by Megan Santosus

Getting Enterprise Content Management (ECM) Right

Nov 16, 20044 mins
Enterprise Applications

Enterprise content management (ECM) can be tricky to get right. The traditional content managers—the gatekeepers of information, if you will, usually the technical guardians of the organization’s Web presence—are often reluctant to turn responsibility over to the business owners, or providers, of content. Yet in this age of near-instant publishing via the Web, it doesn’t make sense from an efficiency standpoint to keep the management of content solely in the domain of the gatekeepers. On the other hand, the rightful heirs to managing content—the owners on the business side who are ultimately responsible for creating, maintaining and updating it—often don’t want to get into the Web publishing business. The last thing they think they want is another item on their to-do lists.

The key to getting enterprise content management right is to make the hand-off from gatekeepers to content owners beneficial to both parties while at the same time making everything work for the organization as a whole.

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI) successfully made that leap, when in August 2003 it changed how content gets posted and updated on its public website and corporate intranet. At that time, the company rolled out TeamSite, enterprise content management (ECM) software from Interwoven. Ironically, BCBSRI had purchased the software the previous spring but hadn’t used it until the arrival of CIO David Zink. “When he came in, he advocated that we use an automated content management system,” says Jennifer O’Meara, director of Web services at BCBSRI.

It’s easy to see why Zink wanted the company to streamline its Web publishing efforts. With numerous and varied constituencies, ranging from healthcare providers and local communities to employer members and its own employees, BCBSRI posts a lot of information that then requires constant tending. For example, every month the company updates nearly 3,000 articles from the Mayo Clinic on its website. Without automation, that process alone took O’Meara and her colleagues in Web services weeks to accomplish manually. Overall, says O’Meara, “Every 90 days we have a new release of functions and tools on our website.” Zink’s decision to roll out previously purchased software was a no-brainer.

Today, Web-based content management resides firmly in the hands of about 50 content owners, thanks to the ECM software that has an intuitive user interface. Initially, says O’Meara, end users were reluctant to take on the added responsibility of publishing their own content, even if doing so meant that their content would be online sooner and remain fresh for as long as they were willing to update it. What eroded their bias against it? O’Meara recognized that the company needed to devote resources to assuaging their concerns. “We have a dedicated person on our staff to help and support and work with the end users,” she says. The company spent time up front acclimating content owners to the new system and continues to address training and support as it rolls out new versions of TeamSite. As they began to regularly publish their own content (BCBSRI does review everything before it goes live), content owners have become more confident with both the technology and their role as publishers. And in the end, says O’Meara, people aren’t doing any more work than they did before automation. “The Web content owners are much more engaged in the process than they were prior to using ECM,” she says.

Megg Regner is a case in point. As the director of public relations, Regner is responsible for keeping the newsroom on the company’s public website up to date. “Before, I used to send Word documents to Web services and posting would vary depending on their production schedule.” Generally, Regner was looking at days before any new content would appear on her section of the website. Now with the ECM software, Regner can have content prepared from start to finish within 15 to 45 minutes. “Empowering the business owner to post the content has made a world of difference,” Regner says.

And that’s a difference that’s felt within the Web services department as well. According to O’Meara, she now has the time and resources to devote to improving the design and offerings found on BCBSRI’s website and intranet instead of simply posting content generating by others. Content management that’s good for the business owners, good for web services and good for the organization: BCBSRI scored a triple win-win.