Looking back on the most recent AIIM Conference in San Francisco (it’s keynotes, panel discussions and my own meetings), I thought it was time to pause for a moment and look at the big picture of what’s changing the nature of ECM. While social collaboration, mobility, cloud and big data are huge factors influencing ECM (and featured prominently at this event), there is still so much more to consider when looking at what’s driving this rapidly evolving landscape. In order to do this justice, I’m breaking-up the discussion into two parts. Part 1 is focused on identifying the macro forces that are shaping the fundamental nature of ECM. Part-2 will focus on the strategies necessary to meet these new demands.
It’s well understood that we now live in an information economy, where data of all types and “connectedness” form the basis of our service-oriented society. Advances in technology have made information more accessible and leverageable than ever before. As a result, information has evolved from something we had to deal with to acting as the currency fueling our economy. From my numerous meetings with customers and industry experts, it’s clear that a fundamental shift is taking place as to how we look at information. Organizations are beginning to realize how information can be used as a strategic asset rather than for pure operational efficiency gains (which has dominated the thinking for decades). However, these same advances are creating new challenges and complexities when it comes to managing and protecting information, in our always-on, anywhere world.
So what’s changing?
To gain a better appreciation for what’s going on, we need to look beyond the latest technology innovations and consider three macro trends that are affecting the market:
1. The 3-Dimensional growth of information. We’ve been experiencing a tremendous growth of information for years, but have seen it accelerate even further with the advent of social computing. Based on IDC’s “Digital Universe” study, it’s projected that we’ll generate over 35 zettabytes (35 trillion terabytes) of information globally by 2020. This is mindboggling, when you consider that all of the information today on the web accounts for only about 500 million terabytes (half a zettabyte). This ever expanding information pool (known as big data) is creating compelling opportunities for businesses to transform themselves by quickly turning new insights into competitive advantage. However, there is much more to this equation than information’s volume and velocity. We’ve also seen significant changes in the richness of information – namely voice and video. Today people prefer to view and/or listen to content rather than read it – both in the consumer and business worlds. I for one fall into this category. When I recently had to change out the power supply in the kids PS3, I used a YouTube video to walk me effortlessly through the delicate procedure. If I had relied on a manual to do this, the poor thing would have died on the table. In business, we see videos being used for anything from training on HR policies to maintaining power generators. Lastly, we’ve seen a major shift in the dispersion of information moving well beyond the four-walls of the organization. Information has moved out to partners, suppliers, remote employees and more recently into the cloud. While the location of information has changed, the organization’s obligation to protect the sensitivity of information has not.
2. Increasing regulation across all industries. While this has been the trend for years, the defining change came primarily as the result of the financial services industry melt-down in 2008. Today, organizations must do more than just show the basic artifacts of transactions (contracts, loan documents, policies, etc.). Now they must prove how and why these decisions were made. Great examples include the whole “robo-signer” scandal and the probe into Toyota’s supposed “accelerator malfunctions”. Here, it was more important to account for discussions, procedures, and rationale for decisions, as the formal documents were called into question. With the increased dispersion of information comes increased exposure to organizational risk – especially when it comes to protecting the privacy of customer information and intellectual property.
3. The advent of the “New User” and the “post-pc era” (which is perhaps the most significant trend). A new generation (i.e. “the Millennials – also known as “Generation C” – for Connected) is entering the workforce, who are inherently more mobile and social. They are demanding access to the tools, devices, and rich applications that they use in their personal lives (Facebook, Twitter, Skype, etc.) – also in the workplace. For them, richness and simplicity of experience – “coolness” – trumps functionality every time. It’s all about the ability to choose the devices and applications they use to get the information they need and stay connected with their colleagues – instantly, anytime…anywhere. This makes sense when you consider that on average we have anywhere from three to seven different devices to access information – My household alone has four iPads, four iPod touches, one iPhone, one Android phone, four laptops, two desktop computers, two Kindles, a PS3 and a Wii – all able to obtain any information under the sun. (Unfortunately none of it helps us find our keys in the morning). Equally important to the new user is getting access to applications faster. With SaaS applications like Salesforce.com, Workday, etc., users can get access to applications on-demand in a fraction of the time IT can provision applications – essentially creating an environment where anyone with a credit card is now a CIO. Users are not willing to wait six to twelve months to get an application …they’re demanding it now in a matter of weeks or a few months.
Given the speed and magnitude of these changes, it’s easy to see why organizations are struggling to deliver the next level of business performance and agility, securely on the ground and in the cloud. IT is increasingly under the gun to find better ways to store, manage, deliver, and protect information regardless of its location. It must enable new vectors of growth, innovation and competitive advantage, while at the same time insulating the organization from risk. In order to help solve this equation, we need to rethink the approach to ECM. So how must ECM evolve to meet these new demands? Stay tuned for Part-2…