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Study: ECM and BPM Not Understood

Banks fail to realize technologies' full potential.

By: Cynthia Ramsaran

Technology users in the financial services industry are confused about enterprise content management (ECM) and business process management (BPM) solutions, according to a recent survey. As a result, banks do not leverage the technologies to their full potential.

The survey, conducted by the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM International; Silver Spring, Md.) - an industry association focused on promoting the benefits of document, content and business process management - reveals that just half of end users fully understand what ECM stands for, and only 47 percent understand the term BPM. Additionally, respondents see limited connections between ECM and BPM: 64 percent say ECM and BPM are separate initiatives that overlap only from time to time.

Enterprise content management technologies capture, manage, store, preserve and deliver content; business process management references the definition, execution, management and analysis of all business processes. According to John Mancini, president, AIIM International, ECM technologies aid successful BPM. "You can't really have a BPM initiative without simultaneously addressing the ECM," he says.

Today, the technologies require separate investments, but in the past, their functionalities were often tied together; bankers simply used other terms to describe ECM and BPM, explains Mancini. "'Workflow system' is the term that came before BPM, and document management came before ECM," he says. "Back in the earlier stages, those terms were tightly aligned with each other, as opposed to how ECM and BPM are [viewed] now."

The study, which surveyed 500 ECM and BPM technology end users across industries - including 83 banking, financial services and insurance organizations - also identified the obstacles that technology departments face when implementing the solutions. Respondents identified the No. 1 obstacle to deploying both BPM (33 percent) and ECM (30 percent) technologies as planning/managing the implementation.

Acronym Anxiety

The reason for the confusion surrounding enterprise content management and business process management is the oversimplification of the terms, according to Kathleen Khirallah, senior analyst, retail banking, TowerGroup (Needham, Mass.), who focuses on customer relationship issues and business process management. Bankers have a habit of misunderstanding abbreviated terms, she says.

"Part of the problem is that, in some ways, bankers have a tendency to grab onto acronyms without necessarily defining what they mean exactly," Khirallah explains. "BPM can mean one thing to one banker and mean something different to another banker. If you move away from acronyms, the link between ECM and BPM becomes a lot clearer."

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