Many businesses are still adapting their information management strategies to account for document sharing, anywhere-anytime access and data security concerns as many employees still work remotely — and may remain doing so for the indefinite future. Last year, we saw a strong focus on remote document management and cloud document storage as well as a push to improve workflows and collaboration across the enterprise. Companies looking to strengthen their information management strategies turned to more practical, cost-effective and easy-to-use technology solutions that were proven to yield immediate return on investment.
Many companies will continue on this course. But what else is in store?
Information Challenges Existed Well Before the Pandemic
Well before COVID-19 started impacting the business world, companies were already struggling with gathering, managing and extracting value from the sea of documents moving in and out of their offices. Companies were constantly challenged to secure and regulate information while making it easily accessible when it was scattered everywhere, processed separately and managed by different people.
The main reasons companies struggle with information management:
- Huge volumes of information is being created and received every day
- Information is coming from different sources, such as employees, managers, external partners, customers, auditors and government entities
- Information flows through multiple channels, including postal mail, emails, faxes, web forms, digital files and data imports in different formats
- Information is living in disconnected silos, from file cabinets and fax machines to inboxes and various enterprise systems only accessible from the office or by certain people
- The lack of standardized controls have led to a fragmented view where companies don’t know what information they have, where it is, who has access to it and whether or not the policies for retrieval and compliance are being followed
Needless to say, the pandemic forcing the majority of companies to move to a work-from-home model compounded these challenges tenfold.
Industry analysts predict that executive leaders will be looking for three things in the coming year: growth, digitalization and efficiency. In order to realize these objectives and propel their organizations forward, executive leaders will need to look to embrace these four information management technology trends:
- AI and Biometrics Will Take Document Classification and Authentication to New Levels: Depending on which industry stats you follow, the global AI market was valued at $62 billion in 2020 and is expected to expand at CAGR of 40 percent from 2021 to 2028. AI-driven data capture functionality promises to drastically increase customers’ data entry speed and accuracy. We will see an increase in AI and machine-learning (ML) continuous authentication solutions during the next year to analyze documents for compliance as well as case and account management where it will detect anomalies in patterns within documents—both in physical-capture and digital machine-generated documents. AI and ML have moved from a curiosity to a necessity and priority during the pandemic, particularly for remote workers. Expect to see AI/ML models constructed for advanced document classification to obtain higher levels of accuracy (i.e. 97 percent+) versus current classification technologies which are optical character recognition (OCR)- and/or text-based (keywords matching). In addition, we’ll see biometrics used to continuously authenticate document viewing and access for cloud-based content services.
- Distributed Enterprise Models Will Grow into the Norm: Distributed enterprises reflect a digital-first, remote-first business model to improve employee experiences; digitalize consumer and partner touchpoints; and build out product experiences. Distributed enterprises are better positioned to serve the needs of remote employees and consumers, who are driving demand for virtual services and hybrid workplaces. This model requires digitizing everything that physically moves — from paper to processes to information. Gartner estimates those companies that enable a distributed enterprise model will achieve 25-percent faster revenue growth than peer companies that’s don’t.
- Hyperautomation Will Reach Warp Drive: Hyperautomation involves identifying what work processes to streamline and standardize; selecting the appropriate tools and strategies; driving agility through the reuse of the automated processes; and extending their capabilities using various technologies such as document management software; AI, ML, robotic process automation (RPA), business process management (BPM), intelligent business process management suites (iBPMS) and integration platform as a service (iPaaS) — to name a few. The benefits of hyperautomation are not only to save costs, boost productivity and gain efficiencies through automating manual processes, but also to capture, process, and integrate data into other enterprise applications. Organizations can then use that data to make faster, more intelligent business decisions. Solutions that can manage end-to-end process automation should be in high demand.
- Privacy-Enhancing Computation Will Go From Nice-to-Have to Must-Have: Data breaches aren’t going anywhere. In fact, our new world of remote work has presented more opportunities for data breaches than ever before. By September 2021, the number of data breaches had already exceeded the previous year by 17 percent. As companies worked to quickly get their remote and/or hybrid workplaces up and running, unfortunately, security wasn’t on the top list of technology concerns. However, they now see it as an imperative to remain competitive in today’s mobile business environment. Enter privacy-enhancing computation (PEC). PEC is designed specifically for the increasing need to share data while maintaining security and privacy. Businesses must be able to reassure consumers, customers and partners that any data stored with them is safe. PEC incorporates technologies that protect data while it is in use—allowing different parties within a business ecosystem to extract value from the data and get actionable results from it in a secure and privacy-sensitive manner. Because enterprise information management (EIM) vendors are engaged to ultimately handle these volumes of information — whether it be physical documents or electronic, or involve inbound capture, management, and secure storage — organizations should have a high level of confidence in their partners’ technologies, processes and protocols. That’s why security and industry certifications will matter even more in the coming year.
No More Passes for Companies That Haven’t Figured It Out
Pre-pandemic, we saw a business landscape where companies were slowly moving from a heavy, document-centric workstyle to one that was more data-centric. However, COVID-19 fast-tracked that movement. Companies found themselves needing to act quickly, but being smart about the technology they deployed to address the changing business marketplace.
People around the world have rapidly increased their technology adoption and usage since the outbreak of COVID-19. As a result, they have higher expectations that digital experiences work well — whether it be remote work, online shopping or streaming entertainment. While they previously were willing to forgive companies struggling with pandemic-related disruptions, people will expect companies to have successfully solved those problems in the coming year.
Fifty-six percent of U.S. consumers believe that companies should have figured out how to handle pandemic-related disruption by now. Fifty-eight percent of consumers expect companies to have marshalled their digital resources so they’ll be able to respond better if the country is plunged into another public health emergency.
Bootstrapping digital transformation out of business necessity will move to building a well-thought-out information management strategy for more sustainable benefits in the long term.