While the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) platform remains a core part of the modern content services solution, there are many connected systems and factors that now combine to create a much deeper, more interoperable technology ecosystem.
While an ECM can certainly stand alone to perform critical work for an organisation, adding complementary tools, services and functionality to that core platform exponentially increases core capabilities and adds value to the organisation.
Historically, most organisations looked at the ECM as a way of imaging and reclaiming storage costs by simply digitising documents. ECM quickly provided online access to information that was previously only available on paper, microfilm, or microfiche.
As the platform evolved, a swathe of new services were added that expanded the role of ECM far past the point of just scanning, storing and retrieving files and images and into a comprehensive digitisation platform enabling digital transformation and technology modernisation efforts.
Innovative ECM vendors got ahead of the curve and adapted their approaches, moving away from the concept of the monolithic storage repositories that historically dominated the IT landscape.
Instead, organisations came to rely on multiple repositories and solutions to manage content better. In time, cloud services were adopted, which streamlined data storage and application delivery and presented content in a more accessible and manageable way.
As organisations achieved significant productivity improvements through these new solutions, they deployed even more granular services on top of them, looking to streamline business processes further.
In most cases, though, these solutions lacked connectivity and integration. For example, multiple departments could not share the knowledge and information created or “owned” by another department.
It became inherently clear that digital transformation – and indeed optimisation – requires more advanced automation, coupled with smarter and more connected systems that work together to improve the availability of files, documents, images and data from right across the spectrum of ingestion points.
In the age of interconnectivity and machine learning, every device can be viewed as a portal through which intelligence passes and is captured. How an organisation uses that intelligence must have a major impact on the decision-making processes that go into modernisation.
For this reason, in October 2017, Gartner released its first Magic Quadrant report for Content Services Platforms. This marked a significant evolution away from the traditional verbiage on this critical sector – what had previously been known as the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Content Management.
The move reflected this modernised vision of the enterprise and an acknowledgement that content requires more than an accessible repository – it must be made truly ‘live and dynamic.'
Content should be accessible and safe but also searchable, with indexing and workflow tools built-in. All file formats must be universally visible, whether structured or unstructured data, standard text or scanned files. Access controls need to be set, protecting sensitive documents but allowing fast, company-wide access to others.
In addition, new innovative technologies have a clear integration to the content services strategy. They combine intelligent automation elements such as robotic process automation (RPA), intelligent capture, and machine learning.
When these elements are incorporated into the content services landscape, they bring greater optimisation, eliminate manual, error-prone processes and allow employees to focus on higher-value tasks, such as customer experience.
For example, this technology is particularly useful in certain departments such as Accounts Payable, where repetitive manual tasks make up the bulk of daily workloads.
According to IDC, intelligent technologies contribute to the future workspace by providing “anytime/anywhere access to content and content-centric workflows, enabling secure collaboration and contribution. Automating content-centric workflows offers cost, productivity, collaboration and operational advantages.”
Essentially, intelligent automation (like intelligent capture and RPA) takes machine learning technologies and puts them to work for a company, improving processes and your workflows.
Intelligent capture turns once-static documents into digital documents, bringing data into an organisation's business intelligence and analytics plan.
Behind this new functionality lies the core question – how does an organisation incorporate better governance of these digital files and documents, ensuring the true management and activation of content is achieved? This involves automated end-of-life plans for specific files, ensuring they are destroyed so as to protect sensitive or personal information.
Strict governance via the content services platform also applies aggregated, updated retention regulations and citations to all relevant documents, ensures data within documents stored in the system remains compliant and provides aggregated information governance policies with simple descriptions.
All these factors can save an organisation the time and expense of legal consultations required to create an exhaustive document retention strategy.
In the years to come, organisations that still only embrace a legacy ECM approach will fall short. To get ahead of the competition, they need to plan for a truly holistic content services approach.
Automation will increase business efficiency and reduce human error, collaboration will streamline internal processes, and a 360-degree view of documentation and files will provide a clear pathway towards a more productive enterprise.
Content services, with its emphasis on configurability and integration, is agile at its very core. It offers interlocking parts, made to connect and be altered and enhanced quickly. Moving to a different way of creating the tools that staff and customers need can also change the timeframe required to deliver modern and responsive solutions.
Faster, holistic access to content empowers an organisation to streamline processes across the board, and content services align with the mindset of agility and true integration.
IT modernisation is critical, and it requires both new solutions and a new mindset. Content services and its ability to support digital transformation is the way towards a smarter, more connected future.