Top 5 Reasons for Enterprise Content Management (ECM) Implementation Failure – Recommendations to avoid failures

An Enterprise Content Management (ECM) system offers a platform to provide transformational value and change in any organization. However, all ECM implementations must start with the right note and the right sponsorship combined with an achievable plan to make them successful. Otherwise, failure is inevitable. In this post, based on our experience in providing ECM solutions to global clients, we highlight the top 5 reasons why ECM implementations fail in an organization and provide our suggestions/recommendations to better plan ECM implementations and thus avoid failure.

  • Reason #1: Lack of ECM Strategy and Roadmap: An organization’s vision, mission, objective and long term goals should be understood before starting an ECM initiative. The ECM strategy must be aligned with the organization’s goals along with well-defined Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). When coming up with the strategy, one must understand the past and current business needs of the organization and envision the future state. This in turn helps to create the right ECM strategy roadmap. In order to help prioritize ECM initiatives and ensure alignment with organizational goals, the ECM strategy must be clearly communicated to the business and executive management. One must follow a holistic approach in leveraging existing systems, applications, solutions and create an ECM platform by consolidating and rationalizing the existing ECM infrastructure and products without impacting the business. This helps in the standardization of ECM platform. Once there is a strong ECM strategy and roadmap in place, it is easier to radiate and spread the change.
  • Reason #2: Resistance to Change: Change is something which every human being will resist initially. One must have a mindset of ‘change is something which is constant and will bring in opportunities’. There must be a clear plan for change adoption, first in terms of identifying the like-minded, change-avert people who can influence change in the organization. They must be instilled with confidence and convinced with a strong business case that the new system is valuable and that change should be implemented. If this is successful, this team will act as your Change Agents across the organization and will radiate the message and value proposition of the change to the entire organization. The key is to identify the right set of people who are change champions.
  • Reason #3: Over Budget and missed deadlines: This is a common syndrome for many projects. It is highly common for ECM implementations due to the lack of understanding on chosen ECM Product features. Often times, most of the people look at the product features and assume that they are out of the box features of the product. However, when the content use cases are realized and implementation starts, it may turn out that the use cases require customizations, which would involve more development effort, thus impacting the project schedules. Hence while choosing the product, the emphasis must be placed on product configurations rather than customizations. More customizations would require more maintenance and support of lights-on projects. Because ECM implementations involve all the business and IT units in the organization, the dependencies within the groups must be thought out carefully and included in the schedule.
  • Reason #4: Lack of Information Governance and Information Architecture: This is the key to any content managed site. Information Governance will help define the roles and responsibilities for content authoring, creation, review and approval – which are necessary to ensure that the right content is available on the sites. This coupled with scalable Information architecture is the back-bone of any content managed site. Information architecture which deals with Content Taxonomy, SEO, Intuitive User interfaces, User experience, Metadata, searchable attributes etc must be identified before the design of the site is laid out. Any wrong step in this process will lead to a non-user friendly and un-maintainable site.
  • Reason #5: Lack of thoughtful, scalable and appropriate architecture: This is another key item which is necessary in order to build a strong, scalable content managed site. A great deal of forward thinking in terms of growth of user base, based on future business growth of the organization, must be taken into consideration while sizing the hardware. Other key items which must be considered are content archival process, site availability, and disaster recovery.

We would recommend that any organization that plans to implement ECM think through the above before they start their ECM implementations program.

How has your experience been? Feel free to respond below with comments and questions.

Naresh Kumar Gandesiri

Director - ECM Practice, Virtusa. Naresh has more than 14 years of experience in the IT industry, working with various customers and helping them successfully implement Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Portal solutions. In his current role as Asia Head of ECM Practice at Virtusa, he is handling the implementations of various ECM solutions on different ECM technologies. Naresh is accountable for revenue, operations, P&L and successful delivery of ECM projects and solutions at Virtusa. He has handled a number of ECM projects of different sizes / duration across domains spanning various geographies. He works closely and collaboratively with other practices in Virtusa to create the thought leadership for building cross practice collaborative go-to-market solutions.

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  • Vinod Bhan March 10, 2011

    Thanks Naresh,
    All the points are well orchestrated and clearly defined. However i think the problem is in real-time, at the time of product selection, non-technical team, who are governed by budgets take precedence in decision making. That team gets influenced by the sales/marketing team of the product company who is selling the product.
    It is kind of vicious circle, cause if you get technical team involved in product selection, then outlook of selection itself might change.
    All in all, i think you have clearly identified the decision points.

    • Naresh Kumar Gandesiri March 11, 2011

      That’s correct. It is important to have team members from business, IT, users etc in the ECM strategy phase. Each one of them will have a key role to play. Once 2 to 3 products are shortlisted from the group of identified products, there must be a demo/POC phase, where business, IT and users can explore/test the product, the features, check the adaptability and feel it. This way, the product selection will not be biased and the right product which fits into the organization will be chosen.

  • Narasing Rao Akula March 11, 2011

    Excellent post on how to start ECM Roadmap/Strategy on right note. This post identifies most of the problems why ECM Initiatives fail. I like recommendations in this post.

  • Aravind Krishna March 12, 2011

    Hi All,

    I don’t know about others, but I have seen that ECM Consultants are often brought into the picture only after a product selection is made. A consultant’s job is then limited to justifying the purchase and planning a roadmap based on the limitations of the product.

    Does anyone feel the same way or is it just me?


    • Naresh Kumar Gandesiri March 15, 2011

      Hi Aravind – Thanks for your feedback. An ECM strategy will be successful, when all hands (sponsors, IT, business, end users, Infrastructure etc) are involved in it. There may be a scenario, where the organization’s technology roadmap must have been decided based on the organization’s current and future requirements. In that case, we will be bound to select the best product which fits in the organization needs from that particular technology roadmap or vendor offerings.

  • Ram March 14, 2011

    Naresh, Thanks for posting this. I agree to all the above reasons for a typical failure in ECM implementations.

    I had an opportunity to work for a client who had a home grown WCM solution, some vendor tried to sell them a WCM product. In that process we had to do a thorough analysis (a.k.a ASD as in Virtusa) of the product vs. “whats already in place”. The outcome clearly specified that even if they buy the product it needs to be customized to a greater extent which is not worth of phasing out their home grown solution i.e. Resistance.

    So, first organization should decide whether to go for an ECM product or not? If this exercise is not done then definitely one or more of the above top 5 reasons will manifest during the implementation.

  • Manivannan March 15, 2011

    Nice Blog, Well thought through. I feel it is critical to have the strategy and road-map built before procuring and executing the ECM project. Missing either of one makes the organization to invest into multiple products and adding to the cost of development and maintenance. Definitely these are top 5 reasons an organization has to think through and execute the ECM project.

  • Manoharan October 31, 2011

    According to me budget plays an important role in ECM area. If organization does not allot adequate budget that also will lead ECM to failure.

    In recent financial crises many organization have moved to low cost ECM application (Google apps etc..) from current ECM. which ran for many years.

    BTW, I agree above mentioned points as well.


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