dog shaking off water
With digital transformation, ECM needs to broaden its focus beyond traditional records management concerns PHOTO: Geoff Stearns

Digital transformation — the reimagining of business processes from the ground up using a digital first approach — is changing the strategy for enterprise content management (ECM). 

Organizations originally adopted content management technologies to reduce their dependency on paper. They later added distributed capture and workflow so they could use digital content within a business process, instead of just archiving it digitally post-process. 

Now we're able to capture the relevant data from a document and use it to complete the same business process. The document itself is only needed as a record of a transaction and should exist in its archive until needed for reference or regulatory purposes. In the instances where content is needed to complete work, the form of that content and the channel for delivery need to be flexible to meet the needs of workers.

3 Examples of Digital Transformation's Impact 

To illustrate how digital transformation is changing the way we should think about managing and working with these documents, let's look at three content use cases and what this transformation means for the strategy efforts of ECM program owners.

e-Forms

E-forms provide the most obvious example of how digital transformation has changed our approach to documents. We've gone from paper-based documents, to digital PDFS, to a guided experience like TurboTax where the client never interacts with a 1040 form. 

The form is only produced after the tax preparation service takes place to memorialize the event and file it with the IRS. Legacy organizations have struggled to redesign their forms and processes for a slew of reasons. 

Successful organizations redesigned their forms process with a focus on customer experience and straight-through data processing. 

Engineering Drawings

On the other end of the spectrum is the engineering drawing — a critical piece of content for any organization that builds and manages assets. 

Traditionally engineers would produce these drawings in a specialty engineering program like Bentley or WindChill and then make changes using paper and pencil. Updates to the digital version are often out of date or updated with a scanned copy — which makes life difficult to complete maintenance or service on an asset. 

Leading firms are now considering the use of tablets with interactive drawings or even video to provide a more streamlined and user-friendly experience. These capabilities have less to do with how the content is managed and preserved (traditional ECM concerns) and more with how it can be manipulated, updated and delivered to multiple platforms for broader geographic access. 

Integrating this content with mapping systems and work order management systems is also a high-priority concern for the industry.

Claims/Underwriting

We also see a move towards digital transformation for processes like Claims and Underwriting which includes traditional content like word documents and PDFs, but increasingly digital content as well, including video, pictures and audio. 

The introduction of artificial intelligence to recognize human readable content, robotic process automation to reduce processing time and back-office effort, and case management to handle more complex or variable processes provides an opportunity to reduce the staff required to complete these tasks and can provide a faster, more transparent experience for the end client. This also reduces call center volume — a major cost center — and improves customer experience.

Establishing New ECM Priorities

People expect their electric company, insurance provider and bank to provide them with a digital experience that is as good as what they get from Amazon or Netflix. And the advances in content services are making that possible. 

But the difficult work for legacy environments will be to divorce themselves from the traditional content management headspace of focusing on the management of the content to a focus on how to use information to get work done better, faster, cheaper. 

This means a couple things:

  1. We have to be OK with being "good enough" at records management. Compliance with regulations is essential, but for the content management industry it has too long been the tail wagging the dog. How do we reimagine processes to abstract data from content, deliver rich media to multiple devices, and take advantage of advances in machine learning, while also ensuring the artifact of record is being properly preserved? That’s an important question but it needs to be answered in that order.
  2. Greenfield organizations have an advantage. Legacy environments have years of investment and process built around systems that were built for digitizing paper post-process. The evolution from that point to a more customer-centric / get-work-done mode is difficult and requires an enormous amount of chance. For organizations that don’t have those investments, new technology is more flexible and (in many cases) more accessible than ever. This gives new entrants an opportunity to leap-frog the competition.

Consultants and executives often throw around the digital transformation buzzword with little meaning behind it. But reimagining business processes with a digital-first vision is the most important change for the content management industry, and one that shouldn’t be ignored. 

I’m interested in hearing more about how your organization is addressing these changes, so please share them in the comments.