Organisations, both public and private, are operating in an era where they are called upon to no longer simply be ICT enabled, but ‘information management compliant’. The emphasis in these times is about being able to handle the proliferation of information born as a result of the increasing number of channels by which individuals and businesses are able to communicate with each other.
“In today’s markets, everybody in every office, at every desk, is using computer tools to complete their daily work.” – Doug Miles
At AIIM, we represent the Information Management community as the global association for both users and suppliers of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solutions. These are the strategies, services and technologies that enable organisations to capture, manage, store, preserve and deliver information to support business processes, and are the key to successful performance. By staying in control, organisations are able to maximise efficiency, productivity and business continuity. This isn’t easy – which is why AIIM exists.
The here and now
In today’s markets, everybody in every office, at every desk, is using computer tools to complete their daily work. Employees often need two or three different packages in the workplace, and when you occasionally come across terms like ‘typing pools’ you realise that in the past people didn’t generate their own documentation at all, but had secretaries to do it.
The changes in this process run parallel to ECM development. What used to be people with filing cabinets along the walls and secretarial assistants to run those filing systems, is now people generating their own documents and filing them away in non-official systems and against non-official schemes. When I started on computers, for example, you could only use an eight-character uppercase file name to define a file or a document. That’s now moved on to long file names with folders and sub-folders, but we still have this crazy concept of “My Documents” which has no place in the business world.
Ultimately, whether a business’s goal is to meet increasingly complex regulatory requirements or to gain faster access to information, planning is the key to any successful implementation. At AIIM we have highlighted four cornerstones of ECM benefits – Compliance, Continuity, Collaboration and Cost Reduction – and we understand that, as a business makes progress through the project, the ECM investment should build rewards for the organisation, reduce day-to-day costs, improve customer service and lower the all-too-real risks of compliance infringement.
While many of the larger financial organisations already understand this and have been dealing with these issues for many years, once you get down to the mid-market area you see that people actually look at these compliances as something they do in response to a particular directive and not as something they should look at on a day-to-day basis. That’s something that has to change.
What’s more, even the most tech-savvy company has to realise that, at the end of the day, it’s still the people behind the technology that really matter. And while CRM processes cover most of those issues, banks and insurance companies need to understand the importance of this and many are subsequently connecting their CRM systems with their help desks and are now moving toward connecting the document management side of the bank as well. Undeniably, and especially in today’s unruly markets, organisations are having to dramatically change their business models in very short periods of time. For example, if you’re merging the headquarters of two different financial institutions, you have to make sure that all the procedures, processes, documentation, human resources and quality schemes are made available to everybody involved in that merger. You then have to quickly roll all of that out across the other businesses that you’ve acquired or that you’ve merged with, and that’s a massive challenge.
In terms of financial services environments, records management is key for most organisations. They may be storing information for the short term or for the very long term, but either way, what has changed over the last few year is the fact that there is now a need for a dialogue between records managers and IT managers. As it stands, nobody is sure how you store away an electronic record and make sure it’s accessible in 15 or 20 years’ time, but what is clear is that if you are required to pull some of that material back, or if a customer demands to know what information you hold on them, then trying to pull that out of a paper system is always going to be horrendously expensive and very, very slow.
In fact, it has almost becoming mandatory these days for anybody in those regulatory environments to provide solutions that give organisations the ability to designate records, store records and pull records back in a fairly adept way at any point where they might need to be audited.
Furthermore, anybody who currently uses X-drives or file-shares to store their documents rather than keeping them in a proper ECM system, or anybody who is not taking measures to store their emails in a reasonably controlled repository are putting themselves at big risk. As people start to look at the collaboration benefits and extend search portals to do things in their business, then the reuse of knowledge and the speed at which people can find information and respond to data is going be so much better.
Of course, it could be considered that these functions will become part of the operating system and I think we’re moving to a scenario where content management services will become more and more part of the underlying infrastructure. Microsoft knows that this is what people need to have and that’s what its Share Point solution is aspiring towards. But I think there will be a blurring of the dividing line between what is an ECM overlay and what is actually provided as a service within the operating system.
Similarly, on a higher level, companies are looking to just have one business process management tool across more all departments. They’re looking to standardise their business around a set of tools and then merge their processes on to that system. So further down the market, the sort of exposure that people will get to these tools will decrease their cost and it will become the role of ECM to ensure that every person at every desk has a way of knowing where to put their documents somewhere safe and somewhere accessible in a controlled way.
This has been very much the fore and very much a strong driver in the financial sector. Certainly with what we’ve been seeing over the last year, with companies being absorbed into other companies or having to do joint mergers, you reach a point where the value of a company is down to their information governance as much as it is their financial governance and their customer relationships.
Being able to store things electronically provides you with continuity and also helps with continuity planning so that you can improve access. That offers its own scenarios in terms of the fact that you can also outsource off shore processes without needing to set up physical transference.
This covers everything from shared project sites through to web 2.0 and enterprise 2.0, wikis and blogs and so on. There is an issue there, and the collaborations going on at the moment aren’t being handed too well. There are repositories of documents sitting around in sites that should be made available.
This covers the obvious productivity benefit of being able to move documents through the business process and in a way that allows companies to monitor, measure and improve the way the process is done.