two women wearing comedy tragedy masks
PHOTO: Vladimer Shioshvili

The online world is filled with articles and posts about Digital Disruption (the symptom) and the prescribed cure, Digital Transformation (the magic elixir).

The symptom:  In a new AIIM survey, 53 percent of organizations say they are concerned about a serious disruption of their business model in the next two years.

The magic elixir:  Eighty-one percent of organizations believe that “Digital Transformation” is “important” or “very important” to their organization.

The good news is organizations are aware the world is changing. They clearly see something is going on, and that it’s not a time for business as usual. Hence the interest in digital transformation.

The bad news is the going is proving slow — less than one in five organizations are close to where they want to be by 2020 with their digital transformation elixir.

So, what’s the problem? Why are transformation intentions so far ahead of reality for so many organizations?

Related Article: Create a Winning Game Plan for Digital Transformation

Information Mismanagement Makes a Poor Foundation

The problem is many organizations are trying to build their transformation initiative upon a foundation of information mismanagement sand.

In 2008, we asked hundreds of organizations this question — “On a scale of 1 (TERRIBLE) to 10 (EXCELLENT), please rate the overall effectiveness of your organization in managing, controlling and utilizing electronic information.” The average rating was 5.23.

I asked this same question again last month. The average response? 5.39.

Not exactly inspiring.

That doesn’t mean all of those enterprise content management (ECM) deployments have been a failure. Far from it. The problem set that ECM solved — large volume, document-intensive, mission-critical departmental processes — still remains unsolved for far more organizations than conventional wisdom would have you believe. Walk into any company, you won’t have to look far to find the rows and rows of file cabinets.

But the reality is while many organizations have spent a LOT on content and information management solutions over the past decade — and the solutions themselves have improved dramatically — this spending has mostly taken the form of running faster and harder in order to stay in the same place. The tide of information chaos is rising faster than our ability to manage it with traditional content management tools: more information, from more places, in more complex forms, at an accelerating velocity.

Related Article: Understanding and Meeting the Challenges of Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation Can't Mean Business as Usual

True transformation — transformation that meets the wave of digital disruption head on — requires more than traditional content management:

  • We’ve moved beyond the cloud “tipping point.” Even for organizations that were initially skeptical, for over eight in 10 organizations, cloud capabilities are now a key part of the solution.
  • For 70 percent of organizations, the monolithic model characteristic of the ECM era has been replaced by a desire to consume content capabilities as needed — i.e., content services.
  • 92 percent of organizations believe something needs to change and that they must modernize their information management strategy.

So a core piece of any digital transformation initiative must be a fundamental reexamination of the approach taken to information management. Of course, this rethinking must be done while sustaining the legacy systems of record — at least for the short-term — that keep the business running. This is a not insignificant challenge, somewhat akin to trying to rewire a house without turning the power off.

Information assets are the core currency of the Age of Digital Disruption. They must be managed with a modern set of tools and strategies that allow organizations to get ahead of the rising tide of information chaos.