commonly received via US mail or email and printed for processing. As invoices get opened, they need to be distributed to the appropriate manager for approval and execution. This typically means they get placed in mailboxes or on desks, often with no communication involved on the desirable outcome.

At this point, the invoice easily gets buried and/or lost in the paper shuffle that we all know too well in traditional office settings. It could sit for hours, days, weeks, or even get misplaced entirely. Add current workplace trends affected by social distancing mandates and the entire office workflow and operations are different. Maybe your entire team is managing day-to-day operations from afar.

The real trouble with traditional invoice processing is the process lacks true traceability. It's difficult, if not impossible, to determine who has what invoice when using a paper-based process.

Other things can and do go wrong:

  • Invoices get passed to the wrong manager
  • Delays cause late payments (and possibly fees)
  • Invoice is misplaced and goes unpaid
  • Information within invoices is confusing or inaccurate 

Invoice processing via this traditional route typically takes about a week. However, it isn’t uncommon for it to take upwards of three to four weeks. Not only is this inefficient, but it becomes extremely difficult to manage and meet early payment incentives.

HOW ECM SOFTWARE CAN HELP

You can’t change the world — other companies will still send you invoices in the same way. However, what happens to them once they reach you will be different with document software. All paper invoices can be scanned into the system and sent to a dedicated inbox, which will then be monitored, filtered, and routed by ECM software.

After the invoice and appropriate data are captured within the ECM, the approving manager can be selected. Once selected, an email notification will be sent alerting them of the invoice needing approval and their time allotted for review. From this point, the software can trigger additional notifications to be sent to managers or accounts payable as invoices get approved or if they are sitting for too long on one “desk”—whether physical or remote.

When the manager or approving party accepts the invoice, it automatically routes back to accounts payable for processing. From start to finish, the entire invoice approval process, via a document management workflow, typically reduces a weeks-long process to a few days. 

ONBOARDING AND HR

Onboarding isn’t anyone’s favorite week. There’s a lot to learn, and a lot of documents to go through that must be filled out and signed. It’s all too easy for data entry errors to occur, and without the right software, catching them and fixing them, or applying a single update to multiple documents can be time-consuming. 

HOW ECM SOFTWARE CAN HELP

With the right ECM solution, new hires won’t have to input the same information repeatedly, and your HR department will be able to track their progress, manage performance reviews, and easily find government forms. Data entry errors will be largely eliminated, and multiple documents can be updated simultaneously. You’ll be able to get new hires up to speed faster, and provide them with a much better first impression of what working for your organization will actually be like.   

ECM software can help you manage and track these documents and more: 

  • Policies and procedures
  • Employee handbooks
  • W-4 and I-9 forms
  • Application Forms
  • Tax withholdings
  • Records of drug testing
  • Payroll documents 
  • Family and medical leave records

CONTRACT MANAGEMENT

Contract management is another area where ECM software can be enormously helpful. It takes time to prepare and approve contracts, and any delays can often have an impact on multiple departments. And if you’re too bogged down in the nuts and bolts of drafting or approving one, it’s almost impossible to find the time to optimize them.

HOW ECM SOFTWARE CAN HELP

ECM software can help you make sure contracts are reviewed, edited, and approved in a timely fashion. Once the bulk of these tasks are automated, you’ll be able to have more time for strategy. Some tools will also incorporate additional analytics to provide you with in-depth insights and an easy-to-use contract dashboard. 

GETTING THE MOST OUT OF ECM TOOLS

While no single solution is right for every organization, some businesses in particular gain an enormous advantage from these tools. And once you invest in an ECM solution, the capabilities are almost limitless. For example, on one screen you can see what invoices are yet to be approved, which ones are late, and where each sits within the workflow. Or, if a manager is out of the office, an admin can note this within the software and reassign their invoices while he/she is out. 

Additionally, reporting features enable you to determine where bottlenecks are, which managers take the most time to approve invoices, the average amount of time it takes for invoices to be processed, and much more. 

The right ECM solution can work wonders, especially when you understand this solution’s best practices, and how to get the most out of your investment. Fortunately, you’ve got great options. 

THE RIGHT ECM SOLUTION: M-FILES OR HYLAND ONBASE

We recommend M-Files or OnBase by Hyland for our clients. Depending on your organization’s industry, the other solutions you use, and how you work, one solution will deliver more ROI.  But don’t worry — you don’t have to become an expert in either platform just to make an informed decision. 

To explore ECM solutions, you can save yourself a lot of research time by getting a consultation with a document management specialist. Marco software specialists can help figure out which ECM is right for you. Because we have formed lasting strategic partnerships with both providers, we can get you the best price, and provide best-in-class implementation, monitoring, and support for whichever solution you choose.

Talk to an Enterprise Content Management Specialist Contact a Marco Rep