Integrating ECM and other systems: First consider “how people (want to) participate in the process?”

In any given organization, one thing’s for sure: everyone needs access to information and processes. It’s the question of “how do people get to the information and processes?” that differs from department-to-department, person-to-person.

I sat with several folks in government this morning during their breakfast meeting. And much like the question in the last paragraph, a hot topic of conversation was “how are different people in their organization getting to the stuff in ECM?”

The reality is this: most often, ECM acts as middleware in this kind of situation. It’s the back end document and process management that sits under whatever system is considered primary to a user. As a result, many people don’t even know they’re using ECM.

And that’s perfectly fine.

Here’s why: For many, many of the people using it, the ECM system is not what they live in at work. Instead, their primary means of getting work done is a line of business system, Microsoft Outlook or SharePoint, or even software on devices like a BlackBerry or an iPad. A comic. First panel: left guy says "what has he said?", second guy says "I've just talked with the boss about our SOA strategy." Second panel: both say nothing. Third panel: second guy quoting the boss "do what you want as long as it runs on my iPad."

So don’t force them to use yet another system if they don’t have to. After all, the point of this is to use technology to get more work accomplished, and in a better way. So, first focus on how people participate in business processes.

By having an ECM solution that offers the right integration capabilities, users will be able to stay within the line of business system to get to content in the ECM system, if that’s what they prefer. Others who use ECM as their front-line system can still continue to do that, too.

In my mind, this is the only way that technology should work for the person using it. I still haven’t convinced you? Consider the alternative.

You’re the IT person of a mid-sized hospital system. You research and purchase an ECM solution for your organization, and plan to roll it out to the clinical area first. But despite all your due diligence, the ECM solution isn’t integrating with your most important system – the electronic medical record (EMR) software.


  • The health information management (HIM) department now has three systems they work in daily. Their productivity has slowed, and paper charts and supporting documents are backing up because they have to manually key in information twice.
  • Doctors can’t use it because they don’t have time to log into two systems – they must be able to pull up a chart or EKG when they need it, or put the patient at risk. They take a hard stance – they’re simply not adopting it.
  • You and some of your fellow staff members take a lot of heat for getting a system that seems to just create more work for everyone involved. A lot of money was just spent, and now your job might be at risk.

At the end of the day, we all know it takes more than one technology to solve most business process problems. But having all the pieces work seamlessly together is critical. Only then can the people needing content in ECM use it in a way that makes sense – both for them and for IT.

Her title may say "Public Relations Specialist," but Kaitlin McCready's got her hand in the corporate Web site, social media, marketing writing and media relations, too. From Baldwin-Wallace College, she came to Hyland in March '08 with big ideas for PR and marketing, including this very blog. In her spare time, she enjoys being disappointed by Cleveland sports, spending time with family and friends, and being involved with the PRSA Cleveland chapter, especially the Young PRos committee. Check her out on Twitter (@kaitmccready) and LinkedIn (
Kaitlin McCready

Kaitlin McCready

Her title may say “Public Relations Specialist,” but Kaitlin McCready’s got her hand in the corporate Web site, social media, marketing writing and media relations, too. From Baldwin-Wallace College, she... read more about: Kaitlin McCready