Enterprise content management (ECM) can bring business process efficiencies and help the environment at the same time by reducing paper-based processes and the inherent latencies and costs, according to Gartner, Inc. Gartner has examined six areas in which organisations can develop strategies to become more agile and efficient while reducing the environmental impact of the business.

yhtp_cm_coreclr

“The 1980’s notion of a paperless office was about how technology could bring efficiency and change work styles,” said Mark Gilbert, research vice president at Gartner. “Organisations are realising that process improvements and the move away from paper to electronic processes can also bring green benefits, such as energy savings from paper production, distribution, usage and disposition, and transit through the postal system.”

Gartner has examined six areas that help companies identify processes that can be modified to reduce harmful effects on the environment, while becoming more efficient:

1- Overcome information capture inefficiencies

Analyse how you capture information from customers, prospects and suppliers: Make an audit of the methods used by various functions to collect and route data, as well as serve up content. This will expose processes in which e-forms could be integrated to reduce the need to create a paper document, and also to reduce inefficient or redundant communications.

Move to e-forms to capture content electronically and get instant routing: Use e-forms to capture information from website visitors and from clients. When organisations capture information electronically they can validate or « round trip » that information. Organisations can customise the content they deliver, and add context to what the client needs to know in real time. They make the client’s work environment more valuable and are able to validate that they are dealing with the right person. The client has the benefit of immediate access to the latest information.

2- Understand document and record realities

Store records electronically and avoid heating/cooling costs: Storing records in an appropriate electronic format offers significant benefits. First, there is no need to heat or cool large vaults for paper storage. Ongoing air conditioning of large paper-storage environments can be very energy-intensive. In addition, storing records electronically means that you don’t print them for storage, you don’t transport them to and from storage, and they become searchable — all key business and cost-savings opportunities. Whenever possible, organisations should keep electronic documents in their native format to obtain multiple benefits.

Only 1 per cent of archived paper documents are ever accessed: When paper documents are sent off-site for archiving, Gartner estimates that only about 1 per cent is ever accessed again. With electronic records, organisations can store the record once and reference it to many other documents through metadata and folders. However, with paper records, most companies make more physical copies of the document. This means increased use of paper and greater storage requirements, as well as more physical boxes of records to sort through to find items for deletion when their retention period is over.

3- Build an ECM Strategy

An enterprise-wide strategy is cleaner and greener: As architects and planners increasingly take an enterprise-wide view, organisations need to consider consolidating applications into the most strategic ones where possible. This will usually bring savings in hardware, storage, IT operations and maintenance agreements. They also need to move away from smaller departmental « nooks and crannies » in which information is often trapped rather than being accessible throughout the organisation.

Don’t « dumb down » information: Organisations should strive for approaches to keep their documents electronic to achieve better customer service at lower cost. When a document has been printed out, it has been “dumbed down” and organisations have lost most, if not all, the metadata (the exception being in the use of bar coding and glyph technologies). The document may have to be rescanned and metadata will have to be added by people keying it in. This results in a huge waste of time and energy, and it introduces costs and the potential for error.

4- Explore outsourcing

Outsourcing and service bureaus: economies of scale: Organisations should consider using service bureaus and outsourcing aspects of their content management needs that are common and in which they have no particular expertise or value-add. Outsourcers can be more efficient and save energy because they’ve maximised their infrastructure and can offer economies and knowledge. There is also a reduction in emissions — particularly if the processing centre is close to the collection point.

5- Optimise processes with CEVAs

Content-enabled vertical applications (CEVAs) save money and paper: CEVAs help to automate complex processes that previously required workers to sort through paper documents and other forms of content manually. They can reduce the cost of exception handling and optimise the rest of the work by applying better process controls and analytics. Organisations should consider CEVAs as customised applications designed to take inefficiency out of their mission-critical, content-centric processes.

6- Explore new digital information approaches and expectations

A new generation has fresh expectations: Organisations should determine the overall role that electronic communications play in their organisation— with their customers, their partners and their prospects — because the cost of electronic communications tends to be lower overall. Reducing use of paper has two major environmental benefits – it reduces the energy associated with manufacture and distribution of the paper itself, as well as reducing the energy associated with distribution through the physical mail system, which is significant. Web 2.0 technologies are also part of this generation’s experience of technology — and these tools are increasingly being integrated into ECM strategies. Organisations should consider the ongoing cost savings from reduced paper use as they embrace this set of real-time, interactive publishing and information transfer tools.

Additional information is available in the Gartner report “Enterprise Content Management Strategies for ‘Green’ IT.” The report is available on Gartner’s website at http://www.gartner.com/DisplayDocument?ref=g_search&id=829714&subref=simplesearch