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Exstream Acquisiton: Forget CCM for at Least 18 Months

June 27, 2016

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.

SharePoint Records Management Revisited

January 22, 2016


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.

Records, Schmekerds

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.

DIA 2015 – Day Three Recap

June 17, 2015

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.

Read more…

DIA 2015 – Day Two Recap

June 16, 2015

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.

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DIA 2015 – Day One Recap

June 15, 2015

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!

DIA 2015 – Back to Manufacturing Basics

June 8, 2015

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.

imagesX30VZ2I4Now, 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.imagesSI7IXPS6

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.

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DIA 2015 – The Future of Regulatory

June 4, 2015

One of the topics I’m most passionate about in Life Sciences is the strategic importance of Regulatory Affairs and Operations. Too often, the work of Regulatory is viewed as administrative overhead and a cost center rather than part of the core value chain activities related to drug/device development, like R&D, Clinical, and Commercial are. Rather than get on my soap box here, you can read a recent white paper I published that gets into the nitty gritty details on the subject. However, I am excited for one session at DIA 2015 in particular that looks like it’s going to address, at least in part, the need to transform how we approach Regulatory:

Evolving Your Regulatory Information Management Strategy to Meet the Changing Business Environment – Monday 6/15, 11:00 – 12:00

Adapting Business Process to Support Global RIMS
Michelle L. Charles, MPH, Associate Director, Regulatory Affairs, Merck & Co., Inc.

Lean Six Sigma For Delivering High-Velocity RIMS Strategies
Christopher P Hanna, PhD, PMP, Principal, Kattner-Thalmann Partners

These presentations hit on two topics–global processes and continuous improvement–that I think are key for getting the most out of Regulatory. In terms of a global view of Regulatory processes, just about every Life Sciences organization I talk to struggles with getting the same levels of efficiency and effectiveness out of their affiliates in Most of World (MOW), i.e., countries outside the US and EU. Some of this is due to the difficulties of managing processes and teams half a world a way; some is due to poor document management practices; some is due to outdated or low functioning technology for collaboration. But the result is the same in every case: increased time to market, increased cost of compliance, increased risk of non-compliance.

In terms of continuous improvement, it’s high time that Life Sciences organizations view themselves not only as scientific research organizations but also as manufacturers…and not just at the end of pipe in Quality and Manufacturing, but upstream in the product development functions such as R&D, Clinical, and, yes, Regulatory. Too often, Life Sciences organizations forget the critical lessons learned in other manufacturing sectors about the need for tight integration between all parts of the product value chain, from design and development, through process engineering, to manufacturing, quality, supply chain, sales, and marketing.

I’m looking forward to how the sessions tackle these issues and hope to connect with folks to continue the conversation in DC!

DIA 2015 Sneak Peek

June 3, 2015

This year’s Drug Info Association (DIA) annual conference is coming up in two weeks in DC, and I’m excited for four days of education, networking, and great conversations.

DIA 2015 Logo

As usual, the line up of speakers is top notch, so it’s been tough to try to plan on what to attend without feeling like I’m missing out on things. In terms of topic areas, I’m focusing this year on information/document management, of course, but also augmenting that with sessions on social media, knowledge management, digitization, and continuous improvement…all of which require a solid information/document management foundation to be successful. And beyond these, I found a few promising sessions that focus on the more organizational dimensions of drug development effectiveness.

In case you’re planning to attend and are looking for advice on what to see, here are the sessions (along with the speakers and topics for each) that I’m planning to attend:

Read more…

Building an Effective Business Case

March 24, 2015

I was in a client visioning workshop recently for the global QA function of a large life sciences organization. The workshop was fantastic – which is the subject for another post – but one thing stood out in my mind. An executive from manufacturing came to give us an overview of their 2020 roadmap and strategy, and in doing so, he provided a crisp definition of strategy: Where are you now, where do you want to go, how will you get there, what will you get when you do, and why are you doing it?

I loved this not only because it distills “strategy” down to its essence, but also because of the last question: “Why are you doing it?” To me, this is the most important question to ask (and answer) when doing a strategy, because the success of your strategy ultimately depends on the strength of this answer.

You might be thinking that “What will you get when you do?” is the more important question; after all, this is the payoff, the ROI, the benefit statement, so what could be more critical? Show me the money, right?

Wrong. Organizations have lots of ways to realize returns, including leaving their money in the bank, which gets them a return with almost no effort. So if you want leadership to get off the dime to find and support your strategy, you have to be offering more than simply a bag of cash at the end of it.

This is where “Why are you doing it?” comes in. Your strategy has to be grounded in something the organization cares deeply about, and that’s going to be different from organization to organization, as well as within the same organization – over time, in different divisions, different geos, etc.

To be effective, a business case needs to be about more than simply the numbers; it needs to connect the numbers to something the organization cares about, to connect the dots between the costs/benefits and a reason for taking action that leadership can support. No matter how good the anticipated return on investment, realizing that return will take effort and organizational change, and there’s always risk that it won’t work out as planned. Dollars alone won’t be enough for an organization to bet on your strategy; folks need to believe in the why of what you’re doing. When they do, you’ve got a successful business case on your hands.

Given how important the business case is to a strategy, and how difficult it is to build a good business case, we’re dedicating a panel session to building an effective business case at the upcoming DOCUMENT Strategy Forum in Greenwich, Connecticut, May 12 – 14.For the session, “Effective Business Case Development,” we’ve tapped three experienced leaders to talk about how they’ve built business cases, what’s worked and what hasn’t, and give you practical, tangible advice you can take back to your organization to use in your next business case effort:

  • Thad Scarrow, Director, Nationwide
  • Ankur Laroia, Principal, Noah Consulting
  • James Watson, President, Doculabs

To learn more about the conference, which brings together leaders from across all industries to share their experiences and expertise with information management, click here. We’d love to see you there!

DOCUMENT Strategy Forum Interview: Chris Cotteleer, CIO, The Schumacher Group

February 27, 2015

In your company, what does a content management strategy include? Does your organization take a holistic approach (i.e. all content and information) or a more targeted approach (i.e. content on certain systems, associated with certain processes, or belonging to certain departments or functions)? 

Until recently, each department or function at Schumacher was responsible for managing its own content. But with the company’s growth from a small, regional player in the health care industry to a super-regional player, Schumacher has begun migrating toward a more holistic model. With 150 facilities in 29 states, and more people involved in decision-making, operations needed to scale. And we needed to be able to demonstrate control over our information in a systematic, rational, and pragmatic way.

What are some of your biggest challenges in executing your content management strategy?

The biggest challenge is communication – of the need to manage content, the strategy for managing content, of the bad things that can happen from not managing our content, and the good things that can happen from effectively managing our content. 

You have to make information security and compliance part of everyone’s everyday life. Executives here get the need; the “what” is very clear. It is the “how” that needs to be communicated, as in: Tell me how that happens. The lesson for all of us is to communicate why our users need something – but how do we do it in a way that’s practical? What steps do we take to achieve this goal? 

How do you see the proliferation of information transforming your role in the enterprise, the business owners you serve and the overall success of the business as a whole? 

We’re experiencing 50 percent year-over-year growth in information. Content management now has to address a growing volume of structured, unstructured and semi-structured data. We’re trying to hit a moving target. And for an organization like Schumacher Group, which is in the business of saving lives, there are real consequences if we don’t get a grip on our ability to deliver the right information on time:  people’s lives and health are impacted.

Successful strategies boil down to the people who use them and carry them out. In your opinion, what are the leading characteristics of companies that are successful in user adoption over those that fail?

The “hows” are important. 1) Intellectual honesty: Look at the problem and diagnose it. At times, this takes courage. 2) Reciprocity: When you go to the business users about content management, recognize that you are asking them for something: basically, asking them to change the way they work. You need to make sure they know what the benefits are if they buy in; things like cost reduction, security, and process improvement – improving the way that content flows. Help them see that you are finding them a solution, not just a workaround. Help them see information as intellectual inventory, with the opportunity to produce real value. Get them to see that information exists to be used to a greater end – in Schumacher’s case, patient care.

What companies do you admire the most for their innovative content strategy approaches, and why? 

One company I admire is USAA, the organization that provides financial services to people and families that have served, in the U.S. military. USAA manages huge volumes of content – billions of images. In financial services, PNC Bank’s Treasury Management division.

What do you think is the next big content management project/initiative large companies will take on in the next 5 years?

The big concern continues to be securing content. There’s so much valuable content, yet it can be so vulnerable. You address security through encryption, making sure the right people get access at the right time. The recent data breaches of organizations like Target raised awareness, and companies starting to recognize it could hit them, too. You have to be able to see the risk.

What are you most looking forward to for the DSF 2015 event?

I’m looking forward to the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with colleagues in my industry and across industries. Collaboration is the wave of the future. We have to continue to help the world understand that information does not exist to its own end; it exists to forward another goal. We have to continue to promote the idea that there is a better way – to see that massive repository of structured and unstructured data not as a landfill, but as a goldmine.

For more information about the DOCUMENT Strategy Forum, click here. We look forward to seeing you all there!