For better or worse (and there are certainly arguments on both sides), two aspects of any business tend to be prioritized over others:
- Elements that are measured
- Elements that drive revenue growth
Oftentimes, something will fall into both categories — a major KPI for your business, regardless of industry, is inherently measured and logically drives growth.
As companies navigate various priority dances, however, one major impediment usually arises — and this one is especially true for any businesses evaluated on quarterly returns (which is a good chunk of them).
The issue, of course, is short-term ROI vs. long-term ROI. You need the former to please investors and stakeholders, but you need the latter for consistent upward growth. It’s oftentimes a tradeoff.
Balancing long and short term investments
And now we arrive at enterprise content management, or ECM. ECM ROI is decidedly long-term in most cases. The term that fit an investment of this class is strategic, but a strategic investment is not always one that your decision-makers are going to prioritize in the crush of day-to-day, short-term tasks. Let’s see if we can adjust that thinking.
As you can see, over time brand value has actually declined — this was measured in the context of data from 6,000+ mergers and acquisitions between 2003 and 2013 — and the value of relationships with your customers has increased. This signifies a massive shift for marketing, but also for your organization as a whole.
As Business2Community has pointed out, two factors that any departmental manager should be considering in a competitive business environment are:
- Customer relationships
- Corporate image
That’s the 1-2 punch seen in the chart above, with customer relationships having surpassed corporate image (i.e. brand) as the most relevant.
The ECM ROI of strategic returns speaks to both customer relationships and corporate image, because it allows you to store large amounts of documents effectively, with ease in terms of searching for specific items, retrieval, and use.
The benefits of ECM ROI
Consider one of the major ECM ROI benefits: the interaction of sales teams and marketing teams. In many organizations, this relationship can be marked by actual animosity. Sales will view marketing as a ‘department of pretty things’ not tied to ROI; marketing grouses that sales doesn’t use any of the content that’s being produced (In fact, some previous studies have borne out how much marketing content has been barely used by sales).
The process of aligning sales and marketing goes beyond simply having an effective ECM system, but it’s a major initial step. If documents are stored and tagged in an efficient manner, sales can easily find content specific to various types of targets. This makes their job more effective (higher ROI) and makes marketing’s content production more effective as well (again, higher ROI).
When you align sales and marketing, you inherently improve customer relationships and corporate image — the experience for a customer now has much less potential to be disjointed. It’s going to be cohesive, and the hand-off between a marketing document that interested them and a full-on sales pitch will seem less egregious.
That type of shift comes from ECM ROI, but it’s a long-term play. Other aspects of the business are happening before and around it. You don’t simply install an ECM and start reaping benefits three days later. It takes time.
The wild goose chase is OVER
Another long-term benefit of ECM is that it helps organizations drive a productive use of time, which is often uncommon in many businesses (unfortunately). Think about how much time you’ve spent at one point or another attempting to find a specific document. Someone you once asked for it has since left the company; the person that replaced them doesn’t know. In reality, this document you absolutely need is probably hiding in someone’s e-mail — and until you find that exact person, you’re on a wild goose chase. That’s taking time away from other tasks and priorities, and impeding your productivity.
This is actually not a rare situation and happens every day in most organizations. In a way, that’s why companies like Slack have gotten so much media attention in the past two years — their focus is on reducing the world where “Document A is only in Jim’s e-mail and nowhere else.”
If you think about any business or industry at the most basic level, effectiveness usually comes down to two key factors:
- Easy access to information for decision-making and relationship-building
- Effective use of time and priorities
An ECM will allow for both of these long-term.
The ECM ROI is there, conclusively — but it’s mainly there long-term, as other systems and processes come into play and evolve around it. You probably won’t buy an ECM solution and see amazing customer experience returns the next week, but you will begin to see it in 9-12 months. That can be hard for some now now now-focused decision-makers, but it’s crucial for long-term effectiveness of your document storage, team relationships, priority management, and productivity.
A version of this article was published as How ECM ROI can be Ridiculously Lucrative by Ted Bauer on May 5th, 2016.