What next for Document Management Vendors?
Document Management & the Impetus Behind the Paperless Office
Back in the late 1970’s, emerging technology which had the ability to manage swathes of documents for organisations’, spawned the idea of “The Paperless Office”.
At the time, business professionals would spend their time sifting through folders, stored in bulky filing cabinets, to find the information they needed. The idea of locating the required information in a matter of seconds was far from their daily reality, yet there was already a vision that one day in the future, computers would create a work environment that was streamlined and paper-free.
Over the ensuing 40 years, there has been a great deal of speculation about what the “office of the future” would look like and the paperless office has become a mythical Holy Grail for many businesses.
The Paperless Office – Myth or Magic..?
There were multiple stimuli motivating the desire for a paperless office, principally savings in high cost of storage and faster access to information contained within the document
However, minimising the impact on the global environment has been another major influence. Globally, we are still using vast quantities of paper and paper products – with China & the US being the largest consumers. (P G Paper 2018)
Besides the motivation to protect the wider environment, improvements in efficiency & business processes have always been the major drivers behind the paperless office, as organisations strive to do more with less money.
Although some industries have a culture deeply entrenched in paper-based documentation, the completely paperless office continues to edge ever closer. Not only are the majority of documents now digitally born but there is now a generational acceptance of digital technologies
An increasingly mobile workforce, working remotely on mobile devices, is having an enormous impact on the need for better document technology and indeed, pushing closer towards making the paperless office a reality, as it encourages organizations to gravitate away from paper documents and "go digital" - The influx of e-signature technology can now also address the final frontier of ‘wet signature’ hard copy.
As a new decade dawns, where is Document Management headed?
Whilst Document Management (DM) has always been critical to business operations, current methods now differ greatly from those of ten or twenty years ago.
DM companies now routinely sell the promise of having all documents and digital assets in one central, instantly searchable repository, enabling entire teams to easily access the right information at the right time - No time wasted searching in a tangle of shared drives, filing systems or over-loaded inboxes.
As the technology has become more sophisticated, so Document Management practices have evolved and a number of trends have emerged, many of which have the potential to stand the test of time.
Trends that have impacted the DM space
The advent of cloud computing has had a profound effect on the document management space. Although adoption of the technology was initially hesitant, the phenomenon of storing documents in the cloud has grown hugely in popularity and is now commonplace, driven in no small part by a mobile workforce, demanding ‘on the move’ access to essential information. Uptake by the heavily regulated Banking & Insurance industries has also demonstrated endorsement of cloud security and legitimacy.
Additionally, as web-based document management allows for scalability, it is an effective solution for businesses of all sizes. Cloud computing also drives the best document management systems as it offers ease of access combined with cost reductions. Subscription based Software-as-a -service (SaaS) now not only provides a lower cost of ownership of software but eliminates the traditional less flexible and more costly licence server model.
As people have become more tech-savvy, they increasingly expect to access a business through a customer portal.
DM technology offers this, for example for project management, permitting client access to all the relevant documents and allowing them to become part of the conversation as well as alleviating the need for updates via email/in-person phone calls.
The benefits of this are of course, the ever sought after ‘cost savings’ but also efficiencies of process, which engender client loyalty and engagement.
Collaboration & Project Management
Remote collaboration is a growing trend, where teams who may never meet, collaborate remotely on important documents, via the functionality which is now incorporated into many DM software solutions. In the past, collaboration via email and/or Word document would have potentially chaotic outcomes, with version control and tracking changes both major issues.
The same is true of Project Management, where operations can now be streamlined by integrating scheduling, workflows, communications and document management within the same space.
Cost-Savings and Affordability
Innovative Document Management software was once so expensive that many organizations couldn’t afford it. With advances in technology and, desiring universal adoption of their software, many vendors now recognise that their software needs to be able to compete on price. In fact, Cloud computing and advancements in technology have now brought innovative document management software solutions within the reach of the majority of businesses. The ability to buy just what you need rather than an all-encompassing DM system, where 90% of the functionality was never utilised, has also led to greater uptake.
AI, Machine Learning & Robotic Process Automation
Increasingly, through the application of such technologies the intelligent capture, processing, semantic & contextual understanding of content that is contained within documents can automate business process and provide organisations with greater control of their information assets.
As businesses forge deeper into the cloud, extranets and intranets, cyber-attacks become more prevalent and hackers more sophisticated, Document security will remain of critical importance to the enterprise.
Businesses will continue to strive to keep ahead of the cyber-criminals, making themselves impregnable to security threats and costly information breaches via secured data networks, encryption and end-to-end cross-platform security.
The Future of Document Management
So, what does the future hold for Document Management and importantly, for Document Management vendors?
Cross-industry, from creative services to the medical industry, to financial services, organisations have now embraced Document Management – Some are further ahead than others – with the UK’s NHS being a prime example of a late adopter – But, the consensus has long shifted from, “Shall we go digital?” – to “How quickly can we achieve digital document management?”
Many SME’s face a tough decision. Continue to develop their own products, and maintain the pace with the larger players, or join up with those who have deeper R&D pockets. There will always be a place for Companies that can offer great Customer Service, flexible products and implementation, but the scalability of these Companies is threatened.
Diminishing Window of Opportunity for Doument Management Vendors
And yet, this window of opportunity for Document Management vendors is closing as new, increasingly complex technologies emerge, which will supersede existing technologies. In addition, many larger, well-known players are developing new software and service platforms, such as Microsoft with their new Project Cortex approach and many of the larger EFSS (Electronic File Synch & Share) vendors such as Box, Dropbox and others - and even Amazon - are adding new levels of capability in the intelligent capture, processing and delivery of electrical data and documents in an increasingly Cloud connected world.
To have an initial discussion with Guy Spragg, our UK lead within Document Management M&A, please contact: email@example.com