Craine WKFBy Kevin Craine for Workflow

There is a lot of attention on enterprise content management (ECM) these days, and for good reason. For most organizations, how well you manage your content has a direct influence on how well you manage your business. In today’s info-driven age, if you don’t manage and maximize the content you create, use and receive, then it’s unlikely that you’ll have much success in maximizing the performance of your organization.

ECM Growth

Whether simply upgrading scanning and data capture capabilities, or working enterprise-wide to digitize and automate, organizations from all market segments and industries are spending a lot to keep up with “digital transformation.” As a result, the ECM industry is experiencing tremendous growth. Researchers tell us that the market size is expected to grow from $28.10 billion in 2016 to $66.27 billion by 2021. And yes, that’s billions.

Is the Investment Worth It?

Has all of the investment in ECM really paid off? Traditionally, companies have calculated their ROI on ECM in rather pragmatic and elementary ways. The return is mostly about reducing paper consumption, trimming administrative costs and document handling, and cutting back on storage and shipping. Of course, ongoing savings related to automating processes, resulting in reduced labor costs and improved efficiency and customer service, are often cited as ECM benefits. But organizations find that these benefits are much harder to measure and therefore much more difficult to include in real-world ROI calculations.

Business Intelligence

So where is the real ROI? The true value of ECM is in enabling organizations with the ability to not only collect data, but also to make more sense of it in more thoughtful and profitable ways. That’s where business intelligence (BI) comes in. After all, we can collect all the information we want, but the information we collect is only as valuable as the insight that it provides. One way to build real-world value from all of those ECM systems we’ve put into place is to tightly integrate those technologies and approaches with today’s emerging BI systems that are geared to help prepare data for analysis, run queries against the information, and make the results available to decision makers in ways that make a real difference. The convergence of ECM and BI does just that.

Capture the Value in Convergence

The linkage of ECM and BI is essential to help executives, managers and analysts make more informed business decisions. Now you can accelerate and improve business performance in ways that can more directly justify the investment in systems and technologies used to collect, manage and maintain enterprise records, data and information. The convergence of ECM and BI provides a powerful platform to optimize key business processes in ways that drive new revenue streams, dramatically improve service and provide a competitive advantage over your rivals by being able to more quickly identify market and consumer trends, and spot business problems before they get out of hand.

Content Intelligence

To be successful, organizations will need to focus on integration. ECM and BI systems have typically focused on two very different data worlds. Content management systems organize unstructured data, such as text documents, while business intelligence software usually analyzes structured data stored in databases. It is the integration of these two data worlds – and the ability to create “content intelligence” – where you will find the greatest benefit to organizational performance.

Four Steps to Take

Whatever you call it, the top-line benefit is in the complete, 360-degree view of previously separated silos of enterprise data and information, and the ability to slice, dice, drill down and report on that information as an integrated whole. How do you do it? One way is to construct an approach using these four steps:

1) Capture. You’ve got to capture information that is useful. The traditional place to start is by scanning paper documents and making them digital instead. But firms today are expanding their information capture capabilities beyond the boundaries of the organization with mobile capture. Using smartphones, organizations now capture images and documentation directly at the point of service, in regional offices, in the field and in customer’s homes. The result is a faster, more accurate and more cost effective process.

2 ) Extract. Next, you need to be able to extract information. One common way is by using optical character recognition (OCR) to capture key pieces of information on a scanned document. This may seem basic to some, but many organizations still manually key this data or overlook it all together. Mobile technology again provides a new, more expansive option for data extraction. Tools like mobile receipt capture and extract critical line-item data, such as the date of purchase, item, amount and so forth, and automatically send that information into money-back apps and loyalty rewards programs that are driving customer engagement to new levels.

3) Classify. Once you collect information, you’ve got to be able to manage it. And that means applying thoughtful and dependable business rules that allow you to determine what type of information you have and how it should flow throughout your organization. Without the ability to know what information you have and understand what risk and opportunity it presents, you’ll be less able to govern, manage and maximize information in ways that make a difference. The advanced document classification features of modern capture systems can be used to collect and understand documents in new and more thoughtful ways to reduce risk, cut costs, and increase the performance of the firm.

4) Connect. Organizations that find real ROI in the convergence of ECM and BI have been successful in connecting the dots between “information” and “intelligence.” A recent study from AIIM International that found that 64 percent of respondents leverage content analytics to optimize core business processes, and for 52 percent the goal is to improve customer experience. Sixty-one percent feel the intelligence derived is most useful in providing better insight and decision-making capabilities, and 37 percent feel it has improved product or service quality.

Moving Forward

The convergence of enterprise content management and business intelligence is an important opportunity to create a competitive advantage. More than the confluence of technology, it is the confluence of approaches and strategies that provides a real return on investment by virtue of using information in more thoughtful and profitable ways. By looking closely at how you capture, analyze and maximize the value of information, you can more effectively identify and fine-tune any number of key business strategies. The approach gives executives and decision-makers a more comprehensive foundation for business process improvement and redesign, on-the-fly performance management and more agile marketing.

Are you ready to move forward? Look for providers and partners with the right mix of expertise, capabilities and vision that will allow you to make the most of business intelligence for your organization.  

Kevin Craine is the managing director of Craine Communications Group.

This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of Workflow.