Wednesday, 21 December 2016 15:50

Content drives digital transformation


Digital transformation is taking hold across Australia and Asia Pacific and yes, it's 2016’s most overused IT buzzword. Still, companies are wondering where and how to start to drive real, measurable, business impact.

Australian business, driven by the “customer experience”, imperative are struggling with the concept – all it simply means is using technology to convert analogue (older or manual) business process via digitalisation (the process) to achieve digital transformation (the effect).

An example might be to change the way customers order from you – from phone, fax and walk-in to completely on-line and that includes payment and distribution as well. Or it may be to step away from a dedicated service department to online self-help delivered by an omnichannel contact centre.

During the year, Dell EMC gained more prominence in the field of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) strategies. I interviewed Albert Nel, director Sales – Asia Pacific & Japan at Enterprise Content Division, Dell EMC, to understand what approaches successful companies are taking, what might be holding others back, and how various industries can move forward effectively to enter new markets by leveraging ECM.

Dell Albert NelNel has spent most of his working life in the ECM field – first as a product manager for Sybase, then as product manager for IA Systems specialising in Hummingbird and Open Text, and since 2007 he has been with Dell EMC.

 Why should companies be thinking about content as they pursue digital transformation opportunities?

When considering ECM within the context of digital transformation, there is potential to improve an organisation’s competitive advantage on many levels.

First, it rapidly helps an organisation focus on what end-to-end business processes can be unified to tap into the value of content. Not only can this deliver efficiency gains — such as cutting out costly manual steps or speeding up a process — but strategically, this can result in better business decisions, faster time-to-market, and higher-quality products and customer service.

A regional Life Sciences company, for example, can bring a locally manufactured drug to European markets faster. This can be achieved by efficiently managing key content, such as patient data trials, and simplifying compliance milestones, such as how specialists provide and act on content together with regulatory bodies.

Second, companies are already spending time and effort to manage content today, but often without strategic impact, so it makes sense to take a further, deeper look. Content has long been the lifeblood of an organisation. But the rise of mobile, social, and cloud trends brings new opportunity to share or leverage it.

Finally, content is increasing, not going away. This trend crosses all industries, whether it’s fintech facing thousands of customer loan applications a minute, energy suppliers managing Internet of Things equipment documents or manufacturers providing data to comply with more operational excellence regulations to enter new markets.

What is holding back business from leading in ECM?

Many companies are not factoring in how much cost reduction and business agility occurs alongside the content management improvements. They are looking only at the benefits the new ECM innovation delivers, which is also important, but not the entire picture.

For example, companies may have dozens of software applications that they have been using for many years, all storing some type of enterprise content. We have found, in customer after customer case, that decommissioning such legacy applications and unifying content is a smart approach. This effectively “liquidises” budget that is locked up in non-strategic IT infrastructure. Instead, that investment can be used on forward-looking IT efforts that delight customers or partners. It also supports a move toward more cloud-based IT.

Similarly, as organisations think about whether to digitise paper content, they should consider the agility, cost reduction, and even environmental impact. All the associated costs once invested in paper, for example, can potentially be reduced – real estate fees to store file cabinets to meet compliance, transportation costs to move paper, and processing fees across people and systems. Meanwhile, they are “going green.”

Dell ECM

One of the reasons I enjoy working in ECM is because we have been delivering these kinds of operational improvements for years, but now they apply to many more aspects of a business as it digitally transforms.

What other cost reductions and agility benefits can be achieved by pursuing ECM strategies?

Let’s look at just one other step – decommissioning legacy applications to unify content in a single archive. Doing so eliminates the licensing costs for all those legacy apps, for example, which tend to be higher for unsupported, specialised older systems. Companies also lower their dependency on hard-to-find, specialised personnel to manage and support these systems. If enterprises move to a newer application, these costs go away.

Also, as businesses deploy modernised ECM solutions, they have more flexibility to adapt their overall IT infrastructure. This includes the ability to use more open source software in conjunction with new apps, a strategy that governments across the region have already been evaluating. This is not usually possible with legacy apps.

Another consideration is security. Some legacy apps are not just complicating workflow or inflating costs. They also may no longer be supported with security patches from their vendors, can be very difficult to patch, or may have known vulnerabilities that can be exploited. Simplifying a company’s IT infrastructure to free up content can have the side effect of strengthening the security risk posture.

What advice do you have for Asia Pacific companies as they pursue digital transformation and related ECM initiatives?

Organisations should begin by evaluating their business model and value chain, to make sure the technology changes they want to make are directly aligned to their competitive advantage. Then, they must understand what processes most impact customers and key stakeholders, and how that relates to their content. They must not forget content they may have “hidden” in older applications, or future content that is yet to come from increased mobile usage, for example. Finally, they should look at ECM maturity models to identify where they are today, and where they need to go.

In addition to looking at exciting ECM opportunities to digitally transform their businesses, I would encourage regional companies to look at the domino effect of benefits that ECM can deliver, as I explained above. Companies need to let go of old methods that really don’t serve them well now. They will only increase problems later. My advice is to invest instead in modern ways to harness IT to lead in the industry and markets.

Dell has a free E-Book on Digital Transformation here.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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