Organizations are realizing more and more every day the need to reduce paper, automate labor-intense processes and eliminate duplicate tasks. Since we all know time is money, this is important now more than ever. But how do you choose the right technology to assist with this? We hear quite frequently that users are comfortable working within their line-of-business systems and that bringing in a large, complicated content management system will only confuse them. My response to this is, “Are you Powered by ILINX?”
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Utopia ECM (Enterprise Content Management) can be defined many different ways. My definition is when the ECM system is so intertwined with the business process and business software applications that one really can’t exist without the others. The users of the systems don’t even think about the fact that they are using ECM technology. Here are some examples:
- The sales rep submitting an expense report and scanning their receipts into an electronic workflow, doesn’t even think of the technology that they are using to start a business process.
- Traveling executives can retrieve, review and approve invoices and expenses from their laptop computer in a hotel room anywhere there is an internet connection.
- The employee on the order fulfillment line pulls up the supporting documents for the order details and instructions directly from their business application, but the source of documents were really from an integrated ECM system.
Remember how things like this used to happen without imaging, document management, workflow and system integration?
This concept of Utopia ECM became very apparent to me recently in an upgrade and migration project for an existing customer who is moving from an antiquated ECM application to ILINX. It made me actually stop and wonder how they went from the simple concept of creating an electronic file cabinet, to a system that is virtually integrated into every department and many of their business processes throughout the company. What I found out is that they took things one step at a time and have been sticklers about the following: 1) You get what you plan for, not what you pay for and 2) select vendor/supplier partners who have your best interests at heart. The rest is just details.
Utopia ECM, isn’t that what we all want for our businesses?
VP, ILINX ECM Sales
As with any new job there is a learning curve- learning about the industry, specific products and just how things are run. Having come from outside the ECM industry, I expected my first few months at ImageSource to be a huge learning curve. No one could have prepared me for how big that learning curve, or rather mountain, was going to be.
I thought that the biggest challenge for me was going to be understanding the variety of products available and technical aspects of them. I could not have been more wrong. While the products and technical foundation are complex, there was a whole other mountain that I needed to conquer before I could even begin to understand what it is we do.
Those of you in the ECM know what I’m talking about. ECM, BPM, OCR, EMR…I could go on for days!
I remember on my second day of work someone tried to explain to me what was going on with one of our cutomers, “client XYZ is upgrading from IBPM 10g to IPM 11g and their AP department needs an ECM solution implemented.”
I nodded in agreement, like I knew what I was talking about. In my head I really was thinking…WOAH! Who needs a what now?? Are 10g and 11g a type of car? Since when do we deal with cars? I thought we were a tech company…
A few more conversations like this and I quickly realized that I had a new challenge in front of me- learning all of the acronyms.
I used to think that the military had a lot of acronyms, but I think that the ECM industry could give them a run for their money. There are so many industry specific acronyms. The tricky part is that they are constantly changing, new acronyms are being created and that there are a number of acronyms that can mean the same thing.
To keep on top of all the acronyms I heard people using all day long I started a list. It started on a Post-it and has now grown into three pages front and back of a legal pad. I am constantly adding to the list and looking up new ones too.
I still don’t always know what people are talking about. If you look at the top of my notes from meetings, I have all kinds of three-letter acronyms written across it.
How do you handle all of the acronyms? What is your secret? How do you keep up with the ever-changing and growing list of ECM acronyms?
Apparently I’m not the only one clueless about them either…
Check out our own Ruben Kerson at Nexus ’10 asking people what ECM is!
I know I’m not the only person this has happened to. You have a friend, loved one or even a stranger ask you what you do for a living or what industry you work in. What I’ve found is that being in the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) space sometimes makes it difficult to describe what ECM is exactly (in plain English).
My grandma has asked me at least five times what exactly I do and more specifically, what the industry is about, and the dialogue goes something like this:
Grandma: “So Kristina, what exactly does your company do? I know you’ve told me before, but I can’t really remember.”
Kristina: “We are an enterprise content management solutions provider, an integrator and we have our own line of products called ILINX®. We also have this really cool conference every year called Nexus® with presenters, networking time, a vendor expo, etc.”
At this point, my grandma is just staring at me, blankly.
Grandma: “Um, so what does that mean?”
Kristina: “It basically just means we help people try to automate their business processes by scanning in documents, implementing automated workflows, utilizing capture software, storing information in electronic databases, things like that.”
My grandma’s eyes are beginning to glaze over…
Kristina: “In a nutshell, grandma, we help businesses become more efficient and more paper-conscious.”
After being in this industry for a few years, living and breathing it every day, I can sometimes easily forget that others don’t understand what capture is, how workflows come together, or why you’d ever need to get rid of fax machines and paper. They don’t throw acronyms around like OCR, BPM and ERM, which have become part of my everyday language.
I am glad my grandma isn’t the only person who doesn’t know or understand what ECM is. Check out this awesome video played at Nexus ’10 this year where people were asked to answer the question, What is ECM?
My grandparents just mastered text messaging. I’ll continue to work on a good description of my industry that doesn’t make my grandma ask me the question every time she sees me, “Kristina, what does your company do again?”
What was your “ah-ha” moment in communicating ECM?
Working in Enterprise Content Management for over 12 years often times I have found it somewhat difficult to explain what we do and/or sell. Have you?
I have found that who your audience is often dictates how you explain it. To an IT group I have described ECM in terms of storage and retrieval of images in to database/repository with searching capability, ability to apply rules for authentication and accessibility, removing silos of information, ability to do workflow and BPM, and other things like Meta-Data, networks, through-put and HA/DR. Sometimes their eyes gloss over and other times they “understand.”
To some business folks when I’ m talking ECM I most usually reference things like accessibility of their documentation, being able to search on key fields and automatically route work/documents/content without the use of email or paper files (at its simplest form) and its all stored in a database otherwise known as a “repository.” Or, when describing workflow, using the old analogy of a restaurant. When you go in to the establishment a hostess seats you, then you get a menu, a waiter comes up and then you order, that order goes back to the kitchen and you get your meal prepared, then after you have dessert, you get a bill, pay and get a receipt then the bus boy comes and cleans everything up – that’s a workflow.
But what do you say to your mother or father, sister or brother and even children (aka the layman)? I’ve tried things like, “I sell software that lifts information off paper or documents and puts that data in a data base that allows people to find it. Then the people can see the documents on their computer necessary to do their job.” But I still get a ‘blank stare.’
Then one day, maybe three or four months ago, my dad was asking me for his usual P.C. help and he said, “my printer/scanner isn’t reading the words as well as it used to.” Of course, that got my attention! Could my dad know what O.C.R. is? After 12 years of me talking about IBM, FileNet, EMC/Documentum, Microsoft , Captiva, Kofax, ImageSource and ILINX(r) and him saying, “I still don’t get what you do.” NO WAY! How could my dad possibly know about O.C.R?
So I asked him, “Dad, you know what OCR is?” Guess what, he replied YES! “Its that software that I use when I want to take words off my documents that are PDF or Tiffs”. BAM! He knew! Finally after 12 years he “figured it out” partially what I did for a living. Putting this in context, my dad is an automotive guy, first sales and then executive, who had never a need to do any “computing” most of his professional career.
We have a lot of acronyms in our ECM vocabulary: OCR, ICR, OMR, BPM, OSR, ODAR, HIPI, TIFF, etc etc etc. (I can go on for a lifetime of our acronyms). But what do you say so that IT people get what ECM is? What do YOU say to a business user, who never ever ever thought of this stuff day to day? What do you tell your mom, dad, brother, sister, what you do every day? What have you said that brings blank stares? But, most importantly, what have you said to a customer and then you saw the “light bulb” go off? It appears O.C.R. is making it in to the mainstream vocabulary, if my dad is any example, because he knows his, “HP MFP does OCR.”
Recently, I had an opportunity to visit a former colleague that I hadn’t seen in almost 15 years. This individual works for a company that happens to be one of the top 5 hospitality organizations in the US. I can remember, like it was yesterday, having just graduated from school and being granted the opportunity to work as an operations analyst for this company. At this capacity, I was responsible for reviewing a multitude of business units, tasked with seeking areas for operational efficiencies and cost containment (an assignment that is not too different from my role today). Recalling how convoluted some of their paper processes had been at the time of my employment is what prompted the recent consultation with my friend. Today, I work as a sales consultant for ImageSource (www.imagesourceinc.com), a major ECM solution integrator and software manufacturer. I felt that, with my current knowledge, I might be of use to them. After all, I have helped numerous organizations with similar problems.
I could not believe my eyes. I walked into the Shipping & Receiving Department to meet my friend, the Director of Procurement. To my surprise, they are still manually receiving goods from paper content, and then walking down the hall, down the stairs, and submitting this paper to the Finance Department. Upon receipt, the Finance Department manually enters the invoice data and cross references the content with the paper sent to them by Receiving. In darn near every major business unit I walked through, there were paper and files overflowing off of desks. I couldn’t stand it anymore and felt compelled to ask my old friend a question… ”Why are you doing it this way? With all of the technical innovations within the enterprise content management space available to you today, why not leverage one to streamline the processes here?” My buddy replied… ”I’ve been here for 30 years and that’s how we’ve always done it.” Sadly, my dear friend was layed off just a few weeks ago.
This reminded me of an interesting story:
A very old traditional brewery decided to install a new canning line, so as to enable its beer products to be marketed through the supermarket sector. This represented a major change for the little company, and local dignitaries and past employees were invited to witness the first running of the new canning line, which was followed by a dinner banquet at the plant.
After the new line had been switched on successfully, and the formalities completed, the guests relaxed in small groups to chat and enjoy their dinner. In a quiet corner stood three men discussing trucks and transport and distribution, since one was the present distribution manager, and the other two were past holders of the post, having retired many years ago. The three men represented three generations of company distribution management, spanning over sixty years.
The present distribution manager confessed that his job was becoming more stressful because company policy required long deliveries to be made on Monday and Tuesday, short deliveries on Fridays, and all other deliveries mid-week.
“It’s so difficult to schedule things efficiently – heaven knows what we’ll do with these new cans and the tight demands of the supermarkets…”
The other two men nodded in agreement.
“It was the same in my day,” sympathized the present manager’s predecessor. “It always seemed strange to me that trucks returning early on Mondays and Tuesdays couldn’t be used for little local runs because the local deliveries had to be left until Friday…”
The third man nodded, and was thinking hard, struggling to recall the policy’s roots many years ago when he’d have been a junior in the dispatch department. After a pause, the third man smiled and then ventured a suggestion.
“I think I remember now,” he said. “It was the horses… During the Second World War fuel rationing was introduced. So, we mothballed the trucks and went back to using the horses. On Mondays, the horses were well-rested after the weekend – hence the long deliveries. By Friday, the horses were so tired that they could only handle the short local drops…”
Soon after the opening of the new canning line, the company changed its delivery policy.
There is a valuable lesson in this story for all of us.
I believe that it’s easy to fall into routine. Let’s challenge ourselves to question what we might do as individuals to better our companies. How can we invoke necessary change? Perhaps your company is trapped in a state of inefficiency (like many others), utilizing an archaic process. Given present economic conditions, it’s imperative that we remain competitive and relevant, or it could cost us our own jobs.
The method that we may have used 30 years ago may not be the best one today. When was the last time you checked for movie times in the newspaper? Today, I use my IPhone. When was the last time you called your travel agent to book a flight? I just booked mine online this morning. Do you still keep Thomas Guide in your car? I use Google Maps.
Invoke change. Change keeps us relevant.
Sr. ILINX Account Manager