Digital Transformation Shakes Up Enterprise Content Management Priorities

A version of this post originally appeared on CMSWire.

Digital transformation—the reimagining of business processes from the ground up, using a digital-first approach—is changing the strategy for enterprise content management (ECM).

Back in the day, organizations adopted content management technologies to reduce their dependency on paper. They later added distributed capture and workflow to enable the use of digital content within a business process, instead of just archiving it digitally, post-process.

Now we're able to capture the relevant data from a document and use it to complete many of those same business processes. The document itself is needed only as the record of a transaction, and should exist in its archive until needed for reference or regulatory purposes. In instances where content is needed to complete work, the form of that content and the channel for delivery need to be flexible to meet the needs of workers.

Three Examples of Digital Transformation’s Impact

To show how digital transformation is changing the way we should think about managing and working with these documents, let’s look at three content use cases and what this transformation means for the strategy efforts of the people who own the ECM program at an organization.

E-Forms: E-forms are the most obvious example of how digital transformation has changed our approach to documents. We've gone from paper-based documents, to digital PDFs, to a guided experience like TurboTax where the client never needs to interact with a 1040 form. The form is produced only after the tax preparation service takes place—to memorialize the event and file it with the IRS.

Successful organizations have redesigned their forms processes with a focus on customer experience and straight-through data processing. On the other hand, organizations with legacy systems have struggled to redesign their forms and processes to enable digital transformation, for a slew of reasons (see this recent blog post, in which I take up these reasons in detail).

Engineering Drawings: At the other end of the spectrum is the engineering drawing: a critical piece of content for any organization that builds and manages assets.

Traditionally, engineers produced these drawings in a specialty engineering program like Bentley or WindChill, and then made changes using paper and pencil. Updates to the digital version were often out of date or updated with a scanned copy, making life difficult to for those folks who needed to complete maintenance or service on an asset.

Leading firms are now considering the use of tablets with interactive drawings, or even video, to provide a more streamlined and user-friendly experience. These capabilities have less to do with how the content is managed and preserved (traditional ECM concerns) and more with how it can be manipulated, updated, and delivered to multiple platforms for broader geographic access.

Integrating this content with mapping systems and work order management systems is also a high-priority concern for the industry.

Digital Content in Business Processes: We also see a move toward digital transformation for standard business processes, such as Claims and Underwriting in the insurance industry—processes which include traditional content like Microsoft Word documents and PDFs, but increasingly involve digital content as well, including video, photos, and audio.

The introduction of capabilities such as artificial intelligence to recognize human-readable content, robotic process automation to reduce processing time and back-office effort, and case management technology to handle more complex or variable processes provides an opportunity to reduce the staff required to complete these tasks and can provide a faster, more transparent experience for the end customer. These tools also provide visibility into the status of processes, which reduces call center volume—a major cost center—and greatly improves customer experience.

Establishing New ECM Priorities

People expect their electric company, insurance provider, and bank to provide them a digital experience as good as what they get from Amazon or Netflix. And the advances in content services are now making that possible.

But the difficult work for organizations struggling with those aforementioned legacy environments will be to divorce themselves from the traditional content management headspace of focusing on the management of the content, to a focus on how to use information contained within the content to get work done better, faster, cheaper.

This means a couple things:

  • We have to be okay with being “good enough” at records management. Compliance with regulations is essential, but for the content management industry, it has too long been the tail wagging the dog. How do we reimagine processes to abstract data from content, deliver rich media to multiple devices, and take advantage of advances in machine learning, while also ensuring the artifact of record is being properly preserved? That’s an important question, but it needs to be answered in that order.
  • Greenfield organizations have an advantage. Organizations with legacy environments have years of investment and processes built around systems that were originally developed for digitizing paper post-process. The evolution from that point to a more customer-centric / “get-work-done” mode is difficult, and requires an enormous amount of change. For organizations that don’t have those investments, the new technology is more flexible and (in many cases) more accessible than ever—giving new entrants an opportunity to leap-frog the competition.

We hear plenty of consultants and executives throwing around the digital transformation buzzword with little meaning behind it. But reimagining business processes with a digital-first vision is the most important change for the content management industry, and one that shouldn’t be ignored.

Is your organization contemplating a digital transformation? Want some expert advice in assessing the changes that will be required, and then navigating those changes? Doculabs can help you on both counts. Contact us here; let's talk.

Rich Medina
Lane Severson
I’m a Practice Leader, managing relationships with Doculabs’ West Coast clients to improve information management and security.