It’s 2012 and We Are Still Working on Process


There are two great frustrations in my overall career. The first is that there is more unmanaged content now than there was when I started. The growth of Content Management just isn’t keeping pace with the growth of Content.

The second is the fact that we are still trying to automate the same types of processes now as we were when I first started in this industry in the 90s. My first project was a Correspondence Management System. Call it a mail room solution or whatever the latest slang dictates, the problem is the same one I was talking to a large agency about solving in January!

People are asking me to speak on Process and why projects go wrong. Cloud and mobile are dropping as stand-alone topics. They are becoming part of the discussion around how to solve the old problems with addition of these new tools.

Reinforcing the issue are a few fun facts from some recent AIIM research:

  • 45% of scanned documents are created digitally
  • 77% of invoices that arrive as PDF attachments get printed
  • 31% of faxed invoices get printed and scanned again

Depressed yet?

imageThere are lots of reasons explaining why this is the case. They usually include blaming inexperienced people trying to automate the processes. I find this hard to believe because I’ve never met anyone that was part of a failed project. (Just kidding)

I know that one overlooked reason is the hardware. It is so hard to review content on the average screen sitting on peoples desk. People just assume that making the content digital will solve the problem without improving the way people consume digital information.

The means that even if you improve the process and implement a dynamic solution, staring at a small screen may hurt the eyes of people doing the work. Investing in some monitors has helped on several projects upon which I worked.

As cool as the Cloud, Mobile, Big Data, and Social are, fixing processes in an organization seems to be the gateway to having time to innovate. People are still trying to get over the hurdle and they are still trying to learn the best way to do it.

imageLuckily, these new technologies actually help and don’t just clutter the picture.

  • Cloud eases deployment and makes broad collaboration easy as the firewall is no longer a productivity wall
  • Mobile allows people a new way to review content while they aren’t at their desk and cameras on everyone’s phones can replace many scanners
  • Big Data allows for predictive analysis, helping organizations set themselves up to handle changes to their process or volume before it becomes a problem.
  • Social improves the ease of working together over the more traditional collaboration tools. Let’s face it, many processes are the same over and over, but there are a lot of exceptions out there that have to be managed.

What can you do to prepare? Well, there are a lot of options that cost nothing.

  • Twitter: Go online and follow people. Ask questions. If you aren’t sure where to start, follow the #InfoChat tag. We talk at least once a month and share information regularly with the tag. The next chat is Thursday, April 12, at 11am EDT.
  • AIIM Community: AIIM has a lot of bloggers that talk on these topics regularly and are hungry for comments, questions, and discussions. I recently blogged on this very topic there in preparation for the upcoming #InfoChat.
  • Process Revolution Webinar: This April 25th webinar is hosted by Atle Skjekkland, AIIM’s COO. He’ll be talking about how the new tech is coming together to solve the Process problem.
  • Content Management Boot Camp, The Process Revolution: Hitting six cities in May, this is a whole day focusing on the topic. The presentations have historically been pretty good, but the key benefit is the networking. There will be others there with the same concerns. Trade ideas, tips, war stories, or at the end of the day, have a drink to commiserate over the difficulties. I haven’t willingly missed one of these in years.

If that isn’t enough, Fierce Content Management is doing a webinar on April 11th that I and Rich Medina, the founder of DocuLabs are doing on Breaking the Paper Habit. There will likely be a recorded version of it in case you miss it.

Plus, if you missed some of the best of this year’s AIIM Conference, which people seemed to like quite a bit, then attend the free Virtual Conference June 7. It is a mix of some new content along with the best sessions from this year’s conference.

Finally, start talking below. Look, we are all in this together. I want to retire with this problem beat but I can’t do it alone.

2 thoughts on “It’s 2012 and We Are Still Working on Process

  1. Look, paper is not the problem. People are. And it doesn’t mean that they are wrong. They are just the way they are and a real thing (paper) is still more attractive then having no record at all and hoping that your virtual online records won’t be lost or actually changed without you having any influence on it. So people want a piece of paper and as I have proposed since the early NINETIES, virtual paper should take the form of physical paper so that people can better deal with it. And while are at it, virtual process (BPM) must take the form of paper records that are being modified and state changed as well to make it easy to use and give people the option to hold on to a piece of record when they want to. Eventually storing a piece of signed, authenticated content in a cloud storage and on their own mobile device will be as normal as the real thing. But just an entry in some DB somewhere won’t be good enough. Creating content must be an integral part of process and not independent ECM and BPM systems. But try to tell that to some analysts focused on some market segment …

    And finally, the problem is the process itself (BPM). This totally nonsensical idea that work is a rigid, logically controlled sequence of steps (regardless of flowchrted or encoded) is stuck in the heads of IT people and process ‘experts’. Only when process becomes a guided interaction by executives, managers, process owners, performers and customers towards well defined goals and drives content through its states process management can become ubiquitous and well accepted. When I try to get this idea into people’s head today I feel like I felt when I talked using AFP to create electronic originals in 1990 in the days before PDF: No one in IBM or at the customers thought this made any sense.

    You can hold your seminars and speak to IT people but the only thing that will actualy change the world is to create the technology and software like Apple and Facebook did.

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  2. Maybe it’s time we all listened to Michael Hammer again. It seems that the issue is we’re trying to fit new tools to old processes and just accelerate. It’s not cool, new, nor sexy, but maybe true BPR is the way to approach the issues. Folks also need to understand the difference between process effectiveness and process efficiency.

    BYOD is having a major impact on the tech that users are employing in their jobs. I think we need to be paying better attention to it and leveraging it to organizational advantage.

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