ECM Deployment Options Create Possibilities and More Questions – Especially for SMBs

Recent experience with mid-sized clients in the financial services and healthcare fields has provided Doculabs a different perspective when considering cloud-based ECM solutions. Fortune 500 clients have requirements, particularly around scale, that are often vastly different than those in the SMB (small and mid-size business) space. Couple that with significantly different levels of depth and breadth in technical staffing, and a different solution analysis is called for.

Of course, the on-prem option still exists, but let’s focus on the cloud options for purposes of this article. Firms looking to reduce or eliminate their data center footprint have been blazing a trail to cloud solutions for the last few years. Some are still hesitant about hosting records and PHI data in the cloud; however, most have found cloud solutions and remedies that actually improve their data security and protections. One way to look at cloud solutions is to break them down into two simple categories – cloud self-service and cloud managed service.

Some of the key questions asked by these SMB clients include:

  • What should I consider when comparing self-service and managed service cloud options?
  • What are the real cost differences between the self-service and managed service options?
  • What about integration with my other line of business systems?

What should I consider when comparing self-service and managed service cloud options?

One of the first considerations of cloud ECM for a small or mid-size business is whether to use a self-service or a managed service option. A key factor in this decision is really related to the technical depth and breadth within your own IT staff. While many of us have heard the tales of how easy the cloud is, the fact is there are many technical challenges within a very fast-moving and changing environment. This applies to AWS as well as Azure clouds. If you’re interested in going with self-service, you’d better have a handful of certified “full stack” developers and appropriate back-ups. Of course, you can contract these skills in the near term, but be prepared to pay top dollar.

The alternative approach is to use a managed service or SaaS (Software as a Service) type of solution. The advantages of this option are that you are contracting out the difficult technical work as well as the operational details. You may save money over time, but make sure to perform a thorough analysis before jumping in. Challenges can typically be related to lack of direct control or lessened ability to make changes and quick tweaks to your applications.

For many of our SMB clients, the managed service option provides a lower risk solution with a faster time to launch.

What are the real cost differences between the self-service and managed service options?

Providers of both solution types should provide clear details on all the key pricing terms from storage to operating costs. It will really be up to you to assess the cost differences between your own or rented IT staff to stand up the environment and applications, vs. the SaaS approach where you still have application responsibility but less direct platform and environment responsibilities. Be sure to consider some edge cases and other “what-if” scenarios. The standard offering may look enticing, but don’t get blind-sided by exceptions.H2: What about integration with my other line of business systems?

Integration is certainly one of the key factors in making the self-service vs. managed service decision. While many of today’s packaged solutions and COTS (commerical-off-the-shelf) software adhere to open standards and published APIs, many of your homegrown legacy systems may not. This can increase the complexity of the integration and potentially impact the cost as well. Make sure to work with your IT partners to assess both the risk and potential cost of your key integrations. A predominance of homegrown legacy applications to integrate may favor the self-service approach.

Conclusion

There are certainly many opportunities and advantages for SMBs to leverage ECM solutions in the cloud. And a few challenges too. The service model of your cloud solution is certainly one of the more important aspects of the decision. Make sure the service model chosen fits with your culture and stated direction for both your business areas and IT departments. Properly aligning your operating requirements and the culture will help to ensure that you make the appropriate decision.

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Rich Medina
Tom Roberts
I’m a Principal Consultant for Doculabs with more than 25 years experience, focused on delivering strategies that improve clients’ enterprise content management capabilities, with an emphasis on customer communications management strategies.