As organizations around the world seek to “do more with less,” they are increasingly looking to integrate—or combine—IT systems to eliminate the costly and time-consuming practice of toggling between multiple applications.
What is integrative middleware?
Integrative middleware is software that is designed for seamless integration by virtue of an open API and support for industry-standard platforms such as Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle and Microsoft .NET. It ties multiple applications together, allowing people to access information in the manner and environment with which they are most comfortable.
According to IDC, 27.4% of documents are used to initiate or drive a business process. When it comes to these document-centric processes, it only makes sense to use enterprise content management (ECM) as integrative middleware. In fact, for many organizations, the ability to use ECM as integrative middleware is just as important as its stand-alone capabilities, which include document imaging/capture, archiving, search and automation.
When used as integrative middleware, ECM drives business processes by allowing employees to easily access content such as scanned or electronic documents, audio-visual files and e-mails through whatever system they choose, including CRM, ERP and EMR, among others.
How does ECM work as integrative middleware?
A key benefit of using ECM as integrative middleware is that it enables organizations to standardize the central system while customizing the delivery of information based on departmental needs, providing consistency, security and transparency to users through familiar applications they use every day.For example, legal department staff might access content stored in your ECM system via a contract management system, whereas a finance clerk would gain access to content via an accounting application like Peoplesoft.
How does this work? When an employee is looking at a record in a primary application such as Peoplesoft, he can click on a hyperlink that will automatically open additional content stored in the ECM system. Oftentimes, employees are unaware of using an ECM solution. For them, ECM is an invisible extension of the primary system. They don’t need training on how to use a new software system, nor do they have to waste time retrieving paper copies of important records.
Here are a few real-world examples of how organizations benefit from using ECM as integrative middleware:
- Friedrich Wealth Management, a registered independent advisory firm serving Long Island and New York City, has integrated ECM with its CRM system so that advisors can have anytime/anywhere access to client information, boosting revenue by 25%.
- Bakersfield, CA, has integrated its ERP and ECM systems so that work crews can track costs associated with graffiti cleanup and create “graffiti mug shots.” Police use the mug shots to arrest repeat offenders, and prosecutors use them to recoup cleanup costs.
- The Fertility Centers of Illinois has integrated an ECM solution with its EMR system in order to give doctors instant access to complete patient records that include lab results, X-rays and historical medical data from outside providers.
- Elkhart County, IN, has integrated its ECM system with its GIS system to build “What’s in My Back Yard” (WIMBY), a public-facing tool that provides information on community threats such as sexual offenders’ residences and former meth lab sites.
- Idaho-based DL Evans Bank has integrated ECM with its branch automation software to grant tellers automatic access to client documentation in order to accelerate and improve customer service.
According to Bill Stice, Technology Services Director for the Town of Cary, NC, “Our ECM system has become a strategic application. It’s the standard we use to manage paper and it’s the only one we use to access that information and tie it to other information.”
For an in-depth look at how Cary has integrated its ECM system with a number of departmental software applications—including an AS/400-based Contract Control System and MapInfo GIS—please click here.