Enterprise Content Management System Selection – Part 1

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Written By Haisam Abdel Malak

About: Haissam is a digital software product manager with 15 years of expertise in developing enterprise content management solutions. His core capabilities encompass digital transformation, document management, records management, business process automation, and collaboration.

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Choosing an enterprise content management system can be an overwhelming task as nowadays the market has a big list of ECM system providers promising to be your digital transformation companion.

In this series of articles, I will share with you my latest experience in choosing the best suitable system for one of my clients.

ECM Evolution

Back in the early 90’s, personal computers found their ways to organizations resulting in a sudden increase of information and managing them started to get complicated. To address this, software companies started developing solutions (DMS) to help organizations capture, store, manage, and easily retrieve documents with the ultimate goal of having a paperless office.

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As volume, velocity, and variety of information continued to increase, new ways of managing information was needed and what used to do the job for only managing organization’s documents needed to cater for managing the full lifecycle of content, incorporate process automation tools, and deliver content to the right people at the right time and right place. That’s when ECM systems started to be popular in the market.

The goal of enterprise content management system is to speed up operations by automating key processes, saving time spent locating documents with a searchable, centralized digital repository and being better prepared to meet compliance requirements with robust security controls.

Check out What is ECM? for more information

Prepare The Business Requirement Document

The first step into this journey is to identify the needs of your organization and how an ECM system will help to address them. Work collaboratively with your colleagues from different business units to identify the problems, needs, and goals and document them clearly.

In addition, state what are the main functionalities that you are looking for in an enterprise content management system such as automatic capturing, indexing, searching, automating processes, retention, collaboration & annotation, or any other specific industry-related functionality.

This is a very essential step so you have to take your full time preparing the business requirement document covering the needs for such a system. In the upcoming article, we will go into more details of what are the main criteria to include in your report.

Identify The Most Suitable Vendors

When searching for an ECM system, it is very important to identify the right provider for your organization. While most of the top vendors offer the same essential functionalities (of course some might have advantages in different areas), you have to compile a list with the ones having previous experience within your industry.

That will ensure that you will benefit also from the provider valuable background knowledge, past experiences of the problems faced and how they addressed them resulting in increased successful implementation rate and faster ROI.

Each year, Gartner publishes a report “Gartner content services platforms” where they analyze the top vendors available in the market, categorize them into 4 different categories, and detailing their advantages & disadvantages.

Refer to Gartner, Forrester and any other reputable analyst firm, but also have your eyes and ears open. Check references. Call vendor’s clients directly, hear what they have to say. In many cases that may provide you with more hands-on feedback than any other report you can find.

It is very important to select a well established provider with proven experience in this domain.

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Content Management Systems

Visit each vendors’ website to know if they have previous experience within your industry (that’s usually mentioned under products by industry) and compile a list with the providers contact email and initiate the first contact.

Prepare The Ground For The Demo

When you receive your first message from the provider sales department, share with them the business requirement document already prepared and ask for an introductory call in which you will go over the points and further clarify or answer any question related to your business processes and challenges you are trying to overcome.

At this stage, your main objective is to

Filter your Providers

Before showing the system to a bigger audience within your organization, make sure to have a dry run session with limited audience and that all your major requirements are addressed in the live system demo.

You have to do that with each and every provider selected at the early stage, yes I agree that is somehow time consuming and a long process to follow but that will also give you the ability to remove any provider that don’t meet your specifications.

Align with the provider on the demo flow

Prepare the ground for the big demo to a wider audience from your organization by agreeing on what to focus more during the demo and the flow to follow to ensure a smooth and informative session.


When choosing an ECM system, you must take your time and carefully plan your way forward to find the best system for your organization as the choice would play a major factor in achieving a successful enterprise level enterprise content management implementation.

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