IBM Think 2018 Preview: Automating Content Services

As IBM prepares to host thousands of customers, partners and prospects at IBM Think 2018 in Las Vegas, we can’t help but be impressed that the company finally is getting its content management act together. Recently IBM gave a briefing to the Doculabs consulting team about its new Digital Business Automation offering.

We’ll be at IBM Think next week to learn more details, but in general we’re encouraged with IBM’s direction.

IBM is focussing on content services by automating content-related processes.

First, the positioning and problems IBM is targeting are spot-on. IBM has been listening closely to its clients and understands their challenges. When Doculabs’ Lane Severson wrote about the future of the ECM market early this year, we were worried that IBM’s content business would be buried in the company’s overall analytics business unit and not get the degree of attention its ECM clients expect and deserve.

By focusing on content services, the company has acknowledged that storing content isn’t the point. It’s the ability to automate content-related processes, provide workers with more tools and add robotics that’s truly innovative.

It’s not where content is stored, but it’s how we get work done. IBM is now focused on adding value to content.

IBM is addressing the challenge of personalization at scale and robotics.

Second, IBM’s attention to “personalization at scale” is exactly the challenge our customers experience. Many clients already have solved the problem of how to manage their largest volume “transactional” work: integrate the front-end, self-service user interface (mobile or web) with back office functions.

Third, having newly acquired robotic automation as part of the solution is sure to appeal. Most of our clients currently are investing in robotic efforts. And given that many already have a significant portion of their technology stack from IBM, they will welcome the opportunity to go the IBM direction for robotics and try to keep components “in the family.”

What IBM has done is placed content management services—and others that are allied with the company—within its Digital Business Automation group. IBM now allows customers to go modular in terms of services offered, providing a way to reduce cost—and reinvent the customer experience.

The IBM platform helps their customers get work done.

The Automation Group combines tools like FileNet Content Manager, Content Navigator and Content Foundations, with IBM’s Datacap for capture, IBM FileNet Business Process Manager, IBM Analytics and IBM Robotic Process Automation.

The resulting integrated platform shows that IBM is focusing on how organizations get work done and how the capabilities of content management and process automation come together. In the chart below, IBM illustrates how customers approach tasks depending upon the volume of work that is done and the uniqueness of the task being accomplished.

Here we see how tools like Automation Anywhere—which serves highly repeatable, lower value functions—or Business Process Manager—for higher value functions—fit in.

As an enterprise begins to apply this overall model to its business, it becomes easier to address the many types of content within a particular process. There’s now a more integrated approach at IBM when it comes to managing automation across multiple silos, producing and delivering reports and blending in analytics and governance. Net-net: there are different solutions for different problems.

IBM: Mot your grandfather’s enterprise content management system.

This is different from the usual ECM approach. IBM is saying that high-value, high-risk, high-volume processes like onboarding or claims management involve both structured and unstructured processes and documents. Major line-of-business processes, which involve cross-enterprise work such as wealth customer onboarding, require all kinds of support from human expert consultants to repetitive forms processing.

IBM is simplifying its stack by focusing on some guiding principles for the entire digital automation platform. It’s good to see things like “Low-code solution builder” and “Integrated robotics” getting called out at this level. These are principles that help customers manage content and processes through the business.

If companies are going to be successful at automating tasks that are mid- to low-volume and mid- to low-complexity, then the cost of rolling out solutions needs to be brought down. You can’t depend on IT to do everything.

Is IBM taking a cue from Gartner?

With its integrated platform, IBM is taking a cue from Gartner, Inc. which at the beginning of last year declared the “The Death of ECM and Birth of Content Services.” The result: organizations can start small and build out component pieces of a content management / business process platform instead of needing to invest in the entire Digital Business Automation stack.

In fact, the kinds of problems and projects for which Doculabs provides strategy and planning are an early indicator of the kinds investments clients are beginning to make in automation. We have seen a significant number of projects in the last 12 months in the areas of digitization, end-to-end automation and robotics. These are the kinds of efforts that IBM is addressing with its integrated, modular business automation and content platform.

Lane Severson contributed to this post.

Rich Medina
James Watson
I’m President and co-founder of Doculabs, serving as executive sponsor on consulting engagements for financial services clients.