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The evolution of ECM vendors

Speeding up the flow of business-critical information across the organisation is key to making operations more effective and efficient.

Read time 3min 40sec
Dawie Malan, Ricoh, says document purchases should be based on value and return on investment, and not on the price of the product, which is becoming increasingly commoditised.
Dawie Malan, Ricoh, says document purchases should be based on value and return on investment, and not on the price of the product, which is becoming increasingly commoditised.

The average worker is losing 7.4 hours every week looking for the information they need to get their job done. That's almost a full work day. The reasons are clear. According to IDC research, data is growing by 40 percent year-on-year, which is a phenomenal amount, but even more significant is that 80 percent of that data is unstructured. It sits in e-mails, presentations and other text and multimedia content and people can't get to the data they need to do their jobs. Furthermore, security is also an ongoing concern, as around 85 percent of businesses are struggling to secure their documents.

"Information collaboration is the only way for organisations to improve productivity and efficiencies when it comes to information management and making both document and non-document-related content available to the people who need it, when they need it," says Dawie Malan, head of software sales at Ricoh. "The volume and detail of information is exploding, and managing big data is fast becoming a competitive differentiator. Big data is everyone's concern, and its growth is being driven by the rise of multimedia, social media, and the Internet of Things."

Precision marketing

Malan says one approach Ricoh has taken to managing big data is precision marketing, which uses data-driven messaging to create targeted communications across several marketing channels, including print, e-mail, online, social and mobile. "We're applying precision marketing to help our clients, which include commercial printers, service bureaus, enterprise datacentres and enterprise marketers, to deliver timeous and relevant messages to customers so they can make the most of every interaction. The results include higher response rates and improved customer retention, all as a result of co-ordinating marketing, analytics, customer communications, document production and response management. It's about integrating those ever-expanding systems and information silos to create a central pool of accessible information."

South African companies are lagging when it comes to making paper-based challenges disappear. "There's a global drive to implement paperless workflows, and to make it simple to search for and modify existing information," says Malan. "Added to that is the growing need to store information in the cloud, to allow mobile and remote workers to have access via their own computers, tablets and smartphones."

ECM trends in 2014

In its '2014 Trends to Watch report on Enterprise Content Management', global analyst firm Ovum reports that the enterprise content management (ECM) market is rapidly changing as platform vendors transform themselves into providers of solutions that address specific organisational issues. For vendors, this means a change of emphasis from the core features (now largely standardised) such as document management, to other areas, such as capture and scanning and business process management (BPM) as the enablers of content-centric processes.
Delivery models and channels are also changing as users demand access to content anytime, anywhere, obliging the vendors to make ECM available to a wider range of organisations by delivering their solutions via the cloud.

He cautions that increasing regulatory compliance demands - the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act being the most recent - and information security needs are also highlighting why it's becoming more critical for businesses of all sizes to manage documents more efficiently.

"My advice to CIOs is to base your next document purchase on value and return on investment, and not on the price of the product, which is becoming increasingly commoditised. Find a vendor that can prove ROI," says Malan. "One area in which businesses feel pain the most, for example, is billing and revenue collection. By removing inefficiencies and time-consuming bottlenecks, you can improve collections and reduce operational overheads."

Andrew Griffith, product manager for office products at Konica Minolta South Africa, agrees. "One of our customers is in financial services, where there are always tons of contracts and policies. By building a content management system that linked to its CRM software and enabled querying so that customers' questions could be answered, we helped the company gain 133 hours of productivity. My advice is that when the top line is under pressure, go back to what you can control, which is speed and efficiency."

I advise CIOs to look for solutions that will optimise their systems and processes.

Jason Schoultz, Nashua

Jason Schoultz, national manager, business solutions, Nashua, says enterprise content management today should not be about hardware, but about the customer's business processes. "You have to save the customer money on operations costs. I advise CIOs to look for solutions that will optimise their systems and processes. That means the provider must have a thorough understanding of vertical markets, and also of horizontal business processes. The product is far less important than the actual solution."

First published in the March 2014 issue of ITWeb Brainstorm magazine.

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