My early years in the content management space--I’ve been doing this for far longer than I sometimes care to admit were mostly focused on use cases that were mission-critical, single-process, single-department, difficult to use, and frequently expensive.
The promised land for many end-users was the idea that the investment they had made in solving a single process problem could ultimately be leveraged and expanded into other processes and departments. The promised land for many solution providers was a mirror image of these user expectations. For solution providers, success was all about “landing and expanding” -- “landing” a customer with a point solution, and “expanding” that beachhead into an enterprise relationship.
Unfortunately, things often didn’t turn out that way. While some end-users were able to realize the vision of an enterprise content platform, far too often organizations procured multiple, unconnected content point solutions.
ImageSource, the creator of the ILINX platform asked me to speak confidentially with three customers whom they felt were successful in expanding from a point content solution to more of an enterprise content platform strategy. The goal was to see if there were any common elements in their stories.
This question of standardizing, leveraging, and scaling capabilities has been particularly critical over the past eighteen months, as COVID-driven remote working conditions pushed organizations to deploy highly transformative solutions in a matter of months (or weeks!) rather than years. The three customers I spoke with were a credit services company, a large credit union, and a state agency. The deal was that I was free to quote them, but I would maintain their confidentiality in order to get them to speak candidly.
Here are the five areas that these end-user organizations focused on when making the decision to extend and leverage their original point content solutions.
1. Ease of use.
It may sound obvious -- but nonetheless often forgotten -- that the heart of every successful enterprise software implementation is the willingness of end-users to actually use the software. In the early days of content management, vendors could get away with software that was difficult to use and required lots of training because only a limited number of specialists actually needed to know how the software worked. But making the jump from a point solution to an enterprise platform requires software that can be used by large numbers and varieties of information workers across multiple departments.
Our previous content management product was just too complex and confusing. Particularly as more work was pushed out to back offices during the pandemic, we needed to find something that was very straightforward, simple, and easy to use. For example, a barcode cover sheet was needed to use our previous capture application. That might not sound significant in a traditional office setting. But it involved creating the sheet, converting it to PDF, and then printing it out. With so many people working remotely -- often without home printers -- this was a major obstacle to automation.
2. The true cost of legacy point solutions.
Because so many legacy content solutions support limited, but mission-critical, processes, transitioning to modern platforms has been difficult. These legacy systems represent a drag on an organization, creating an organizational challenge that is somewhat akin to rewiring a house while the power is still on. This means that the organizations with whom I spoke thought very carefully about whether to expand their existing relationships, or whether it was better to start anew.
As a result of multiple acquisitions, our original content management system was no longer adequately supported. We were battling with this old legacy application that just wouldn’t do what we wanted it to do, and we spent three years trying -- unsuccessfully -- to upgrade it. [credit union]
We couldn’t get innovative and get new things going, because we’re so busy trying to maintain all these old legacy applications. We needed to switch responsibility for that maintenance off to the vendors. [credit union]
3. Transitioning to the cloud.
As recently as five years ago, most large-scale organizations only reluctantly embraced the cloud. COVID dramatically accelerated cloud adoption, but that didn’t mean that prior on-premise applications just went away (see point #2). As organizations attempt to sort through how and whether to expand point capabilities into an enterprise platform, a key factor in making decisions about vendors is whether they are capable of supporting hybrid on-premise and cloud environments.
Based on the success we had during COVID, our CEO decided that our future lies in our remote workforce. Due to the pandemic, we found that we're more productive remotely, and we can actually go find the best talent, regardless of where they live in the world. [credit services company]
Our CIO is pushing us to have every application in the cloud because maintaining our data centers is so exceptionally expensive. We have a lot of IT teams that are needed to support all our on-premise applications; our internal IT departments just keep growing, growing, growing, and we can't keep supporting them. We want to push the servicing of applications back onto the solution provider and that means going to the cloud. [credit union]
4. People and processes and pain points (rather than technology).
It is a well-known truism in the enterprise IT space that successful implementations should spend 5% of their time worrying about technology, 15% of their time considering how processes can be improved, and 80% of their time thinking about how the first two will impact their people. However, most organizations place their priorities in exactly the reverse order, laying the groundwork for enterprise choices that are ultimately frustrating and suboptimal. The three companies I spoke with were notable in that they started by understanding their people and the work they performed -- and how that work changed due to COVID -- and THEN made technology decisions.
We had to transition all of our workforces to remote systems and a platform that could work in three different countries, so that was somewhat challenging. But by focusing on the core processes we needed to sustain, we've seen productivity actually increase and absenteeism decrease. [credit services company]
We consciously decided to get close to the business, find out what they needed, understand their processes, and how these processes contributed to profit. You don't put in a system because you think a system is a good thing. You start with the people and the process and then make your system choices accordingly. [credit union]
All of our facilities are high-security environments, where no cell phones or external devices are allowed. But that couldn’t be controlled in a remote work environment. So I was asked to come up with solution options to improve security within a permanent work-from-home environment. The first priority was to expand our existing platform into a high availability solution that spanned multiple data centers. The second priority was to automate as many repeatable transactions as we could. Lastly, we deployed solutions for remote workers that masked sensitive PII information; they only saw the information they needed to see to complete their work. [credit services company]
Our team is used to change. So just as long as we provide them good detailed training, and guides, they're good to go. [state agency]
5. Deep and trusted solution provider relationships.
The primary point for end-user organizations regardless of vendor choice is that platform commitments and decisions require a much higher degree of trust and reciprocity than buying a point SaaS solution; the stakes are so much higher. It is not my role to make vendor recommendations, but the customers with whom I spoke were very satisfied, as demonstrated by their commitment to expanding their ILINX implementations and their unsolicited comments.
Our IT department went out and looked at all the products that are out there in this space to replace our legacy content management system and were concerned that so many of the products in this space are owned by conglomerates. They said, “We like the ILINX product, we like ImageSource and they're very responsive to us. Let’s just keep moving forward with them.” So they didn’t even go out for bid. This was a significant decision for us; it's gonna take about more than three years to get all of the content out of the old legacy application and into the new one. [credit union]
ImageSource is an amazing contractor. They're very responsive and they're very flexible. I don't ever feel like I'm being tricked. I'm not a techie person, so having somebody trusted that can simply explain how something is going to work is so very important to us. As a state agency, there are always policy and regime changes, whether they’re tied to the governor, the state legislature, or the federal government. A key factor in our vendor decisions moving forward is the adaptability of a platform to these changes, and an ability to adapt quickly. That’s what we love about ILINX. [state agency]
I’ll also be moderating an upcoming webinar on this topic on October 27th. Save the date and register today!