Turning a departmental Content Management (CM) investment into one utilized across multiple departments or the entire enterprise is a massive challenge. However, that is the whole point of a platform solution. When the enterprise benefits, it reduces the total cost of ownership. This benefit particularly affects IT resources and other risks by enforcing records management/compliance standards.
Expanding technology solutions helps realize ROI. Through training, support and the economy of scale achieved in single licensing costs. It's an extremely valuable strategy but also a difficult one to execute.
Have you tried to apply for a service or engage in a process that forces use of multiple web pages? Or worse, interact with different departments and call various contacts as you apply for services like a loan?
You might fill out a form on one screen, upload documents on another, go to another screen to make a payment. Maybe you need to move back and forth from multiple places to check the status. After navigating it all, do you know where your transaction stands or what happens next?
Data silos are often behind disconnected processes. This also causes higher costs due to duplicate and redundant IT and application infrastructure. All of which creates a poor customer end-to-end experience.
Recent changes in interest rates drove many to refinance their homes or other large financial transactions. Consumers must navigate and understand all the different platforms, processes, and places to complete their tasks. These disparate processes and functions double the documents and the number of individuals accessing them (compliance risks!). Layer on top of that mounting pressure, Covid, and the applicant's age and comfort with technology: you've got a mess.
We've all probably experienced a consumer buying experience that is so smooth we are surprised. Can we translate those capabilities to our business infrastructure?
Digital Transformation for Business Processes
Organizations can jump from traditional, siloed processes to true digital transformation. One platform can transform the business process management workflow through seamless unification of user experience and data. One hub provides user views, document access, auditing, calendaring, and more. This allows content to become a living part of the processes without relying on communication systems like email.
For an internal stakeholder, digital transformation should ensure a smooth process and meet business goals. This happens when it delivers real-time visibility, analytics, and workflow tracking, including incomplete tasks, reminders, and other alerts. The flip side of this for external participants is self-service and processes transparency.
Organizations get stuck between justifying updating or migrating from their existing, aging system and planning and executing true transformation. Additional factors contribute to the stalemate of progress vs. status quo in ECM, BPA, and Digital Transformation Solutions. We often see three primary factors:
1. Patchwork Solutions
Building solutions from various tools means your IT staff invested a lot of time in gluing them together. Your users likely justify moving in out of multiple applications for one particular function. This is a quick fix approach instead of thinking through a more effective process. In our experience, Patchwork Solutions have cracks and points of failure in enforcing compliance standards.
2. Market Consolidation
Over the last ten years, there has been incredible consolidation in the number of ECM and BPA solutions providers. This results in changed support models, reduced development focus on specific platform benefits, and increased costs.
3. Cloud-First Digital Transformation Initiatives
As organizations define their digital technology and business strategies, many land on cloud-first incentives to reduce costs and speed deployment. We have seen these policies contribute to departmental solutions and additional friction between IT and business users and decision-makers.
Benefits of a Platform Solution
Real solutions should include open application interface (API) standards, flexible application design, workflow processes, and business systems integration. Leading technology solution providers have staff to help you analyzing current state business processes and recommend future state improvements. Even departmental solutions should enable enterprise search, data analysis, and information access throughout the enterprise. Enterprise Content solutions must naturally provide better records management, compliance, and business intelligence.
If organizations deploy Enterprise Content Management software technology in a well-planned, strategic manner, there can be significant cost savings. Consider education in the form of webinars, white papers, case studies, training, and conferences. These valuable assets can offset the cost of support and training.
These educational offerings expand confidence and knowledge to evaluate and integrate your ECM solution for a unified process. Any time spent on education will pay for itself by avoiding extra labor and reducing the time spent on problem-solving.
Whether you are still looking for the right solution or already have one, don't shortchange the planning period. As you move to expand and integrate your solution where you ask questions like:
1. What have my colleagues in other departments done to improve their business processes?
2. Can I leverage their experience?
3. How many steps do current users take to complete a transaction or interaction?
4. What's the abandon rate on our web pages, or when do external stakeholders give up communicating with us?
5. How does the project align with the top goals of the organization?
6. How can the new initiative be prioritized?
You may not have an enterprise content strategy. Information may be streaming in and out of all areas of your organization daily without optimization. It's likely you at least have a partial solution. This could be one or more of your departments capturing and storing some information or automating part of a transaction.
Unfortunately, this is ineffective and creates liability risks, with approximately 80% of unstructured information slipping through the cracks. This data transformation is the process that can save your information.
This information your employees need to do their jobs might not be easily accessible. It ends up scattered and isolated in departmental or personal file systems. Additionally, your organization is responsible for securing personal information as soon as you receive it. Information falling through the cracks is a liability risk.
Integrating your Enterprise Resource Planning
While many systems help affect change, like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM), they can still fall short. They are great at processing data, but they just aren't equipped to deal with everything.
An ERP or CRM cannot handle all sources of information (think documents, e-forms, aging repositories) like an ECM system. The right solution should expand throughout your organization and unify your business processes. This normalizes your raw data, making for a lasting enterprise solution versus a project.
Choosing the right partner is one of the most critical decisions you make for your enterprise. Since technology changes dramatically over a short period, it's vital to have a flexible platform with a robust roadmap. A clear path forward can save time long-term.
Talk through your vendor selection and ask questions about their project management practices. Calling their customer references is an excellent way to get any concerns addressed. A knowledgeable solution provider enables organizations to link their enterprise content management system to new or legacy business content. By making information available within your LOB applications, you can simplify access to information and eliminate redundancies.
Enterprise Content Management solutions can be a commitment. Ideally, you integrate your ECM solution with your line of business, CRM (Salesforce), or ERP (Workday) systems to maximize your ROI.
A key ingredient of most ERP systems is using a unified database to store data for the various system modules. Most ERP implementations require standardizing business processes to match the system modules.
Standardizing can be difficult during the first implementation. Upgrades, on the other hand, are quick and relatively inexpensive because of the standardized procedures and modules. The process improvements this enables are substantial. Integration with an ECM software solution or document automation solution standardizes processes further and eliminates some support burden and data silos.
Think about how often you might be researching employee data in your Human Resources System. Suddenly, you realize that you need actual documents related to that employee.
At best, without a fully integrated and seamless solution, you toggle back and forth between screens to get everything you need. Maybe you click on the wrong application along the way and take extra time. At worst, you have no access to the necessary documents. Wouldn't it just be easier if you could access the documents directly from your mission-critical systems?
Implementing an Integration
Integration of systems contributes to business intelligence and continuous improvement. How often are you collecting information from multiple systems, usually wondering if you have it all? Sometimes this is just an annoyance, sometimes a costly one. While it used to be a complicated, slow endeavor, integration now can be near seamless.
Our ILINX platform provides business process automation as a seamless integration to CRM or ERP software platforms. When our integrations are complete many users, do not even know they are using ILINX. It simply appears as if every needed document is stored right in the ERP system. Everything works in digital harmony.
In addition to the ROI provided by document access, ILINX also powers business process automation workflow. ERP solutions for financial services facilitate sharing information within the company.
Multiple departments or divisions can see what transactions are in flight anywhere. ERP provides transparent information management. Every division is aware of events as they happen. Visibility is maintained while controlling and managing your documents workflow with the security of an ECM solution.
The integration is straightforward. After the integration is configured and tested, ILINX is available at the client level or via a browser. There is no need to modify the ERP or LOB system that will utilize ILINX. The solution passes data between the applications without changing the system where your users live.
In the past, implementing a server-side integration meant countless hours spent designing, implementing, and testing the integration. Before design started, stakeholders were directly involved in the design, sometimes down to the signing off on the wireframes. ILINX makes it possible to link two applications without making any changes to the applications you are integrating. Without those unnecessary changes, stakeholders can move on to their other projects, increasing organizational efficiency.
So how can you determine if a server-side integration is a better fit? First, can the applications you want to pass data? Is there a built-in mechanism for transferring data? What type of integration and expansion are you looking to accomplish?
Integrations are possible without disrupting other mission-critical applications. You can:
• Perform external database validations of data for applications that do not have the functionality built-in.
ODBC compliant databases are straightforward integrations in ILINX. Data validation can be configured by either adding a 'floating' button or link to an existing application screen.
• Transfer data between applications reduces the need for download, upload, external file sharing, and email attachments.
For example, think about the last time you had to email someone tax or legal documents. You have to find the document, attach it to an email, and send it. You may even have to log in to TurboTax or contact your accountant for a copy.
None of those steps secure your personally identifiable information. The end result being the document is in at least three places (PC, senders email, recipients email). Many of your users are performing similar steps to share necessary content.
Seamlessly integrate an ECM with your LOB application.
Right now, users might be pulling up a record in the LOB application. On another screen or with toggling, they may then manually navigate to their ECM database or application and perform a search. That task could be performed automatically by tying into a button or link within the LOB screen.
ILINX can kick off additional tasks. This could be navigating to a dynamic URL with data supplied from the integrating application. Whether its file manipulation tasks or decryption and data encryption, our platform can do it seamlessly.
We always encourage projects to start with a few quick wins for users or users managers. These easy automation steps may be part of that strategy. From there, you can continue expanding your business process solution across the enterprise for unified and efficient processes.
Expanding an Integration with eForms
The value of your technology investment increases with an integrated approach versus a "one application can do it all" approach. Take a county government with multiple agencies, such as a court system and a police records department. Maybe the current processes are working, but they are not talking to each other properly. Or worse, they may not be updating each other, and critical information is falling through the cracks.
As an experienced solution provider, ImageSource has taken the paperless courtroom to a whole new level. The new processes encompass electronic form processing (real-time) during hearings, eFiling, public access, justice partners access, and more. All of this is made possible through multi-system integration. We enable sharing of critical information about individuals and cases between multiple business systems like Tyler and Spillman.
New capabilities can rollout after an initial software integration, such as the court management systems updating an external system like CJIS. Allowing automatic case information updates and reducing manual data entry keeps national criminal data repositories accurate and up to date.
The next step might be integration with CMS, SalesForce, Case Management (Courts), HR, Accounting, and other departments. This can streamline the collection of fines and access to public records information. The integrations could expand one step further by linking ILINX and the Web Calendar scheduling systems. Putting document automation software directly into the courtroom provides immediate updates and eliminates the reliance on paper.
In this case, the legal system uses enterprise workflow management technology. By allowing the case management (CMS), ILINX, and other LOB applications to do what they do best. Integrating these systems optimizes processes, allows data exchange between systems and departments, and maximizes the technology investments. An organization-wide expansion and integration of functions within the courtroom ultimately improve public safety.
Specifically, eForms further optimize the integration of business systems like CJIS, Spillman, and Tyler in the courts. An eForm replaces a paper document used to collect information in a user-friendly, accessible anywhere format.
Many eForms look precisely like their paper counterpart. When a paper process goes electric, you're not just leaving the paper behind. You open the door to processing times that are dramatically more expedient and a host of other advantages, such as:
• Cost savings
• 24/7 Availability
• Improved accuracy
It costs about $20 to file a document and up to $700 per filing cabinet for space it takes up. Paper is expensive to create and store. Lost documents also cost over $150.00 per hour in lost productivity (looking for or replacing documents). The environmental benefits are enormous as well.
EForms have accuracy advantages over paper forms as well. You can efficiently perform searches and lookups. It is even easy to provide extensive online help with links to vast information resources on the Internet or your intranet.
More importantly, you can have a script to ensure that required fields are complete and that incorrectly formatted data gets rejected. On an eForm, the click of a checkbox performs validation checks automatically. This faster processing improves customer retention and satisfaction and avoids the costly risk of a data breach. Redirect money saved by converting a paper process to an automated process to customer and employee satisfaction initiatives.
One of the best values of eForm use is workflows. When a paper form arrives, there can be lots of processing time. Routing the data as soon as a user completes the eForm takes less time than working with physical paper. Tracking the progress of a routed paper form is slow and frustrating at best, impossible at worst.
There is immediate visibility when an eForm routes with even the most straightforward workflow—no calls or tracking down mail. Viewing the progress map will let you see the location, status, and owner.
Occasionally, an item may be stalled in a queue or inbox. In that case, it can trigger alerts or be automatically re-routed for processing. As a customer who submitted information, that's the current expectation when we check on the status of a transaction.
In terms of return on investment (ROI), labor costs, staffing, and office space costs are measurably reduced. Employees are more productive, and there are fewer abandoned transactions. The fact that ALL the 'i's are dotted, and the 't's are crossed with certainty contributes significantly to improved decision making.
If you are ready to expand with eForms, there are some considerations to get going as quickly as possible. Paper forms can be duplicated exactly. Completing the document can be instantly responsive to the user.
Still, there should be a straightforward process for saving, using, and sharing the content of the eForms. Focus on high-volume forms to justify the cost of the technology investment. If the goal is to automate nearly everything, be sure to take a phased approach. Basic form and workflow capabilities must come first and work efficiently.
With success from your primary form project, you can expand. Utilizing the experience, you can move into a fully automated environment with a phased approach to converting paper processes. Some questions while implementing or expanding an eForms solution are:
• Where is your organization right now on the paperless scale?
• Has paper use been slowly increasing?
• Are services that impact customer satisfaction stalled due to cumbersome paper processes?
• Has your existing eForm initiative lost any momentum?
Eform initiatives are a great way to link your current systems and gather long-term buy-in from colleagues on unifying your systems. Sometimes, unifying does not mean adding more products at all. Expanding your system can mean better leveraging what you currently use for maximum output.
Consolidation as a form of Business Process Expansion
Sometimes within an organization, there are multiple Content Management systems or systems of record present. In this case, an expansion may not be the solution you need but rather a unification of your current businesses processes. There are many reasons why multiple systems exist:
-Mergers & acquisitions
-Various strengths of the different products
-Lack of internal knowledge of existing systems and departmental solutions
-Division of dollars at departmental levels and budgeting procedures
Several issues can arise from having multiple content solutions within an organization. Primarily, there can be the difficulty of accessing information stored in the different systems.
Let's look at an example of an organization with two systems used for content archiving and retrieval. The Human Resources department uses the first system for storing documents and data related to employee onboarding and personnel management. The second system was installed at a later date by the Accounts Payable department. This system is used for automating payments and receivables and acts as a vendor portal.
In this example, the users can log into the first system and search to find HR documents. While accounting and Payroll departments use similar procedures, they don't share the same systems. They require a third business accounting process for balancing the books at month-end.
There are excellent ways to unify your content management processes across multiple departments.
• Consolidation of the systems.
This might sound like an arduous task, but in the end, there will be only one system to manage. Consolidation is typically the best option when multiple solutions are the result of mergers and acquisitions.
• Link the data and documents between the systems.
This functionality varies between products but utilizing ILINX software is an excellent example of how this can be done. ILINX allows users to search multiple content management systems simultaneously, similar to integrating ERPs and CRM systems. The users have a single access point to all content. The single access point alleviates the required system knowledge and consumption of time associated with searching through multiple systems.
• Leverage the investment in one of the best ECM systems.
Most platform systems can be used to retrieve content from an external system. For example, Oracle Imaging and Process Management linked servers can access external data sources. Keep in mind that most native functionality for linking content within systems has limitations. Choose products and partners with API extensibility to alleviate these limitations.
Companies rarely have the horsepower to take on these tasks themselves, so providers like ImageSource can assist with this work. We take customers through comprehensive assessments, project charter creation, and statements of work. Doing it internally can mean limiting your options to your staffs' skill set. Instead, our 100's of person-years experience in content and business processes automation projects allows you to leverage our expertise.
Utilizing multiple solutions is not conducive to reducing costs, downtime, or and developing employee skill sets. Inventory the technology tools your organization already has, along with what they do well and where they are lacking.
Start documenting the gaps and overlaps to determine any additional requirements and opportunities to optimize your Content Management architecture. Focusing on core solutions and reducing the spread of departmental solutions reduces licensing fees and increases user adoption. Ultimately, Content Management becomes a valuable asset.
Tune in to our next blog post: ECM Training across the Enterprise.
We are here to help and guide you throughout your expansion journey, and if you have any questions, feel free to send us a message and one of our team members will get back to you.