What does that mean: multidimensional thinking? It really depends on your perspective and role in an organization. When we talk about design and development organizations, multidimensional might mean creating 3D models using the newest 3D printers. In the movie industry, multidimensional might refer to 3D movies, which are better and more common now, or even fourth dimensional movies that include not only visual enhancement but incorporate tactile elements, such as smell, water mists, air blasts and more, like those found at amusement parks.

    In the enterprise content management (ECM) world, multidimensional thinking might refer to expanding thought about the organizational processes, content type and additional elements, like mobile access and social media. Many organizations think in a 2D mode, addressing an immediate need or problem without consideration for the impact, or potential impact, a project will have across the enterprise or how it can enhance or further enable the enterprise beyond the initial purpose. What I am talking about is developing an enterprise-level strategy that not only addresses the needs of today but takes into consideration the evolutionary potential of the future.

    Consider this
    Process and content are tightly connected. This is a concept I have been promoting for decades. In a 2D view, we would only look at the content and only in a single instance, like a loan application in the loan department. In the 3D view, we look at the end-to-end process—from the time an application is completed until the time it is destroyed and everything in between. In a 3D view, we would look at the customer-facing elements, like the application online, how supporting information can be uploaded by the applicant, etc. Once submitted, we follow the review and approval process, identifying players in the process and their activities, like signature cycles, looking for ways to automate and to keep things digital.

    Once the approval process is complete, we turn our attention to the closing, issuing funds and the payment process by the customer—all the while, keeping focus on every element in whole, not just the subsets. What is the content? How does it move through the organization? Who does it move to, and what do they do with it when they get it? Where does it go to live out its life cycle, and how is it eventually destroyed?

    What to think about
    Look at your business processes and identify where and how information is used. Could all of this be done digitally? Consider the signature cycle and how signatures are applied, or could be applied, and how many signatures are actually required. Is there a need for paper-based information, and if so, how could it be managed more effectively? In many cases, paper is not required, so delivery becomes a question for the end customer. Will statements be emailed, or is there a portal available where the customer can go to review account history, balances and other related information?

    In my view
    The establishment of a solid ECM environment requires a 3D view and approach. Organizations need to start moving from the 2D mindset of departmental quick fixes, using technology to bandaid a problem, and adopt a multidimensional approach that not only addresses the current issue but includes planning for the projected future needs of the organization. As an example, how is the organization planning to leverage mobile device use, social media and digital signatures? How will all of this impact recordkeeping, as the results they produce might qualify as a corporate record and subject to corporate records management practices? Are you thinking of ECM in 2D or multidimensionally?

    Bob Larrivee is director of custom research at AIIM and an internationally recognized subject matter expert and thought leader with over 30 years of experience in the fields of information and process management. He is an avid techie with a focus on process improvement and the application of advanced technologies to enhance and automate business operations. Follow him on Twitter @BobLarrivee.

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