Analyst AMR’s ‘ECM’ (enterprise commerce management) concept – which is not that dissimilar to its rival analyst Gartner’s idea of ‘ERP II’ – was conceived earlier this year largely to help businesses think outside the box of their existing internally-focused ERP (enterprise resource planning). ECM’s objective, beyond selling more AMR reports, seems to be to help companies to consider the IT they will need for more inclusive supply chain and customer relationship management (CRM) support in a structured fashion that centres upon commerce itself. AMR researcher Amy Hedrick says that it helps firms create an architecture to support the next generation of collaborative systems, ‘collaborative’ being today’s operational word. And now she has released five reasons why we need to consider our IT in ECM terms. It’s all fairly obvious stuff to those that have been on the analyst circuit enough – but the points are worth recording. First, she says, is to help bring new ventures to market faster. “The ECM framework provides your company the foundation to be more nimble than competitors. New ventures become a matter of reassembling familiar components with familiar tools.” The point is that if you satisfy all the requirements that an ECM shows up as being necessary, you and your people should be in a good position to operate no matter what fast changing business throws at you! Second, is about making mergers and acquisitions (M&As) easier to handle. “M&A is commonplace among the global 2000, but integrating the resulting multiple and disparate systems is anything but commonplace. An ECM framework can shorten integration by identifying key functionality and how existing systems co-operate,” she says. And the issue here is about helping yourself to find what actually needs to be integrated in a business sense quickly. Next is to avoid costly technology mistakes – which an ECM approach will apparently help you to do! “Without an ECM framework, it’s common to invest in costly software, especially for urgent mission-critical projects, only to find that another unit in your company already solved a similar problem with other technology, or the new technology’s fit isn’t right with other components in the architecture.” Fair dos. Fourth is to minimise technology duplication across the extended organisation. “You’ll pay more for six different tools (doing roughly the same thing) than for six instances of the same tool. Using an ECM framework to solve a problem once for your company makes better economic sense than solving that same problem repeatedly across different operating units.” As I said, obvious. And finally she says ECM helps to ensure a comprehensive architecture. “Building technology is tough without an ECM blueprint for reference,” she observes. “Inevitably, something will be forgotten and trivial things overlooked often turn out to be crucial. A comprehensive framework is the only way to guarantee all the right pieces will be in place.”