it's my way or the highway" attitudes.

This common approach will allow you to develop standards. While sometimes difficult to get to, standards make everyone's life easier. Start by standardizing your metadata across applications. Establish best practices and be willing to let them evolve. Next, build your use cases and see to it that you can enable functional, repeatable processes that take user preferences into account. Interoperability is the key here. In order to do this, you'll need flexibility and agility in your ECM application.

The goal is to enable an ECM architecture that allows activities to have high-impact on operations or services. High impact can be as simple as getting rid of a storeroom of paper or as complicated as letting citizens purchase copies of accident reports via the Web. Some departments might only want search and retrieval, some might require workflows, some might be required to do a lot of forms processing and some might need external access to the system through Microsoft's SharePoint.

Used in these ways, ECM becomes an integrative middleware within your enterprise. It can not only enable processes, but also generate innovative solutions. For example,

  • IT staff for Okotoks, Alberta, uses ECM as a permitting application that generates revenue. By setting up a simple workflow through the city's Records, Clerk's and Finance offices, permit requests now come in through the city Web site; the permit is automatically processed, paid for and issued.
  • York County, Pa.'s Central Booking uses a video arraignment booth and a custom e-form to automate prisoner processing and case distribution through its ECM system.
  • In Bakersfield, Calif., IT Director Bob Trammel has integrated the city's enterprise resource planning and ECM systems so work crews can keep track of costs associated with each graffiti clean-up. In the process, they create what amounts to graffiti mug shots, which the police can use to arrest repeat offenders -- and which the prosecutor can use to mount a civil case against the tagger's family to recoup cleanup costs.

Last, But Not Least: Controls

Finally, you're also going to have to have all of your controls in place. These include security, compliance and records management. An elegant way to approach this is that all of these controls should be transparent to your users. Good governance is transparent. Regarding your ECM strategy, it should allow information control but give users the flexibility they need to do their work. Putting the power in the user's hands will lower the burden on your staff; enable the user to make better, faster decisions and ultimately better citizen services.


Kimberly Samuelson  |  Contributing Writer
Kimberly Samuelson joined Laserfiche in 2001 as a regional manager. She has served the company in several roles, including creative director and director of government marketing.