Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Escape the Cold with ECM and Online Collaboration

At Xythos we sometimes joke that the popularity of online document and content management applications is directly related to an organization’s geographic location. Those closest to northern latitudes have a natural incentive to seek alternatives to personal travel, at least during half the year we laugh. After all, doesn’t that help explain the longtime popularity of ECM vendors like Hummingbird and OpenText?

As I warm my fingers above my MacBook’s CPU this February morning I can’t help but think there may be some truth to this joke. Though if we believe Punxsutawney Phil, the joke’s on us all because “six more weeks of winter it will be”. For those of us who use ECM systems, I wonder if we’re ready to change? Do we feel confident we can accomplish most, or maybe all our assigned tasks without traveling? Are we more comfortable conducting business remotely or from a home office than we’ve been in the past?

I’m not suggesting that ECM systems and web collaboration tools can eliminate the need for human interaction or attending business meetings altogether. Those of us engaged in customer-facing roles know the process of establishing relationships is key to business success. I imagine that still remains true both inside and outside organizations today. Yet, it is still cold out there …

Once we get to know our co-workers and customers and have established a degree of trust and cooperation, I think the potential for productive and potentially long distance collaboration is significant. In fact, simply doing our jobs in environments that don’t introduce myriad interruptions (possibly like the office?) has proven to significantly increase individual performance, according to analysts. Of course, that’s assuming you have access to such an oasis.

So, how can ECM help fight off the winter doldrums and maybe keep us warmer too? Why not test your system and discover how much it can help you get done without visiting the office every day of the week? If you live in a colder climate, that might be one less day of stepping outside and being miserable. If you live in a warmer place use your ECM system to enjoy it a little bit more. Get out on the patio and do some creative project planning. Just don’t brag about how nice it is, or you might get the next consulting project in Duluth.

The combination of ECM, Web 2.0 collaboration tools, and pervasive web connectivity not only helps reduce travel costs, it can limit our impact on the environment as well. The cost of transportation and exchange of documents can migrate from the physical to the electronic universe with consequent benefits. According to the US Energy Information Administration, transportation accounts for 33 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. That’s far greater than the 2 percent that Gartner estimates suggest information and communication technology contributes.

If your ECM system isn’t Internet compatible, it might be time for an upgrade. Web-enabling your system can truly expand the benefits your organization experience’s by multiples. Not only can it support remote access and more enjoyable winters, but it can also become a first step towards better integrating your customers and partners together with your business. That’s probably a smart move in any economic environment.

If you don't have access to an ECM system, but want to get a quick understanding for how this could work, try out Xythos on Demand. This software as a service (SaaS) ECM solution will get you started in minutes and it’s free for the first 30 days. That might be an easy way to avoid the cold.

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