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Perspectives: Enterprise Content Management

Enterprise Content Management ECM can be a critical component of straight-through processing. In addition to helping banks cut costs through automation, enterprisewide content management has the power to reduce risk, improve customer service and facilitate compliance.

Enterprise Content Management ECM can be a critical component of straight-through processing. In addition to helping banks cut costs through automation, enterprisewide content management has the power to reduce risk, improve customer service and facilitate compliance.

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Bill Lewis, VP, IT Services, Marshall & Ilsley Support Services Corp. (Minneapolis)

James Watson, President, Doculabs (Chicago)

Garth Landers, Dir. of Content Mgmt. Strategies, Mobius Management Systems (Rye, N.Y.)

Jason King, Financial Services Industry Manager, Hyland Software (Westlake, Ohio)

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Q: What are the infrastructure requirements for an enterprise content management strategy?

James Watson, Doculabs: The goals of ECM include lowering cost, increasing enterprise access to information and the ability to integrate via standards-based implementations. The key infrastructure components include a document repository, a centralized index database for searching and classification, and some utility for routing (workflow/business process management). In addition, there typically are a variety of more-specific document processing applications to address: Web content, electronic forms, statement presentment, collaboration and records management (including e-mail). Finally, all of these services and capabilities typically are accessed via integration with either an internal or external portal.

Bill Lewis, Marshall & Ilsley Support Services Corp.: An ECM application must be flexible and easy to configure, without a lot of programming and technical staff. It includes a well-planned hardware network as far as server capacity, storage growth and backup redundancy. LAN/WAN performance is critical, especially with branches in several states. ECM also should employ a browser-based solution for easy deployment. Critical technology components include an ECM blueprint and establishing ECM standards across the organization. Integrating ECM with line-of-business applications is important, as is a standard set of capture options, such as scanners, and quality-review processes.

Garth Landers, Mobius Management Systems: Critical to achieving ECM success is an ability to integrate content of different types from different sources, across multiple, distributed platforms and disparate repositories. Of primary importance in enabling this is a scalable platform and database-agnostic repository capable of capturing digital content from any source (e.g., scanners, mainframe legacy applications, desktops, etc.), supporting thousands of concurrent users, especially for customer-facing applications, and ingesting and retrieving terabytes of content. Equally important is a services-oriented architecture layer that supports content integration.

Financial services providers are going to have multiple repositories in addition to content sources. When end users make multiple requests for content - such as a request for a check, a statement and correspondence all related to a single account - this technology will enable the retrieval of these requests, regardless of where the content resides.

Jason King, Hyland Software: Product scalability should be the first consideration. ECM strategies often are executed using a staging and gauging strategy. This involves incrementally deploying solutions at the department level. However, if an organization expects to extend ECM applications from one department or location to the next, then it first is necessary to determine how well a single instance of the application can store increasing volumes of multiple content types in its repository without sacrificing performance; support concurrent client access for additional end users as required; meet response expectations for ingesting and processing large volumes of content; and support the capture, management, security, search, retrieval, decisioning, distribution, replication and processing of content across multiple file servers, databases and geographically distributed locations.

The second consideration is how well ECM technologies can take advantage of existing IT infrastructure. An ECM application that features both API-level (application programming interface) and nonprogrammatic interfaces provides value to those investments by enabling end users to access a wider range of information from transactional applications that they use every day.

Q: In which processes/activities does ECM have the most potential to improve a bank's business?

Watson, Doculabs: On the retail side, it's the high-volume-transaction-type applications, in which unit costs are at risk due to manual document processes. On the commercial side, account management and information access are critical drivers for service and share of wallet. The ideal of straight-through processing for a growing portion of transactions is desired. Compliance also can benefit - again, cost of compliance is the focus (via automation).

Lewis, Marshall & Ilsley: ECM has a great potential to transform risk management. ECM can reduce risk by doing things like providing a digitized backup copy for critical banking documents. Another area is customer service. Accessing important paper documents can be very time-consuming; making these more accessible to branch employees is critical. ECM also can be used to greatly reduce time and costs by doing things like lowering the time required to fill a request.

Q: How does business process management (BPM) fit into a bank's ECM strategy?

Lewis, Marshall & Ilsley: BPM equates to content workflow. We look at BPM or workflow as a potential second phase of our ECM projects. Many times, projects are driven by risk management, customer service and cost reductions. We generally look at document imaging as the first phase of the project. The next phase is improving the efficiency, and this is where we may apply BPM rules to that content.

Landers, Mobius Management Systems: BPM is instrumental in delivering a strong ROI to content management investments in banking. While getting content such as checks and statements into the repository is a basic foundation for managing content, BPM makes that content actionable by routing content and reducing inefficiencies in document-centric processes. The challenge that most enterprises face with BPM is not realizing the necessary and critical amount of analysis of existing business processes. Simply going digital in and of itself does not guarantee success.

King, Hyland Software: BPM tools help bridge the gap between content and data-centric applications in a given business process. There already is some overlap between BPM and ECM component technologies - workflow being the most important. As a result, more ECM vendors are bolstering their traditional workflow capabilities with BPM tools for enterprise application integration (EAI), process modeling and analytics. The convergence of BPM and ECM technologies centers around the central value proposition of an ECM strategy: How does an organization optimize the flow of relevant content across all the touch points within a given business process - regardless of how many locations, applications, people or parallel processes are involved.

Q: What security considerations must banks take into account when implementing an ECM strategy?

Watson, Doculabs: Securing documents is not much different than general security disciplines. User access and control, versioning, and archiving all depend upon a strong taxonomical definition, and then enforcement through all of the different document processing applications. Our clients attempt to leverage as many common security systems as possible, rather than creating stand-alone utilities for managing document security.

Lewis, Marshall & Ilsley: It's important to take security down to the individual employee level. This generally means every user that needs access to content is provided with his or her own user ID and password. Users can view or print content based on their security profiles. It's also important to be able to track that from an audit trail so you can look back at users and find out any documents they touched or printed.

King, Hyland Software: ECM applications can provide both role- and rule-based security protocols that enable the system to determine who can access particular documents and when those documents are available to certain users for access. These security protocols also can help a bank place specific criteria, such as the number of pages or documents to be accessed and even the metadata attributes of documents - such as a Social Security or account number - within the system's rules to further protect privacy and data integrity.

Peggy Bresnick Kendler has been a writer for 30 years. She has worked as an editor, publicist and school district technology coordinator. During the past decade, Bresnick Kendler has worked for UBM TechWeb on special financialservices technology-centered ... View Full Bio

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