Information management trends have been swinging back and forth for years.
Currently, we see trends pushing the industry to specialized cloud solutions that focus on solving specific problems. A broader look shows organizations stringing together many applications in order to create a complete business solution.
The emerging challenge comes from the basic problem that the industry has always faced: people do not like to switch between applications.
They will gladly use different applications for distinct functions, e.g. Word for writing, but balk when forced to switch to an additional application to save information into a repository. They would much rather do that from within Word than use a third tool for a feature that they view as core to their work.
The future of information management is an extension of what cloud vendors brought to the space. The focus will be on transforming the day-to-day user experience into a seamless experience.
As information management advances, the nuts and bolts that tie everything together to manage and govern information will become hidden from view.
A Patchwork of Cool Features
A lot of cool features are currently available in the cloud. Many of these apps only address one aspect of a business problem. Digital signatures is a good example in the information management space.
Cloud-based DocuSign provides a digital signature app that simplifies the process of digitally signing documents, from housing leases to consulting contracts. The issue is that its product only address part of the process: negotiations need to take place before those items are signed.
For the housing lease, a lot of work goes into finding the lessor. A consulting contract includes a delivery process, based on the agreement in the contract, that will generate its own set of information.
To avoid being seen as a one trick pony, many vendors are struggling to add features to their apps to create a full-fledged solution. That time consuming process runs the risk of turning the app into an unusable bloated application, similar to their on-premises forebears. Some vendors are working with other vendors to create an ecosystem of connected applications, the combined features creating a full-fledged solution.
What this means for the end user is buying solutions from a large number of vendors and mapping out how they all work together — a challenge for IT experts, let alone the average business person.
Assembling a Puzzle
What people need — and where the industry is heading — are connected apps that can be managed in one place. Instead of subscriptions to 20 different cloud vendors, organizations would have a subscription to a core app, with well-defined rates and integrations with other apps.
For example, maybe while using Box, an organization automatically gets 20 signed DocuSign documents a month. On-demand pricing that is calculated on a per document model which automatically adjusts when certain volume thresholds are achieved.
Business owners would have only one vendor relationship to manage — and would control which features to use. It frees IT up to focus on other projects since the central vendor handles integrations and single sign-on. Staff doesn’t have to switch between cloud apps anymore, making them happier — and more productive. Everything happens automatically behind the scenes.
One Task, One Workplace
Utopian dream? Wishful thinking? This vision isn't far-fetched or too far off in the future.
The growth of open APIs is making it all possible. It's up to visionary vendors to pull it all together, streamlining the assembly of solutions for their customers.
We've seen this future before. We've seen it in TV shows like Star Trek and Buck Rogers — where the right tools were always on hand. We have the components to create those applications, many with the great user experience that creates positive outcomes. Our job is to tell the vendors which features matter, which ones the product needs at its core, and which ones work better leveraging a best-of-breed solution.
It would be nice to reach the point where we can focus on delivering on our mission as information managers without worrying whether the technology will keep pace with our demands.
Title image Florian Klauer