Welcome to 2015! Growing demand for simple, flexible interfaces by the user community dictates that businesses of all types assess user needs and select tools that align with organizational requirements and enable workers to achieve peak performance. While this is a mouthful for the beginning of the year, it is also a reality, with expectations emanating from the consumer marketplace. As the technology for personal use advances, users are questioning why business applications have to be so difficult to configure, learn and use.

    In a recent AIIM report, titled “Search and Discovery – exploiting knowledge, minimizing risk,” we found that respondents believe it is "important to vital" that employees are able to easily search for and find information residing in their email systems, file shares, line-of-business systems and so on. (See Figure 1 below.) The point I find interesting is the word “easily.” Ease of use means many things to many people and is likely to differ from one person to another; however, this remains to be a repeating requirement.

    Figure 1: Which of the following places or repositories is it important for your employees to be able to easily search?

    Consider this
    Single point of access has been on the wish list for many users and organizations for many years. For some, the use of portals has been an approach and for others, a web interface of some sort. The reality is that users continue to bounce from one application to the next in search of vital information stored in their file share, enterprise content management (ECM) repositories, SharePoint and in-boxes.

    Most users have become proficient in the use of their email tool and like the simplicity of the interface. What if the tool most users spend the bulk of their day working in—their email—became the single point of access for the rest of the information they need? Not only that, what if they could also capture and store through that same mechanism?

    What to think about
    It may, in fact, be possible and beneficial for you to use the email interface as the front-end to other applications like SharePoint, ECM repositories and various line-of-business applications across the enterprise. Look at the business from the user perspective to learn how they are accessing information, where it comes from and if the concept of using the email client for other information management activities would be acceptable. (This may be a change management challenges.)

    Look at the various technologies available today and assess how they might be used to simplify interactions with your information management activities. Could you, in fact, leverage the simplicity of your email client in ways the user can capture, manage and find information across the enterprise and within external systems?

    In my view
    Single point of access is more and more a requirement of the workforce. The ability to manage and search for information from a single interface in the workplace is not an unreasonable request. The challenge is to identify the real business requirements, develop a well-defined set of functional requirements, solicit the vendor community on their approach to meet your requirements and select the right combination of tools to meet the need.

    Can an email client become the single point of access to your information? We are in the year 2015, and I can say that technically, yes, this is possible. The decision to do this is not mine to make; it is up to you to explore the options and decide for yourself.

    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. Follow him on Twitter @BobLarrivee.

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