John Mancini, CEO of AIIM and conference keynote speaker
Photography: Tom Watkins
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Dealing with documents in a digital age

Maxine-Laurie Marshall and Kenny MacIver — October 2016
How is digitalization affecting the business-wide function of document and content management? We explore the insights and experiences showcased at Information Capture Conference 2016.

“Digitalization puts businesses at different stages. Some are born digital, some have achieved digital and others have digital thrust upon them.”

That was how John Newton, head of strategy for Fujitsu’s UK government division, characterized the challenges facing different types of organization as digital reshapes their business. Speaking at the recent Information Capture Conference (ICC) in London, his paraphrasing of Shakespeare highlighted the key message of the two-day event: that digitalization isn’t the sole preserve of nimble, disruptive start-ups; legacy organizations are just as capable of surviving and thriving in an age of digital disruption.

The upheaval does require a fresh mindset, though, advised Jo Caudron, founder of Duval Union Consulting. New digital opportunities need to be treated separately from core business offerings and given the space to evolve. “Companies that have been around for decades do not have digital DNA. To survive, they have to build new streams around their core, with digital at the heart of them, like a giant ship surrounded by a fleet of agile ones. Building innovation on the ‘mothership’ is going to be far more expensive than doing the same within a small start-up [unit].”

“Many executives see disruption, worry about it, but often don’t do anything about it. They now have to think more creatively about how they explore different opportunities.”

However, Caudron warned that in order for this to work, digital leadership must be driven from the top and must encourage an agile approach throughout the organization. “Digital leaders have to have the mandate to run with, launch and act without being accountable to old rules at every decision-making point,” he said.

Recognizing that the best intentions are not necessarily easily executed, John Mancini, CEO of the information management association AIIM, highlighted that fulfilling on digital strategy requires courage and commitment. “Many executives see disruption, worry about it, but often don’t do anything about it. They now have to think more creatively about how they explore different opportunities.”
Surviving digital disruption

In his keynote presentation Mancini highlighted five strategies that information management professionals should embrace to help their organizations survive digital disruption:
  • Focus on building a platform rather than selling products.
  • Concentrate on customer experience rather than customer service.
  • Think about how to revolutionize processes, not simply improve them.
  • Adopt a digital-first mindset.
  • Look to benefit of machine intelligence rather than just big data. 

Drawing on data from member surveys, the AIIM CEO insists that there is a growing understanding in the industry that digitalization is speeding the evolution of document capture towards information capture. Digitizing documents for the purpose of efficient archiving is great, he said, but it’s not digitalization in the true sense.

Mike Nelson PFU digitalization
Mike Nelson, VP EMEA for PFU, presenting at the company's annual Image Capture Conference 

Mike Nelson, VP for EMEA at Fujitsu’s document capture company PFU, echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the wider role of the document in business processes: “We want to make paper more useful, turn it from a burden to a benefit. It’s not about scan to archive, but about scan to process.”
Digitalizing education

Such digitalization is capable of transforming industries, delegates heard. Robert Broadie, an education technology consultant and board member of UK edtech association Naace, argued that the case for digitalization in education was clear: “The digital transformation of schools can increase the amount of learning and achievements for pupils while reducing teacher workload and saving money.”

As in all change projects, the driver has to come from the top, he emphasizes. Principals need to set the agenda for teachers to work within digitalized environments, where all information — teaching documents, photos, audio recordings of homework assignments, office administration, pupil’s own work and more — is captured and made available online.

Digitalizing teaching environments has huge potential for cost reduction, he argued: “The average secondary/high school could save £20,000 ($25,000) on paper alone.” Moreover, he suggested that traditional school computer rooms could be eliminated as most pupils now have their own devices — effectively shifting funding for IT to parents. And, with schools spending about 85% of their budget on staffing, if digitalization meant pupils took more responsibility for their learning it would enable money to be transferred from staffing to technology — say 2%, he said.
A hybrid future

While that education example advocates replacing the paper documents with digital versions, there wasn’t a universal call at the conference for everyone to go paperless. Both PFU’s Nelson and Mancini put the emphasis on less paper. “Ultimately, the world we’re going to is hybrid. Some people are zealots for cloud, others for on-premise IT. It’s the same for paper and digital information,” Mancini said.

That underscores the fact that the disruptive nature of digital is not controllable. “The desire of the business to do business will always trump all the desires all of us have in the document and content management business to control things — but what we can do is mitigate risk.”
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