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The digital workplace and intelligent information management

The digital workplace and intelligent information management

Once an organisation has developed a vision and strategy for achieving a digital workplace, the technology platforms by which they want to achieve this becomes their major focus point. Without the correct choices and approach, an organisation will soon face a digitalization fiasco.

In its simplest form, going digital as an organisation means eliminating hardcopy paperwork, often called using a paperless system. The most critical aspect of a digital workplace from a technological point of view is thus the way the organisation manages its documents, content, and other information. A workplace cannot be a digital workplace if paper documents and manual processes are still the norm. The way in which information is stored, managed, and shared forms the basis of the digital workplace. From this starting point, an organisation can achieve great benefits, provided it is managed properly.

The journey from paperless to intelligent information management

In the ’90s, every company wanted to be come ‘paperless’. Nevertheless, a large number of companies are still dependent on paper systems:

  • 65% of people still do printing to obtain signatures or to take along to meetings (reference: AIIM)
  • The average employee uses 1000 sheets of paper per year (reference: EPA)
  • 66% of organisations has an initiative aimed at reducing their paper consumption (reference: IDC)

This brings a rather worrying problem to light. How are these paper copies managed? Where are they stored? How do people find and share them? How can organisations ensure that employees have access to the correct version of a paper document?

In the early 2000s, the focus has shifted to digital document organisation and management. But how effective are organisations at using this these days?

  • 52% of organisations uses four or more content systems/platforms (reference: AIIM)
  • 70% of organisations has a poor content strategy (if they have one at all) (reference: Forrester)
  • 25% of poorly managed documents will never be localised or ever be re-used (reference: Gartner)

The latest statistics of the above three factors is the most critical. Despite the fact that organisations implement tools and systems to enable employees to find and manage information electronically, things still continue to go wrong. Adding more technology and more content systems only seem to be making the problem worse.

Since 2010, the demand for digitisation greatly increased. However, it is unclear to what extent organisations that still heavily lean on paper, whereby information is also scattered across multiple silos, are ready to optimize their business processes. While at the same time, demand for mobile work is increasing, there are increasing demands for security and compliance and pressure from the market also increases.

IIM is a verb and not a proper name

You have already come across different terms, which probably just lead to confusion. From DMS to ECM to Content Services, and now Intelligent information management as well. So, what’s the actual difference?

Here is a useful excerpt from a recent AIIM-report that clearly explains the differences.

Enterprise Content Management was no longer a comprehensive description of everything organisations are now doing with content and information, not to mention the many new things they need to do in order to remain viable.

AIIM has long regarded ECM more as a verb (something organisations do) than just a proper name (a characteristic of a market segment), but over the long-term, the definition of ECM has become associated more with the latter rather than with the former. 

AIIM is of the opinion that Intelligent Information Management is a better verb to describe what organisations are trying to do with content and information than ECM. IIM is not a technological segment.

IIM thus stands for a change in mentality and approach to the way an organisation manages information. In my opinion, it consists of three critical components:

  • Metadata-driven
  • System neutral
  • Intelligent

Metadata-driven

Filing simply no longer works. It is an outdated concept that worked for paper, but there is no reason to use this where digital management of information is concerned.

Instead, manage information by describing what it is instead of where it is filed or stored. A simple example is an employee who creates and saves a sales proposal. Firstly, in what system does he save this document? Does it go into the CRM system, the document management system or into a shared network drive? Or into all of these at the same time? Once a decision has been made, will it go to the customer’s folder, the proposals folder, or the sales team folder? There is really no right answer – this document can definitely be saved on one of those sites. How do you ensure that not just you, but your colleagues will also know where they should find this document? How do you ensure that no duplicate copies are being stored in multiple locations? How can you make sure of sending the latest and correct version of the proposal to the customer? The answer is that you can’t.

With metadata you can classify this document as a proposal, with reference to this customer, this project, that team, etc. Instead of looking for the location of this document, you or your colleagues can search for terms related to the document, and there will only be one version of it and it will be the correct one.

System neutral

Employees do not want to be limited to working in one single system. An organisation might use network folders, file share services (Google Drive, Dropbox), document management systems or shared network drives.

It should not matter where a piece of information is stored. It should be possible to search and manage by using metadata, providing the same user experience no matter where the information is physically stored.

An important aspect of the digital workplace is to ensure that information is accessible at any time from any system and on any device. This prevents people from needing to print paper copies to take along to meetings for example.

Intelligent

It is important that every form of technology that is used in a digital workplace, makes its employees’ lives easier. By using intelligent services to classify information automatically, the process of information management is streamlined and consistency and compliance within an organisation can be guaranteed. Not only will users no longer need to think: “where should I save this document”, they now no longer even need to think about “How should I classify this document” or “what metadata should I apply”, since artificial intelligence can help to automate this process.

Deployment of an information management platform can be a key element in realising a digital workplace, but how this is addressed should be carefully considered in order to reduce risks and costs and to ensure that employees will embrace this new way of working. This is because, without the right system and the right approach, an organisation could soon be facing a digitisation fiasco. This is where the importance of an Agile platform and an Agile project methodology come to the fore.

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