Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I never, absolutely ever, write about politics. But those of you who know me personally and professionally also know that I never shy away from talking about the tough issues, whether at work or at home: religion, politics, the economy, social justice, whatever. I believe strongly that the foundation of democracy is frank, open, honest dialogue between people who may disagree and hold divergent views and opinions, but who affirm their shared belief in the value of our society by trying to understand each other (even if they may never ultimately agree with each other on this or that issue).
In that spirit, I give you this post on my immediate reflections on the 2016 presidential election.
There’s been a lot of ink spilled on the recent acquisition of Exstream by Open Text, and I’ve spilled some myself. But beyond what the acquisition means for Open Text and Exstream customers, it raises a larger issue in the customer communication management (CCM) space: if you’re looking to make a CCM technology play, you might as well wait at least 18 months to do so.
The main reason I think this is true has to do with vendor risk.
Three of the top CCM product have been involved in an acquisition recently. Dell bought EMC, which owns Doc Sciences. Open Text bought Exstream and already owns StreamServe. Leaving aside the marketing spiels we’re hearing from both firms about the strategic value of the acquisitions, the fact remains that any software acquisition brings at least 18 months of uncertainty with it: will the development teams remain or jump ship? What happens to the sales resources? What’s the long term plan for the new product? Are we planning to just milk license maintenance revenue or is this a platform we’re going to invest strategically and significantly in? Can we successfully weather the road bumps in the months following the acquisition to continue to develop the product or will we take two steps back (and potentially kill the product altogether)?
Now, to be fair, there are at least two major players out there that are acquisition free and still solid: Oracle and GMC. But as good as they are, to limit your vendor selection to these two would be short sighted. So if you’re an organization that’s considering a platform decision, you’re in a hard place given that three of the top players are off limits until the dust settles on acquisitions.
But most large organizations already have a CCM solution in place, even if they haven’t fully replaced their main frame output with these more modern options. Even for these folks, however, the current landscape is risky. As they seek to keep their platform portfolio current, they need to evaluate whether to continue with their current vendor or change course. If they currently own StreamServe, Exstream, or Doc Sciences it’s hard to know what to do, because the future of these products is up in the air given recent acquisitions. If they own Oracle, GMC, or another solution not involved in recent acquisitions, their options for making a change are severely limited without being able to consider StreamServe, Exstream, or Doc Sciences.
Given all this uncertainty regarding CCM software, the safest thing to do is to wait until the dust settles. But what do you do in the meantime to continue making progress with CCM? There’s some basic blocking and tackling organizations can do while waiting to see what happens with StreamServe, Exstream, and Doc Sciences in order to add significant value to their CCM programs:
- Forms – most organizations are sorely behind the times in how they design, create, and manage their forms. Regardless of platform, efforts to streamline forms, redesigning them to optimize ingestion and improve customer experience will add huge value to the organization.
- Post-capture processing – the so called “second mile”, i.e., processing captured documents to make sure they’re in good order with the right image quality and index fields, often incurs substantial processing resources and can be optimized significantly even without technology.
- Process improvements – typically, the processes for creating, producing, and maintaining customer communications documents are wildly inefficient. Although technology can help optimize them, huge gains can be made through lo-fi efforts without any change to technology at all
The Final Word
So much for my doom and gloom prognostications about the challenges CCM faces in the wake of the Doc Sciences and Exstream acquisitions. Hopefully, Dell and Open Text get their acts together and figure out what they’re doing with their CCM products ASAP. If they do, all will be well for the CCM marketplace. But even if they don’t, I’ve tried to point to some areas where firms can continue to make progress on CCM until the dust settles in the vendor arena.
A few years back, I wrote a post about how SharePoint by itself couldn’t do records management (RM) and that, even with any number of add ons available to help it do RM better, large organizations shouldn’t use SharePoint to do so. I wanted to return to the topic and write a sustained reconsideration of how far SharePoint has (or hasn’t) come in the last three years.
But as I sat down to write, I realized that, regardless of whether SharePoint today is better at doing RM, RM itself is becoming almost besides the point at many organizations, let alone whether SharePoint (or any other system) can support it—the real center of managing information to deliver business value is shifting, and fast. But before you all hoist me on my own petard for this assertion, let me explain what I mean.
Ever since we’ve been in a predominantly electronic world (circa 2000ish), RM has struggled to do its job, i.e., help the organization retain records as long as required by laws, regulations, etc., and then dispose of them. The retaining records part hasn’t been the problem, it’s the disposing of them that RM has struggled with. Most organizations today still keep everything forever, whether or not they have RM in place.
And even over the last three years, as RM professionals have worked to evolve into information governance (IG) professionals, not much has really changed: we’re still keeping everything forever, and the dream of being the savior who unlocks the value of information for the business is no closer to reality than it was when we only managed the boxes in the basement.
This is why, at most organizations I work with, RM is not high on the priority list of enterprise capabilities that are getting support and funding. And so, I hate to break it to you, whether SharePoint can do records or not isn’t something folks care too much about any more—or at least, they shouldn’t. Instead, the most critical question of the moment I see for large firms is, how do I protect my most sensitive corporate data from getting into the wrong hands? Followed almost immediately by, How can I also help the business get value from the information we’re protecting?
Information Security is Information Management
Think about it for a second: the most sensitive data, like personal health information (PHI) and personally identifiable information (PII) also happens to be some of the most valuable information an organization manages. So if you manage PHI/PII in order to protect it, you’re halfway to managing it to deliver value to the organization. And if you manage PHI/PII to protect it and deliver value to the organization in the process, you’re accomplishing everything IG, RM, ECM, document management, and every other buzz word applied to managing unstructured data has been striving for over the last 30 years.
Which is why I’ve been writing about the increasing importance of the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) to corporate information management. I feel that the CISO is the right person in the current environment to own information management and be successful. Furthermore, at an increasing number of large, heavily regulated organizations, I’m seeing the CISO pick up the information management gauntlet and run with it…very successfully. This is a trend that I think will only pick up speed over the next 18 months.
The Final Word
So what does this all mean for doing RM in SharePoint? Well, if you’re an information management professional and you’re still spending your time worrying about RM in SharePoint (or anywhere else), you should stop. The center of gravity of information management is shifting and you need to shift with it. Managing high risk, high value information is the game these days, both to protect it from the inevitable breach (a matter of when not if) as well as to make it more manageable by end users. Your champions are no longer IT, RM, or legal, but rather the CISO and their stakeholders (typically the rest of the C Suite). And they have enterprise visibility and real budget and support combined with the disinclination of senior executives to (1) appear before government hearings, (2) pay multimillion dollar fines, and (3) go to jail. Compared to this, whether we keep records for the appointed time and then dispose of them seems hardly worth the effort, whether it’s in SharePoint or some other system.
Despite being a bit worn out from two solid days of presentations and networking, day three was another good one at DIA 2015. Unlike days one and two, today was all about IT for me, from how to select and implement document management systems to how to validate SaaS/cloud GXP systems, eliminate unintentional bias in your risk management program, and how to determine whether a system needs to be validated.
Today was my first full day at DIA 2015, and it was a whirlwind. I managed to see sessions on Regulatory, Manufacturing, Clinical, and PV and have some substantive one on one discussions with Medical Affairs and Safety folks as well. And on top of all that, I met with a number of very interesting vendors and service providers to pick their brains about “THE FUTURE OF PHARMA”…no wonder it feels like Thursday already.
Even though my flight from Chicago was delayed (given the severe storms there all day, I was lucky to even get out at all), I managed to see one great session and have some wonderful conversations in the networking breaks and on the expo floor at DIA today.
The two topics I was most excited about were continuous process improvement and enterprise document management strategy.
The first came up in the 11 am session, with Michelle Charles from Merck and Chris Hanna from Kattner-Thalmann. They both spoke to continuous improvement (CI) and Lean Six Sigma efforts in reg ops–Chris from the professional services, more theoretical angle, Michelle from the been there, done that angle of finishing a CI project at Merck in 6 months. And although the net net wasn’t anything earth shaking in terms of CI, for the Life Sciences industry, which has traditionally been way way behind other manufacturing verticals, it was a big plus to see a culture shift regarding process improvement. And it’s always great to hear what a real person at a real company is doing about a critical challenge like CI (thanks, Michelle)…
Enterprise document strategy wasn’t the subject of any given session, but rather the topic of conversations in the vendor expo and at networking breaks throughout the day. And in this regard what I heard was that, despite a decade or more of work on functionally based document management strategy, very few organizations were approaching document management strategy from a cross functional, truly enterprise perspective, i.e., across the value chain from R&D and clinical, to regulatory, QA, maufacturing, and commercial, PV, and medical affairs. But despite that lack of enterprise perspective, most firms truly needed that enterprise perspective to solve their many, significant business challenges relating to document management.
The negative effects of the lack of document mangement strategy that folks described were striking: low adoption of exepensive, resource intensive document management systems, extreme end user disatisfaction with document management tools, process inefficiencies, increased compliance costs and risks, impaired executive decision making, higher portfolio risk, etc.
Other than “getting a great enterprise wide strategy”, no quick answers to the problem. But I’m grateful for the opportunity to engage folks in great conversation and learn more about what’s going on in the industry.
I look forward to what DIA 2015 day two brings!
I work a lot with end of pipe functions in Life Sciences organizations (especially Quality and Manufacturing) and it always strikes me as strange that Life Sciences organizations don’t typically view themselves as manufacturers who happen to make specialized products that rely on scientific research, but rather as scientific research organizations that happen to make products.
Now, I know this is a broad generalization, but I think it holds true for lots of companies out there. And certainly, the Life Sciences industry as a whole seems to identify much less with mainstream manufacturing than with health care…which makes a certain amount of sense given what Life Sciences does for a living. And the close relationships and peer networking with providers and payers confer significant benefits on Life Sciences organizations.
But this focus on health care rather than manufacturing also has negative effects on Life Sciences organizations, because, after all, we can’t lose sight of the fact that what Life Sciences organizations do for a living is to make products that they sell to customers. In this, the Pfizers and Mercks of the world are no different from the Hondas, Krafts, Apples, Boeings, or GEs.
Where Life Sciences organizations tend to differ, unfortunately, is that they lag far behind their non-Life Sciences counterparts in adopting continuous improvement (CI) approaches to their product life cycle, e.g., six sigma, LEAN, TQM, etc. The only manufacturing sector that is worse off than Life Sciences in this respect is Oil and Gas, where the boom and bust mentality has made a sustained, widespread adoption of CI almost impossible in petroleum operations as a whole.