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Don’t Let the Weight of Legacy ECM Keep You Down

We’ve all been there, whether it’s bandwidth-hogging old servers, outdated line-of-business (LOB) applications or your legacy enterprise content management (ECM) system—maintaining old technology is one of the most difficult challenges CIOs face. Constant technological innovation often weakens the business value of legacy systems that have been deployed over the years.

However, at some point, the weight of legacy systems in terms of the cost to maintain them and their inability to adapt to address ever-changing business requirements becomes a burden to the enterprise. In particular, the upkeep of legacy ECM systems can be extremely expensive. Recently, a particular New Jersey-based big pharma company told me that they are paying $11 million a year to support a 15-year-old ECM system.

Are Legacy ECM Issues Holding Back Your Enterprise?

Legacy ECM systems earn this label because the original vendor’s technology is outdated or obsolete, but the service it performs is still relevant. This puts the organization in an awkward position and forces them to ask the question, “Should we stick with our current system that is version-locked or should we invest in a newer solution that can better address our specific needs?”

Before establishing whether you should transition away from your legacy ECM system to a next generation ECM solution, there are several questions I ask my clients that you should also consider:

  • How cost effective is it to maintain the legacy ECM system?
  • Is there sufficient support available for the legacy ECM system? Is it being sunsetted?
  • Will we need to integrate the legacy ECM system with the new ECM system?
  • Does the legacy ECM system support integration with new LOB applications?
  • Does the legacy ECM system support our mobile workforce?
  • Will we need to perform a data migration if we transition from our legacy ECM system to a new solution?


Considering Risk and Expense before Ripping and Replacing

When an organization is facing challenges because of their legacy ECM system, they’re often tempted to quickly replace it — and quite frankly that has been the only viable option if you wanted to leverage new technology. However, I urge caution because it might not be the most judicious choice. An outright rip-and-replace introduces a lot of risk to companies. Most IT leaders probably do not need a reminder about the risks involved during the migration process. How and when you transfer your information assets from a legacy system requires a lot of forethought and planning. It’s critical to consider how much time you spent customizing your old system and how much time you’ll need to configure the new one. Equally important when calculating risk is to consider how this disruption will affect your internal and external customer base. Additionally, the risk of errors in recreating business logic, security policies and permissions in the new system need to be considered. Also, it’s important not to discount the hurdle of introducing a completely new system and the user adoption challenges such a change can present (although M-Files specifically is many times chosen because of the easy end-user adoption).

The Middle Path

Now with the new version of M-Files with IML (Intelligent Metadata Layer) there is a middle path. You don’t NEED to rip and replace. A next generation ECM solution like M-Files can “play nice” with other systems while helping to ensure multiple versions of the same information asset are not saved in different applications and repositories. The future of ECM lies in decoupling information from “where” it resides and instead focuses on “what” it is. Once focus is shifted in this manner, many of the risks noted above are mitigated and content can be accessed and managed, securely, regardless of the system or device.

My colleague, Greg Milliken discusses M-Files location agnostic approach in his blog post, “The End of the Beginning for ECM.” I’d also like to invite you to watch our webinar, “The Future of ECM: The Intelligent Metadata Layer.”