Better Collaboration And Integration Needed From Doc Management
April 2, 2012 Dan Burger
For as long as I’ve been alive, paper has always been called paper. There’s never been Paper 2.0 and to the best of my knowledge no one ever talks about enterprise-level paper or makes claims that it seamlessly integrates with filing cabinets. Compared to stone tablets, it’s an innovation award winner. But has its value diminished in the digital age? No doubt about it. Document management software would love to be Paper 2.0, but paper won’t go away without a fight.
I’m not here to defend paper. In fact, just the opposite. So if you’re in love with paper–forms and pamphlets and every kind of document that you can hold in your hand–this would be a good time to avert your eyes, because electronic documentation continues to grow. It still has limitations that prevent it from pushing paper aside, but in many cases it’s already the better choice.
Last week I spoke with Nathaniel Rowe, a data management analyst at Aberdeen Research, who recently published a report called Handling Paper in a Digital Age. Reports based on surveys are always big on statistics, so let me toss a few at you.
Well over 80 percent of enterprise-level companies have adopted document management to some extent. If what happens at the “Fortunate Fifty” or even the “Wall Street One Thousand” richest corporations in the world doesn’t mean diddly squat to you, maybe knowing that 66 percent of small to midsize businesses have document management hits closer to home. That already sounds like half the planet’s trees have survived the axe. And if you haven’t even thought about taking at least some of your documents to digital, maybe you ought to get on the stick.
Big statistics make big impressions. However, keep in mind that even a small document management project qualifies as a yes answer in the Aberdeen survey. There’s no telling how extensive or all-encompassing the digital document projects are. Regardless, the trend is toward more implementations and further enhancements to existing installations.
I asked Rowe to give me more details that pertain to the less-than-enterprise shops, which Aberdeen distinguishes by a line in the sand at the $1 billion revenue threshold.
“Almost one-quarter of the companies in the SMB category are researching new document management technologies,” he replied. “Major consideration is being given to collaboration tools and automation. Collaboration is important because of the traditional silos of information that make sharing difficult. It prevents information accessibility to various departments that own a portion of the business process. It can take a long time to gain access to some of those silos.”
Internal collaboration tools are currently being used at just under 50 percent of the SMBs, according to Lowe’s report. While almost two-thirds of large enterprises have something in this category.
Extending collaboration tools to external sources through an online portal is being done at about one-third of SMBs, and more than 40 percent of enterprise organizations have put this plan into action.
“This is a level of complexity higher than using email,” Lowe explains. “It involves management rules and access authority levels. It’s a single place to go for the documents and information needed by a variety of departments and individuals.”
Automation of document capture technology and enterprise search engines for queries are two additional areas receiving attention from companies both large and small that are either purchasing or enhancing existing document management systems. The domino effect caused by human errors–they take their toll in business process efficiency and in costs related to repairing mistakes–is a big reason for making increased automation a desirable document management system feature.
You wouldn’t get in many arguments by claiming data integration is the biggest obstacle in taking document management company-wide. Multiple document management systems, each within its own domain and unable to integrate with other systems are not unusual. These barriers are being overcome in some instances with document management systems that run on the same platform as the ERP system and where most of the structured data resides.
A common dilemma, however, is not having all the data plugged into an easily accessible company-wide system. This is one reason document management systems are not better at increasing business process workflow.
A wild card in document management is the tremendous amount of unstructured data that is being created. Integrating this data into enterprise applications is a much lower priority than handling structured data for most businesses at this point. Lowe says that will all be changing sooner rather than later, but it depends on industry and priorities of the organization. Fewer than 10 percent of organizations have been able to apply ROI for document management projects involving unstructured data.
“The top-of-mind priorities for document management integration are ERP, CRM, and SCM systems,” Lowe says. “It’s about making sure the up-to-date information is feeding those systems. It has always been easier to demonstrate return on investment with a structured data integration project because a well-run ERP system streamlines operations.”
The Aberdeen document management survey covered a broad segment of industries including manufacturing, distribution, healthcare, financial, insurance, and others.
Lowe has another report, due for release in approximately three weeks, which deals specifically with data integration for big data environments.
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