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Why Some Fall Behind: Document Management Q&A With AIIM’s John Mancini

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Consumerization, cloud and mobile technology, the Internet of Things — these three disruptors are increasing the possibility that information chaos could sweep through your organization, according to John Mancini. For companies without document management solutions in place, it’s increasingly difficult to remain competitive.

“I think we’re in an environment where there are going to be a lot of winners and losers that are unexpected,” he says. “That disruption is going to affect a lot of organizations, and that’s why they have to take these technology issues seriously.”

Mancini is president and CEO of the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), a global community of information professionals, and writes the AIIM blog, Digital Landfill .

As an author and speaker, Mancini’s interests include information management and big data technology adoption, or as he says, “digital transformation and what it means for organizations moving forward.”

DocuWare interviewed Mancini to get his insights on what today’s companies can do to stay ahead of the competition.

Q: What document management practices make companies less competitive, putting them at risk of falling behind?

A: I usually think of these five practices:

  1. Failure to understand the concept of information risk: There’s lots of data in AIIM surveys about this; 42 percent of organizations tell us they aren’t even confident about what’s safe to delete, and 24 percent say that they’ve had some sort of litigation or compliance problem over the last two years. That failure to understand that there is information-related risk out there is problem No. 1.

  2. Failure to keep back-end processes up to date: When we ask people about paper use [in AIIM surveys], 25 percent of organizations say the volume of physical paper in their business processes is increasing, rather than decreasing. That’s kind of unbelievable.

    When we ask people what they do when they scan a document, 16 percent say that they photocopy the document before they scan it — which creates another paper — and 65 percent say that they don’t destroy the document after scanning it. So you’ve go this weird Sorcerer’s Apprentice-kind of practice: By failing to keep processes up to date, they’re increasing the paper used in them.

  3. Failure to take collaboration seriously: Many organizations are still doing collaboration in this form: “Take a big attachment and email it to a big mess of people. Ask them to comment on it, and send a reply-all to everybody on the list.” That’s what passes for collaboration in most organizations, and our research suggests that’s a big problem. They haven’t adapted new systems to help with collaboration.

  4. Not anticipating the implications of massive volumes of information: They’re not planning for how to deal with them, how to find information and how to deliver it to the right person, in the right context.

    So those are the four main problems. And my fifth one is:

  5. Failure to realize that those four problems are connected: This is a more holistic perspective. Problems related to risk, automation, collaboration and analytics and insight are all tied together. You need to put an infrastructure into place so that, if you’re attacking one problem, it also gives you benefits on another.

You need to think in terms of the foundational technologies you put in place to drive a lot of improvement initiatives. We have a long history in the content management space of people deploying point solutions and then deploying an entirely different point solution on a whole other platform for another problem.

I think people are now waking up to the fact that while they often implement solutions to particular problems one by one, in an iterative way, if you don’t have a common infrastructure to build upon, you’re never going to be able to scale effectively.

So the question of your platform — what it is, what you’re building upon it, where you’ve already had success and how you can take that success and extend it into other areas — becomes the most important thing to think about.

Q: How should a less-efficient company start improving its situation?

A: I’d offer three tips. The first probably sounds somewhat basic: Figure out where your real, intensive paper pain-points are. I would look at where paper enters your business and where it slows down your business. Look at where it clogs up the workspace, where it restricts your flexibility and agility, and where it restricts access to shared information. That will probably tell you a lot about where you ought to start, and where you ought to start looking at document management and workflow solutions as a vehicle to get at those particular problems.

The second thing — and this will sound really obvious — is that you need to start somewhere. If I’ve seen organizations make one mistake over and over again, it’s that they analyze this stuff to death. At this point, you almost have to take it as an article of faith that getting rid of paper and automating processes is good for your business, your customers and your bottom line. Then pick a solution and get started. These aren’t solutions that are so expensive that you can’t afford to make a mistake.

The third thing is to get smart about content management. This is a bit self-serving, because at AIIM, we do a lot of user-based training to help people understand what these technologies are all about and how they can be applied to business problems. But whether you get it from AIIM or DocuWare or anybody else, get smart about this stuff. It’s not a very well-understood piece of the information management landscape, so you need some education to understand the terms, what it’s all about and the sort of things you ought to think about on the front end of a project.

The time is right to do something. This is a set of technologies that has demonstrated and proven ROI. You can embark upon it with a relatively modest expense; the expense tends to have a big magnifier effect. And it’s not just a technology that saves money; it’s one that empowers people in your organization and has all sorts of collateral benefits.

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