The evolution and modernisation of content services
Information technology modernisation is a constant concern, whether it is replacing feature-poor legacy systems, working out a data governance plan, or upgrading enterprise security. With the pace that IT evolves, relying on ‘old faithful' solutions that are past their use-by date nearly always results in less efficient processes and impacts productivity.
When starting the modernisation process, there is a lot more to consider than just the technology itself. Corporate governance needs to begin with the people and work backwards from there, looking at all the many impacts a new solution or service may have on the business. In that sense, replacing legacy systems is a task that goes far beyond replacing an existing system with a more modern one.
So many services and solutions now work hand-in-hand that a relationship between two disparate services might have a huge impact on the business today, whereas even five years ago it may not have registered as important at all.
In the age of interconnectivity and machine learning, every device is a portal through which intelligence passes and is captured. How an organisation uses that intelligence must have a major impact on the decision-making processes that go into modernisation.
In October 2017, Gartner released its annual Magic Quadrant report for Content Services Platforms. This marked a significant evolution away from the traditional verbiage on this critical sector – what had previously been known as the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Content Management.
The move reflected this modernised vision of the enterprise, and an acknowledgement that content requires more than an accessible repository – it must be made truly ‘live.' That is, content should be accessible and safe, but also searchable, with indexing and workflow tools built in.
All file formats must be universally visible, whether they are structured or unstructured data, standard text or scanned files. Access controls need to be set, protecting sensitive documents but allowing fast, company-wide access to others.
Automation has been introduced, saving countless keystrokes and reducing data input time. Intelligent capture has made once-static documents truly digital, and their data should now form part of the organisation's business intelligence and big data plan.
Behind this new functionality lies the core message – an organisation needs better governance of files and documents, and that the true management and activation of content has moved past the point where simple file management will suffice.
As Hyland president and CEO, Bill Priemer said at the time of the report, “To embrace digital transformation, organisations need more than the ability to manage content.
Customers and potential customers expect new levels of service in the modern-day world of hyper-connectivity and seamless, multi-channel interactions. Companies need to provide the innovative experiences and services that customers now demand.
Those who are slow to change will be the ones left behind, and content services can go a long way towards providing a better pathway to those services.
But let's go back a step.
Historically, most organisations looked at Enterprise Content Management (ECM) as a way of imaging and reclaiming storage costs by simply digitising documents. ECM quickly provided online access to information that was previously only available on paper, microfilm, or microfiche. As the platform evolved, a swathe of new services were added that expanded the role of ECM far past the point of just scanning, storing and retrieving files and images.
As organisations achieved significant productivity improvements through these new solutions, they deployed even more departmental solutions on top of them, looking to further streamline business processes. In most cases though, these solutions lacked connectivity and integration. Multiple departments could not share in the knowledge and information achieved by another department.
In a financial organisation, for example, retail branch operations systems might not speak effectively to customer service systems, who in turn would not speak to consumer lending, and consumer lending would not speak to the treasury.
It was a domino effect of lost productivity due to information silos.
Innovative ECM vendors got ahead of the curve and adapted their approaches, moving away from the concept of the monolithic storage repositories that historically have dominated the IT landscape. Organisations came to rely on multiple repositories and solutions to better manage content. In time, cloud services were adopted, which streamlined data storage and application delivery. Content became more accessible and manageable.
In the latest chapter of this evolution, organisations now witness the transformation of ECM into content services – where the focus is on connecting those systems so that users not only find the information they need, where they need it - but are empowered to use it in innovative ways to deliver the service and experiences that consumers are demanding.
In the years to come, organisations that still only embrace a traditional ECM approach will fall short. To get ahead of the competition, they need to plan for a truly holistic content services approach. Automation will increase business efficiency and reduce human error, the collaboration will streamline internal processes, and a three-hundred-sixty-degree view of documentation and files will provide a clear pathway towards a more productive enterprise.
Key aspects of content services:
It delivers enterprise content and information from across multiple applications to the user, on demand, when and where they need it.
It is meant to complement and enhance other core systems, applications and processes.
It empowers the use of content in context via tailored role-based applications.
Creates transparent processes and supporting reporting.
At the heart of content services is the connection of information, processes and cases, bringing it all together in an agile, intelligent platform. With a content services solution, this unification also means better process reporting and transparency, supporting an understanding of process health and revealing bottlenecks that can be remedied, leading to improved security and general risk reduction.
Creating an agile mindset supported by an agile platform
The collection that is content services, with its emphasis on configurability and integration, is agile at its very core. It offers interlocking parts, made to connect and able to be altered and enhanced quickly. Moving to a different way of creating the tools that staff and customers need can also change the timeframe required to deliver modern and responsive solutions. Faster, holistic access to content empowers an organisation to streamline processes across the board, and content services align with the mindset of agility and true integration.
IT modernisation is critical and it requires both new solutions and a new mindset. Content services and its ability to support digital transformation is the right investment philosophy to counter the strain that legacy systems place on a business, and will provide a secure platform for moving an enterprise into a mature, data-rich future.