Digital transformation is top of mind for most organizations today, and we all know that in order to survive and thrive in the modern business world, the enterprise needs to effectively leverage their digital assets.
I was asked to respond to a series of questions about the future of content management that was published in a CMSWire article. One of CMSWire’s questions focused on digital transformation and another talked about Gartner’s claim that “ECM is dead,” which got me to thinking more about digital transformation and why legacy ECM technologies are ill-suited for the needs of today’s enterprises.
Digital Transformation or Optimization?
Before I dive in, I also wanted to reference some recent research that I saw from Gartner regarding digital business transformation and digital business optimization. In one simple slide, Gartner clearly distinguishes between digital optimization – where companies are looking to preserve existing revenue, improve productivity, and provide better customer experiences – and transformation – where companies are looking to drive new business with new products and services, and even implement new business models.
I think the term digital transformation is often used ubiquitously to cover both optimization and transformation and this is how I will use it today; but, regardless of whether you are seeking new efficiencies in your current business or are truly seeking to transform with new products or a new business model, content and content management must play a vital role in enabling this transformation.
Content & Digital Transformation
Let’s also talk a little bit about the value of content in digital transformation (and optimization). First, as I discussed in the CMSWire article, content plays a critical role in enabling an engaging digital customer experience. Many customer interactions begin and end with content, particularly in industries like Financial Services. And many of these content-driven interactions can be streamlined, automated, or even eliminated with an effective content management strategy. Similarly, with content management, companies can also provide ubiquitous, multi-channel access to critical documents, communications, and other customer content.
Content improves productivity and drives efficiency. Ready access to the right information enables faster, more accurate decisions. Content often fuels business processes and facilitates knowledge work. Content can, in and of itself, be a work product.
But, content can also enable companies to adopt entirely new business models. Once a company has digitalized its information, it can expose this information through entirely new channels and to entirely new consumers. Take, for example, one Nuxeo customer who moved from a traditional and entirely paper-based business model to a new, digital business model that now drives more than 80% of their revenue. Nuxeo – and content management – enabled this transformation by allowing this customer to completely rethink how they packaged and monetized all of the vital business information they had previously collected as a paper-driven business.
Many technologies and solutions claim to help in digital transformation. However, a Content Services Platform (CSP) is uniquely-suited to help companies transition away from archaic and inefficient approaches to managing information and instead to a path towards digital transformation that will deliver greater efficiencies and drive the bottom line.
Here are 3 reasons why investing in content services can be the key to unlocking the value of digital transformation within your organization.
Leveraging Legacy ECM Systems for a Digital Transformation
What are the challenges of ECM products?
So, we’ve talked about digital transformation. Now, let’s talk about how not to do it. More specifically, let’s explore four of the challenges that most legacy ECM suites face and why these challenges can seriously impede your digital transformation strategies:
One repository only – First and foremost, more legacy ECM offerings are built around a single repository. The proposition was simple: just move all of your content into our repository and then you can take advantage of all of the power of our various applications. However, no one actually does this. It’s a prohibitively expensive, time-consuming and often low-value approach to content management. If someone tells you your only option is to migrate all of your content into their platform – and this includes some modern, Cloud-only vendors – you should run, not walk, in a different direction. The reason why this approach hasn’t worked is because inevitably there will always be times when you need access to information that doesn’t live within your primary content repository. And, for this, you need more options than migration.
It’s a really a suite, not a platform – Another challenge associated with legacy ECM offerings is that they weren’t built to be platforms. Most were actually assembled through various acquisitions that were then integrated into a suite of products. 10 or 15 years ago, this was okay, because customers only used the vendors’ own apps to access and work with content. But, today, most customers want to be able to use various bits and pieces of a content platform (i.e. microservices) to work with content across any number of apps and solutions. The issue is that – for many ECM vendors – a lot of the core functionality is still trapped inside of the various APIs that comprise their suites.
Fixed schemas, proprietary technologies and complex deployments – I’m lumping all of these together because they really add up to the same thing: legacy ECM solutions are very difficult and slow to deploy - and they’re even more difficult to change. Digital transformation is a process, it’s not a one-time event or reinvention. Companies need newer, more modern technologies that enable agile development and, perhaps more importantly, technologies that allow them to adapt and change to continuously offer better experiences, or new products and services.
What if they’re not documents? – In this digital world, documents aren’t the only currency. Increasingly, new content types – like video, audio, images, and design files – are becoming critical sources of information and vital to modern business processes. And the sad truth is that most legacy ECM platforms were built before these digital content types even existed and lack even basic functionality to manage things like video.
“Cloud ready” really isn’t – And, in the same vein, many legacy ECM solutions also weren’t architected in the era of the Cloud. As a result, they have been retrofitted to work in Cloud contexts, but offer few of the real benefits of modern, Cloud-native platforms. They scale inefficiently and, in some cases, poorly. They require expensive, non-commodity hardware to perform. At the end of the day, it’s incredibly expensive to operate an ECM suite as a true enterprise platform for content.
Why is it critical to leverage legacy ECM systems?
In order to move forward, we often have to address the issues of the past - and never has this been more evident than with the need to digitally transform legacy applications within a business. Research from AIIM has identified that 75% of organizations recognize that getting access to the information locked in legacy systems is vital, and this is a core requirement to achieve true digital transformation.
The need to leveraging existing legacy systems poses many challenges. Arguably the biggest is the amount of valuable information that seems locked away or otherwise inaccessible to many in the organization.
Leveraging this information doesn’t necessarily mean moving away from the legacy system to something new however - at least not in the short term. A good Content Services Platform will integrate with legacy applications (and other core business solutions), map the metadata of the legacy system to the CSP, and ultimately get federated access to the information and content from that legacy system.
Simple federated search (i.e., access to the content stored within the legacy application) is step one, but once this is achieved it is relatively straightforward to start building new applications on top of the centralized information managed by the CSP. And this all gets really interesting when you start connecting multiple legacy applications together, allowing solutions to be built on information that comes from multiple sources, providing the end-user with all the information they need from multiple systems and repositories in one place.
If a digital transformation initiative within an organization has one overriding goal above all others, it should be to connect disparate information sources within the business, and to serve as a central hub for the delivery and exploitation of information assets within the business.
Users Want Their Work Tools To Be Like Their Personal Apps
When was the last time you used a system at work that delivered as much value as the ones you use in your personal life? It doesn’t happen very often for most people. But modern information workers are expecting this more and more. That means not just mobile and cloud-enabled applications, but applications that do specific things and solve specific problems.
That concept is somewhat alien to traditional enterprise software - where a standard interface for all users is commonplace. But to deliver digital transformation, users need to be engaged, so the status quo is not going to be good enough. So how can a Content Services Platform help?
Well, one of my favorite terms relating to Content Services Platforms is content in context - or basically giving users the right information, at the right time, and allowing them to do relevant and useful things with that information. This capability is often hard to describe from a software angle, as everyone has very specific requirements, but from a CSP perspective, this is the ability to allow organizations, teams — and of course end-users — to create personalized solutions, without requiring custom code.
This flexible, rapid application development facility sits directly on top of the single, metadata-driven view of all of the information throughout the business. That means that solutions can be built to show information from multiple sources, to combine previously disparate processes, and to integrate modern, cloud-based services such as GIS mapping, artificial intelligence (AI)-powered analytics, and more.
And the best thing? Because these solutions can be built quickly and are mobile ready from the onset, you can build specific, app-like solutions that literally solve one part of the puzzle. Deliver that, and then build another, and another - all using the same information and development platform, which reduces custom code and minimizes support and maintenance requirements.
This level of personalization, built on top of a common and standardized platform, can not only speed digital transformation, but it can do so in a repeatable manner that delivers both short term return on investment (ROI) and long term reduced total cost of ownership (TCO).
Process Is Still King - But Not In The Way It Used To Be
One of the main areas that enterprise content management (ECM) systems were used within organizations was to automate processes. Typical processes ripe for automation included accounts payable and receivable processing, HR onboarding and employee file management, and digital mailroom management. These processes were all largely back office and transactional, meaning that they dealt with a high volume of documents and information within a well defined process.
The results achieved by automation were very impressive, but many organizations never delivered automation within the rest of their business. Why? Often because their own business processes were not well defined or rigid enough to be able to codify within an ECM system environment. Others failed because their processes needed information from multiple systems, and that level of integration was not possible at the time.
But this is all changing. Recent research from AIIM and Nuxeo has found that process automation is still the number one driver for using information management, but the way in which organizations are looking to automate is changing.
By definition most of the work that knowledge workers do within a business follows a process, but typically not a rigid one. For example, the onboarding of a new employee within a business always follows the same steps: creation of employee record, addition to corporate domain and email systems, and so on. But the recruitment of an employee in contrast is very much an ad-hoc process. Yes, there are phases to the process and key milestones that need to be met in order to move between those phases, but the collection of information and content – and the timing around these – is definitely not fixed.
These ad hoc processes need to combine information and content from multiple sources, and deliver it to the end user via a personalized interface and solution that can drive the process – at the appropriate time. ECM solutions did not deal with these types of processes well but to achieve digital transformation, these are exactly the aspects of the business that need to be addressed. This is exactly what I described earlier in this post and to reiterate, this is exactly what a Content Services Platform can deliver.
Industry Focus: Digital Transformation in Financial Services
I believe 2019 has been the year of velocity when it comes to digital transformation in Financial Services organization. By velocity I’m not merely referring to the pace of transformation, but also to the speed at which organizations respond to the needs of their customers.
If you’re still reliant on call-backs, placing customers on hold, tracking down paper-based files, and taking days to fulfill customer transactions, then 2018 should have been a major wakeup call for you.
2018: The Perfect Story
In 2018, we saw a perfect storm with traditional business models for financial services firms being attacked from all sides. We had non-traditional competition entering the marketplace at an alarming rate, and delivering a better customer experience. We saw FinTechs decomposing old-school banking business models and carving off the most profitable revenue streams for themselves. Then there was the ever-increasing regulatory environment making it even more difficult and costly to transact business.
Further, we had Big Tech like Amazon continuing to raise the bar on customer convenience and ease of doing business, driving customers to expect the same from traditional players. The end result of this evolving competitive landscape is that in 2018, we saw customer expectations rise to an all-time high, while customer tolerance for unmet expectations simultaneously fell to an all-time low.
Digital Transformation: Some Were Never Really in the Game
With competition just a mouse-click away, customers find it easier than ever to switch providers seamlessly, painlessly, and instantly. There was a time when migrating systems was more trouble than it was worth. Customers would deal with a lot of disappointment, frustration, and neglect before they would endure the pain of taking their business elsewhere. Clearly those days are gone. Now, switching to a competitor happens with a few keystrokes or even a few taps on your smartphone.
Yet, some have entered 2019 convinced they’ve been on the right path to digital transformation. They may be surprised to find that simply delivering apps on top of legacy systems and an antiquated architecture means they were never really in the game to begin with. They’ll also be disappointed to find that the inability of that legacy infrastructure to scale to meet the online, real-time, 24/7 demands of today’s consumer means they’ll never achieve the goal of delivering the optimal customer experience. From here, it’s a short ride to disintermediation and a vicious cycle to inevitable obsolescence. 2018 just may have been the tipping point for the future of high velocity change.
Key Elements of Digital Transformation for Bank & Insurance
True digital transformation has several key elements that must be achieved. First, it requires a reorientation of the organization’s culture toward a hyper-focus on the customer that must result in delivering delightful and engaging experiences – not simply transactions. Next, no longer can enterprises be mired with lengthy development cycles. New products and services must be delivered in days or weeks, not months or years. It also means striving for real-time decision making and straight-through-processing, and adding customer value above and beyond the product level. This is no small undertaking and it’s certainly not going to be easy nor painless.
You already know that throwing more bodies at the problem is not a scalable long-term solution. To compete and remain relevant in this increasingly connected environment, you have to balance people and cutting-edge technology to get better, cheaper, and most importantly get faster.
- Because if you cannot deliver products and services fast, someone else will.
- Because if you can’t meet customer expectations, they’ll find someone who can.
- Because the window of opportunity gets smaller every day.
- Because being first, can sometimes be better than being perfect.
- Because it is the only way to respond to threats from digital-native competitors.
American humorist Will Rogers once said,
Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.
You’ve got to move, and you’ve got to learn to move faster and smarter than you are today.
Digital Transformation Strategy: Take a Fundamentally Different Approach
Digital transformation is not a “nice to have” - it has become a critical initiative for enabling enterprises to remain competitive today, and into the future. The technology to deliver digital transformation is here now, and Content Services Platforms form a core part of that toolset.
By combining the best of traditional ECM solutions with content cloud, mobile, Artificial Intelligence, and content integration capabilities, a Content Services Platform serves as the foundation for digital transformation that can revolutionize every business.
Content Services is a fundamentally different approach. Fundamentally, a Content Services Platform (CSP) is built around one simple philosophy: regardless of the content type or where it is stored, the CSP will provide access to all content for any app, process, service, or solution that needs it.
As a result, Content Services Platforms inherently address many of the core challenges of legacy ECM products.
What is the difference between Content Services Platform and ECM products?
- Content Services Platforms provide broad connectivity to different systems and content repositories, allowing content to be stored virtually anywhere and eliminating the requirement to migrate content.
- Content Services Platforms feature singular architectures based on open standards and comprehensive APIs that makes it easy to integrate with virtually any other modern application. CSPs also offer out-of-the-box connectivity to a broad array of common business and productivity apps to deliver content wherever it is needed.
- Content Services Platforms support agile development and DevOps, providing a low-code platform for rapidly building and iterating content-centric apps. They also expose microservices that can be readily consumed by other applications.
- Content Services Platforms manage diverse content types, including video, audio, and other non-text-based content.
- Content Services Platforms are cloud-native, scaling easily and efficiently to the needs of even the largest enterprises.
Ultimately, digital transformation is about much more than Content Services or even technology. However, legacy technology investments can hinder digital transformation and put your organization at a digital disadvantage.
So, as you are looking to transform your business with content, don’t follow the same old legacy ECM approach. Instead, look for a modern Content Services Platform (CSP) that was designed to meet the needs of today’s enterprises.