Enterprise Content Management: The Sales Hook Is Business Processes

Content management is a small part of Marco today, but the company sees growing opportunity, particularly in quality and compliance areas. By Todd Ek

The real key to developing a content management offering is understanding your customers' business processes. If you're only interested in selling solutions for scanning and storing paper-based documentation, I would discourage you from getting into the enterprise content management (ECM) world.

Scanning and storing, of course, are the roots of content management. For Marco, our beginnings in this discipline stem from our relationships with the copier manufacturers and the advent of multifunction copiers in the mid-2000s.

The content management division of Marco is small currently, but it's a growing opportunity-and we doubled our business with ECM this year.

If you polled many large organizations today, I believe they'd say that ECM is one of their top projects along with social media and overall process improvement. Content management has evolved from scanning and storing to productivity enhancement. For some organizations, ECM is the hub that drives every task in the business.

Challenges to Entering the Market
One challenge of selling ECM is that the market is highly competitive, with more than 400 ECM products being offered. There is also competition from ERP and CRM systems that offer workflow, and from vertical-specific applications that claim to offer document management. You have to understand the full capabilities of the product you're looking at, because there are a lot of really good and really bad products.

Another challenge is getting buy-in. ECM drives internal process changes, so you need to address any resistance to implementing those changes.

We're a partner for Canon, Konica Minolta, Sharp, and HP, and each one offers some type of ECM, but we tried not to limit ourselves to what was being offered by the vendors. Our decision criteria included integration with Microsoft Office and Outlook. It also had to be really easy to use, and it needed to have a strong workflow engine.

Based on that criteria we chose M-Files and we ended up with something more than we had expected-it becomes a central hub for structured (database fields or records) and unstructured (documents) data within an organization, and easily integrates with other back-end databases.

We have customers as small as a three-person business to as large as 300 people, but the sweet spot is small to medium-size customers that can use M-Files to run or manage an entire organization and cover all areas of operation. It has so much value for driving their business; for some, it's their core line-of-business solution.

Some companies use it to automate their accounting process. Some use it for personnel management. And in the manufacturing and quality areas it's helping smaller organizations adhere to quality standards like ISO, as well as manage compliance issues and automate repetitive tasks. Smaller organizations don't have a quality management group to manage compliance and really have issues staying on top of document control. We can define that process for them with M-Files.

Selling ECM
Marco doesn't target a particular vertical for ECM, but we're seeing the most buy-in when we can help customers with compliance. We've had the greatest success in healthcare and manufacturing. If you're talking to a healthcare facility, for example, they definitely know they need something for document control around policies and procedures.

In other industries the conversation starts around scanning and storing documents, but then we educate them about what the product can do. Usually the deal closer is something unrelated to scanning invoices; it's process improvement or an area where M-Files can bring more money to the bottom line or help from a regulatory standpoint.

If you enter this business, it's important to have the right structure in place. Sales should be separate from the implementation and support sides. There are three distinct areas of expertise/roles: sales, business analyst, and support. If your salespeople are also business analysts and have to implement what they sell, it ruins your sales cycle.

Our consulting team will help organizations through the implementation methodology. We do discovery with users to understand the way they work and configure the system based on their needs. You have to understand the internal workings of the organization and apply that knowledge. It's all about business processes.

For us, our ECM approach is working. We have a tremendous amount of hours already contracted to implement M-Files for customers in the future.

Todd Ek
Software Solutions Manager, Marco Inc.

Location: St. Cloud, Minn.
Founded: 1973
Number of employees: 750
Website: www.marconet.com
Company focus: Marco helps organizations manage their information by applying network expertise to voice, data, video, and print solutions. My group supplies applications that help businesses improve productivity and automate business practices.
Favorite part of my job: Designing an ECM implementation
Least favorite part: The physical configuration of the ECM application and data migration
What people would be surprised to know about me: I co-founded, play guitar, and sing in an award-winning blues band called the Mooseknuckle Bros.