How companies will manage information in 2019 and beyond
While data nowadays is considered the most valuable resource, simply amassing it – as is all too frequently the case in companies in the current post big data era – does not in itself create value. In fact, with both new and legacy information piling up in their data warehouses, companies see their processes increasingly slowed down and complicated by it. 2019 and beyond will therefore mark a shift from systems with bulky, unwieldy content towards micro-services solutions that simplify information management – mostly within existing systems. These solutions will further ensure compliance is ‘built-in’, as national and international regulation is growing more complex. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) will become a key component of such solutions to efficiently manage the plethora of tasks and documents, be it in the cloud or on premises. All solutions will need to have one characteristic in common: they must empower companies to successfully work with their data – on their terms and with their employees’ skill level. This makes usability a key issue. These solutions might even enable them to build their own apps. Konica Minolta’s IT experts have prepared an overview of key trends and developments expected in the field of intelligent information management.
1. Shift from monolithic ECM systems to information management micro-services on a subscription model basis
When last year Gartner declared “ECM is now dead”, they did not do so claiming an end to the need for content management. In fact, with the growing flood of data and increasing complexity, the exact opposite is the case: intelligent information management in businesses is now needed more than ever. Instead, Gartner was highlighting a different phenomenon that will influence the industry in 2019 and reshape it in the years to come: large, all-encompassing monolithic ECM solutions into which all data is uploaded and managed for a wide range of purposes have reached their limits both in terms of capabilities and market demand. However, dedicated micro-services that target and meet very specific business process needs and work with the data where it is have a big market potential. They reflect the reality of what companies in agile business environments around the globe are increasingly looking for: fast solutions that are optimised for a dedicated purpose and which can work with legacy systems – as opposed to large systems that require a resource-consuming overhaul of the entire set-up. The need for flexibility will also give an edge to subscription or pay-per-use solutions in this field, further unburdening customers’ business models. Konica Minolta expects this to profoundly change the landscape of the information management market in the coming years. Rather than using one homogeneous system, companies will work with an orchestra of heterogeneous yet compatible information management solutions. This makes powerful enterprise search tools all the more important. The dokoni FIND solution is one good example of a specific, dedicated micro-service that Konica Minolta provides. This solution helps customers effectively simplify their enterprise search in their existing systems, be it Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint, their ERP or others. Further, Konica Minolta’s Workplace Hub will encompass a smart search solution that will make searching for documents in the system significantly easier.
2. Usability: users must be experts in their field – not in using software
In the past, suppliers of ECM solutions could count on the willingness of users to thoroughly and patiently learn how to work with their software. This era of unquestioned tool skills learning is gone. In part due to their complexity, many solutions in the field of information management today are far from intuitive to use. Nevertheless, Konica Minolta’s experts stress that business today requires simple and transparent consumer-grade knowledge worker tools – usability has become key. With a shortage of skilled labour expected to leave around one million jobs in Europe unfilled by 2020, focussing the efforts of employees on their core tasks and seizing the full potential of their productivity will be key. Having them go through long and tedious training and apply tools that are not efficient to work with is becoming ever less of an option. However complex the system may be from the perspective of the backend, using it needs to be as seamless as working with a well programmed consumer smartphone app. This customer requirement will profoundly reshape the solutions that are created and consequently used for information management in 2019 and beyond, making them simpler to use.
3. Next stop: low-code applications and Rapid Application Development (RAD)
From a slightly longer perspective, another business need for simplification will also affect information management solutions: customers increasingly wish to be able to build their own apps and solutions based on the applications and systems provided. This might be the case when it comes to a very specific and limited application for a single project, for example. This needs to be possible with as little effort and a mobile skill level – basically via drag and drop. Content services platforms like Hyland OnBase already include RAD that allow workflows to be easily set up and configured. No development skills are needed – just configuration. Offering this type of solution, Konica Minolta already enables RAD for their customers – so they can quickly create new applications for their purposes with a minimum need for customisation. For more complex programming, of course, service providers like Konica Minolta will be quick to support their customers in creating them.
These developments will significantly accelerate the availability of very task-specific, dedicated information management solutions for customers in coming years.
4. GDPR is not over – new information management tools support compliance – and increase process efficiency
It is tempting to see one of the key challenges with regard to information management as something in the past: GDPR, the talk of the town of 2017 and 2018. However, the challenges related to this particular regulation, and compliance in general, will continue have a strong effect on companies’ information management solutions in the years to come. One key question, particularly in the cloud vs. on-premises discussion, will concern the storage location of the data. A survey by Konica Minolta shows that 29% of companies relied primarily on on-premises content and process management shortly before the introduction of the GDPR. The GDPR has created uncertainty with regard to cloud services, as many companies are in doubt where the data they place in the cloud is stored. Does it remain within the EU and therefore under the control of the GDPR? Or will it move to servers outside, making it subject to other legislation such as the Patriot Act? Customers will demand clarity from their suppliers, who, in turn, will need to provide their customers with exactly those solutions that match their requirements. Compliance will be a key element of the cloud discussion for years to come. And the GDPR will intensify the discussion around information management in another way as well: as this legislation regulates not only digital data but all information, the actual burdens placed by manual – and particularly paper-based – document management processes on business process efficiency are expected to further boost the need for new information management solutions in 2019 and beyond. Automated governance enabled by these solutions will be key here. Semantic and auto-classification technologies will help to take as much of the human element as possible out of governance – reducing both the resources needed as well as the potential for errors. Smart search tools are another crucial intelligent information management component for solving this challenge, helping users to quickly and intuitively identify relevant documents across the broad array of systems. Semantic and auto-classification technologies as well as smart search tools are a good example of how intelligent information management solutions are important for GDPR compliance – yet have benefits that go way beyond this. New systems with automated processes and powerful enterprise search tools boost overall process and workflow efficiency – and thereby business success. Here, the right partner is key. Konica Minolta, for example ensures that all solutions implemented provide data protection by design – while significantly increasing process efficiency.
5. AI-based Robotic Process Automation (RPA) in information management
The driving force for automation, and a technology capturing increasing attention in 2019 will be RPA – Robotic Process Automation. As an application of technology governed by business logic and structured inputs and aiming to automate business processes and data processing, RPA is an “ideal partner” for companies and their information management. Rule-based document management processes can be automated, relieving employees of tedious, repetitive, manual tasks such as data entry or meta data entry and enabling them to devote more time to serving customers or other higher-value work. It can capture and interpret input for processing a transaction, manipulating data, triggering responses and communicating with other digital systems. However, for RPA to truly unfold its potential, it will need to rely on Artificial Intelligence (AI): intelligence in systems is needed to bring the properly structured information to the robot. Laying the groundwork for this, Konica Minolta, for example, is already cooperating with its vendor partners to ensure that its future solutions in intelligent information management help its customers seize this potential and at the same time meet their data processing requirements.
 Konica Minolta ECM Benchmark Survey, 2018