Before we address this question, we need to take a step back and start with another question: How much critical business information does your organization maintain?
It wasn’t that long ago that you could come up with a defensible figure by simply looking at the volume of inbound and outbound customer correspondence. You could track the volume of incoming mail by tabulating reports from your mailroom operations and add it to the amount of outbound print and mail created for things like invoices, statements, notices, letters, etc. This calculation could provide you with a pretty accurate answer.
But over time, both content types and the repositories in which they’re stored has expanded. Beyond snail mail correspondence, you had inbound and outbound FAX traffic, then email, then web forms, and the list has continued to grow ever since. We now find ourselves dealing with information coming from all directions like smartphones, wearable devices, file sharing apps, etc. And now Gartner predicts that by 2020 there will be over 20 billion “IoT” (internet of things) connected devices worldwide, with some projecting that number to jump to over 75 billion by 2025.
In recent years, we’ve also seen a dramatic increase in the types of information assets organizations must manage like voice/audio files, videos, photos/images, etc. In addition, we’ve seen increases in average file sizes and the overall volume of information stored - placing even greater demands on IT infrastructure. The sheer volume, scope, and overall magnitude of information an organization produces and consumes today is off the charts!
So, I ask again – how much critical business information does your organization maintain? Is it tens-of-thousands of assets? Hundreds of thousands? Millions? Billions? More? Do you even know if it’s possible to project what this figure could be?
The Road that Leads to Content Chaos is Often Paved with Good Intentions
At one point in time, the prevailing theory was that if you could have all of your content reside within a single digital archive, you’d finally be able to get a handle on it. So, you invested in a document imaging solution, then a Document Management System], and then an enterprise content management (ECM) software. Along the way, you picked up a few other point solutions as well. Then other departments within your organization felt the need to set up specialized file shares, network drives, and other content management solutions for their specific needs. Next came things like SharePoint, along with solutions that have been integrated into the company via mergers and/or acquisitions.
So here you are today with a HUGE mess on your hands; information of every size and type scattered from one end of your organization to the other. You try to convince yourself you have it all under control, but you know the truth, which is that you have no idea what you have, how much you have, or where it’s located. All you know for sure is that it’s costing you a fortune to maintain the myriad of disconnected content management systems within your organization, and you’re exposing the company to enormous risks.
Now let’s introduce an entirely new set of problems that come from your employees trying to search and retrieve information stored within disconnected systems and content repositories. It’s difficult at best, impossible at its worst. No single individual within your organization can possibly know where to look for all the information they need to do their jobs on a daily basis. And even if they did, they probably don’t have security access to all those systems. What’s more, if they did know where to look AND had access, they likely don’t know what to search for, as each system was uniquely configured to meet the needs of a specific business need or departmental requirement. For all practical purposes, troves of information are hidden away, inaccessible, needlessly replicated, and locked within information silos.
As if this debacle couldn’t get any worse, now imagine trying to integrate all these disparate information systems into your business applications. Each information system likely has its own proprietary programming interface that requires a unique skill set, and in-depth knowledge of the product’s inner workings just to build an integration that is unlikely to meet expectations.
Thinking about Rip-and-Replace or Another Legacy System? Think Again!
So, what do you do? You could decide to rip-and-replace, starting with the most mission-critical systems. If you’ve chosen this path, then perhaps you enjoy self-torture. You’ve taken a bad situation and made it worse by introducing risk, business disruption, and high costs to your organization. You’re also introducing the possibility of exposing new security threats you thought you had covered in your old system, not to mention a lengthy migration effort that in some cases could take years to execute.
After reading this, you may be thinking “just leave well enough alone,” and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” right? Wrong!! It is broken. It’s broken on a monumental scale, and your competition is about to show you just how bad. Your business information (structured data and unstructured content) is the lifeblood of your organization. Without it, decisions don’t get made, or at least they don’t get made effectively. Without it, you can’t adhere to regulatory requirements or meet audit deadlines. Without it, you can’t deliver an information-rich customer experience. Without it, you can’t defend your business practices. Without it, you are unable to retain customers, increase wallet share or expand market share. You’re cannon fodder for every industry competitor, startup, or non-traditional adversary that can drive a superior customer experience by leveraging information-rich touchpoints and has the ability to utilize information to make decisions better and faster than you. Basically, you’re toast!
What you do know is that you need to do something. Maybe you’re considering another monolithic, legacy information management product to replace your existing monolithic legacy information management product. Of course, the sales rep for the “new” legacy system tells you that their solution can solve all of the shortcomings of your existing system - all you have to do it move all of your content into their system. So you do that (or at least attempt to do that), and in a few years, you find yourself right back where you started asking how you got into this mess?
An Intelligent Approach to Information System Modernization
The answer is to approach your modernization efforts in a more intelligent manner; with a modern and highly-adaptable platform serving as the connective fabric that links to your existing information systems.
When I talk about “connecting” your information, I’m referring to a platform that serves as a central hub and single point of access to all the information across your enterprise - regardless of where it resides.
If you’re like some of us who have been in the information management business for a while, you understand that the promise of a single repository for all your business needs was a dream that was never realized. The idea was simply not practical, or in many instances, not even desirable. Truth is, there’s no way to stop the spread of information systems across different systems deployed throughout your organization. So, rather than fight it, why not embrace and exploit it?
The first step is to select a platform that provides an extensive list of prebuilt connectors to today’s information management solutions, as well as your legacy systems. It should allow you to quickly construct connectors to non-standard information stores as well. With the ability to quickly and easily access content that resides within existing legacy systems, you unlock years (perhaps even decades) of valuable information that can immediately be leveraged to make faster and better business decisions and to drive an enhanced customer experience.
Once you’ve connected and exposed all of this valuable information to your users, business applications, and customers, you can move to step two - which is to begin to consolidate outdated legacy systems and redundant repositories that no longer deliver business value. Because your business systems are now abstracted from the information they need to access through the connect layer, you can begin to execute your consolidation strategy at your own pace. No need for a big-bang approach to migrating information and the result is little-to-no business disruption.
By connecting your existing systems to a modern Content Services Platform rather than attempting the risky rip-n-replace approach, you can achieve a much quicker ROI. Then, by consolidating your information systems, you reduce your TCO, which leads to increased profitability. It’s a win-win proposition!
But many vendors say they can provide this connect and consolidate capability, right? They say they can, but legacy vendors continue to run on architectures that were designed during a time when they still believed that a single monolithic product was the answer to all your problems. Their all-in-one/all-or-nothing approach means even the most minor changes require extensive time, money, and resources to execute since any change potentially impacts the entire product.
A modern platform approach means that organizations can quickly deploy solutions and integrate with business applications, and do so easily as business needs and demands evolve over time. In this regard, it further serves to “future-proof” your information management landscape by enabling the ability to replace individual functional components when something better comes along. And because you’re replacing individual services rather than modifying an entire product, the impact is minimal. Also, if the platform is component based and cloud-native, individual parts of the platform architecture can be quickly scaled without having to scale the entire product.
At Nuxeo, we deliver a Content Services Platform that facilitates this two-step approach to information systems modernization. As an open source platform, we make it easy for you to leverage your critical business information regardless of where it resides, with services exposed through API’s, allowing you to deliver the information-rich touchpoints needed to support your business applications today and long into the future.
Ready to step into the future of information management? Contact us for a demo and our experts will show you how!