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Tue 1 Aug 2006 04:00 AM

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Content chaos

Not being able to track documents quickly is costing companies money, but that should not be the main or only reason for considering electronic document management. Colin Edwards finds out the ROI behind getting document chaos under control.

|~|content_gale.jpg|~|Ben Gale, general manager, sales and marketing, Xerox Middle East & Africa.|~|The return some companies are said to be getting on their electronic document management solutions (EDMS) investments make a pretty sound argument for deploying such solutions.

According to Ben Gale, Xerox's general manager, sales and marketing, Middle East & Africa, a telco using its Global Services calculated that if better document management, processing and access resolved calls to its customer support centre just one second faster, it would result in 17 fewer agents. A further reduction of 25 staff could also be effected if the number of calls could be cut by just 0.1% as a result of increased customer satisfaction.

"These are the soft issues. Getting things right for customers the first time means they generally will want to come back and do business with you. So, if you can have real time access to your documents and have consistency across touch points with a customer, then customer satisfaction and repeat business really improve.

"While the hard and fast facts of business are usually fiscal, a lot of things that come as associated benefits with document management not only bring savings, they also bring increased satisfaction and an increased propensity to re-purchase," says Gale.

Such ROI arguments are common throughout the document management world. Hummingbird's Roger Gergi, sales director, East Europe, Middle East & NCWE Africa, quotes the case of one manufacturer getting an annual ROI of 318% on the deployment of a records management solution and a payback of just four months. The calculation was based on total costs, including labour, training, hardware and software, over a three-year period. Hardware and software represented just 8% of the total figure of US$800,000. The benefits included reduced personnel and communications costs and improved productivity across records, business and IT departments.

"Organisations are seeing more and more the need to implement document and record management to be able to more efficiently search and retrieve information," says Gergi.

Another company, a law firm, is realising an ROI of 84% on its centralised portal system and EDMS. Three-year running and capital costs totalled $1.45 million with hardware and software representing nearly 50% of them. Again the benefits centred around productivity improvements, but there were additional cost savings around infrastructure and publishing.

FileNet's Carlo Stellati, vice president, South Europe, Middle East and Africa estimates that a 5% productivity improvement would typically mean a cost saving of $2,500 a year - assuming a salary and related costs of $50,000. "That's much more than the investment per user of investing in our solution."

So should the CIO and the IT department step up and take a bow for selecting yet another critical tool and delivering bottom-line business benefits beyond the wildest imagination? Not at all, according to P. Vidyasagar, director of Dubai-based eDocuMAN. In fact, he would like to see IT stay well clear of the whole decision-making process apart from confirming that it can support any chosen solution properly.

"IT has a very small role to play. An IMC (information management compliancy) strategy is about the process from where things originate; the way they originate as a document; the way they get registered as a record; and the way they need to be archived in a compatible format based on ISO global standards," says Vidyasagar.

"This is all outside the IT manager's understanding. They don't understand this part and I don't think they care to understand it either. Technology comes in once the process of understanding is clear," he adds.
||**|||~|content_stellati.jpg|~|Carlo Stellati, vice president, FileNet South Europe, Middle East and Africa|~|The whole world is now trying to look at how people can understand business processes and put them to better use, he explains, which precludes looking at everything from an IT perspective.

"It does not work that way any more. If you look at IMC it does not start from the IT manager's cabin. It starts with the people who need to have access to information when they need it. And that's not the IT manager's view. IT managers look at the networking part, the access part and of course the data security part and all those aspects, but he's not concerned with the way information flows and is organised in the business unit.

"Unfortunately that is the truth. The IT manager is not a part of it. He comes in as the second-last layer in the whole process. He comes in more to make sure that it does comply with his IT infrastructure. He does not understand nor even want to worry about whether the records are kept in the right place or whether the right people have the access to it," he says.

Other vendors in the document and content management market generally concur, though maybe not quite so vociferously.

Gale, for example, says there has been a propensity to focus on the 'T' of 'IT' when it comes to selecting solutions rather than the 'I' of information - that is: there's been a tendency to take a technology driven approach rather than information driven approach.

"We focus on the information that the customer requires and how they need that information because information is the lifeblood of the organisation. We work with the organisation and focus on a capital 'I' with a small 't'. We don't have a technological solution looking for a problem. We understand the problem and then try to find the best solution document management wise to actually address that issue," he adds.

At UAE-based NVSSoft, which markets its locally developed EDMS suites throughout the region, Mohammed Samer Al Siouty, CEO says that while it is an "IT concern, an IT nightmare", it is always a business decision.

"That's why it takes a lot of time. Sometimes it takes a year for them to make a decision because of the size and huge cost of this and also for the change management that's required. You are transforming all the client's way of business. They will be doing business completely differently," he says.

Giovanni Evangelisti, vice president of sales, Hummingbird EMEA, agrees that most of the time electronic document and records management is a business driven initiative, with IT involved during the process only to ensure IT strategy compatibility.

"That's how it should be, because, at the end of the day, an electronic document management solution is a solution to a business requirement," he says.
||**|||~|content_visyasgar.jpg|~|P. Vidyasagar, director of Dubai-based eDocuMAN.|~|
One dissenting voice is FileNet's Carlo Stellati. "It is important to have them (CIOs) involved in the beginning. Because when you are dealing with end users, one end user is responsible for a particular line of business and, by definition, the owner of a line of business does not care about the needs of other lines of business people. So the CIO tends to be in place, maybe not at the beginning, but certainly at an early stage and be part of the decision process in order to make sure that the investment taking place in one department can be used by another. He also needs to make sure it is scalable and that different systems are able to work and speak together," he says.

Stellati apart, most believe IT should take a backseat in the main process and let the business managers have their moment of glory. But before they start crowing to their CEOs about all the benefits their decisions are bringing to the organisation, they need to bear in mind that not all EDMS systems are successful. In fact, Vidyasagar claims the Middle East is littered with failed or failing document and content management projects and, as a consultant and implementer, is currently involved in re-implementing failed projects - various solutions supplied by other vendors that were bought a few years back and have ended up virtually grounded.

"That's because the people who bought it and the people who sold it didn't know the core reason of what they were doing. After the purchase was done, they started looking at what they were supposed to do with it. That's when the problem really starts and that is when most people discover they don't have enough knowledge in-house to know what to do with it.

"There are plenty of bootcamps on IMC that show how things have been screwed up in the past. How projects have failed and not taken off as intended. Whether it's documents, records or archives, there is a lack of clarity when somebody embarks on a project.

“People don't understand when you look at document management what you should consider. It's the same with records management. When you look at archiving, which is a big thing now, it's always seen as a part of records. It isn't so. It is more than just a record. Archiving is about the way you can preserve it and have it available when you need it," says Vidyasagar.

According to Stellati, most projects fail because basically the scope of the project is underestimated, as are the requirements to be put in place at the beginning. Users might set up a system for a department not realising that the same document might have to be accessed by other departments. An invoice, for example, is not only a key accounts document. It is also vital for it to be easily accessed by the call centre and the legal department.

"It means you need to study at the beginning of the project the exact meaning of one document and you need to identify which are the units who should have access to that document.

“Basically, if you are not doing this kind of pre-analysis you discover, after having the system in production, that you have built a catalogue that is not available for another unit," he says.

||**|||~|content_evangelisti.jpg|~|Giovanni Evangelisti, vice president of sales, Hummingbird EMEA.|~|Different companies place different values on the documents in their organisation. In the case of the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce, for example, membership documents and information on the organisation might be key as that is their core business, whereas a drug manufacturer would need to manage production documents. There is no one solution fits-all approach to successful document management, say the experts.

"Stakeholder analysis is key," says Gale. "If it's big 'T' little 'i' then this is a fundamental reason for failure as we see it. The focus should absolutely be on information, the work flow, removing the bottlenecks and actually trying to re-engineer processes so that it adds value to people's lives.

“If you get stakeholder agreement all along and sign off, they will all work hard to make sure that the solution that's put in is a success. Something that is great and is never used is still a failure in our eyes. It has to be a great solution that people believe in and use on a day-to-day basis.

In addition to getting full end-user buy-in, developing a proper comprehensive change management strategy is also a critical success factor. It is also important not to try to do everything at once. Rather identify the key areas where EDMS is a priority and work out from there, evolving slowly until the project is deployed successfully throughout the organisation.

"Really the only barrier to successful deployment is the human barrier - change management," Evangelisti says.

"You have to get the people to change the way they work. They can be a bit sceptical. So, before launching this kind of project, it is better to understand what's needed and sell the business requirement to the people involved so that they are more open and prepared to these kind of changes," he explains.

Management buy-in is critical, says NVSSoft's Al Siouty, but the awareness of the need for documents management is not that high in the Middle East, especially among mid-market companies. "Awareness is not there. It's sub-average, in fact, because they don't feel they need document management until it's too late. Most of them have millions of documents that will require years of conversion when they finally get around to realising the importance of document management, so raising awareness is the most important thing," he says.

It is not a problem Hummingbird says it is facing. As a company that initially addressed the mid-market space before expanding its offerings into the enterprise, Evangelisti says that in the Middle East it is the mid sector where most of the demand is. "There is high demand and good awareness in the mid market for the need for these kind of solutions because, in a short timeframe, they can have the system up and running without investing a lot of money on a big project."

There are a number of factors driving demand for EDMS in the region. Efficiency and compliance, both in the mid sector and the more traditional banking and government sectors, head the lists.

Solution verticalisation is also an emerging driver. It is seen as a means of reducing some of the complexity around EDMS deployment and meets specific needs, though vendors continue to insist that every implementation is different.

||**|||~|CONTENT_siouty.jpg|~|Mohammed Samer Al Siouty, CEO, NVSSoft.|~|While compliancy has not been considered a mainstream concern among Middle Eastern companies, this is changing. Increasing global pressures for compliant trading partners and Government moves to create economies that will attract international investments, are making good governance an issue that will need attention. Regional stock markets, for example, are beginning to insist on compliancy as a pre-requisite to listing.

In terms of day-to-day business needs, however, the major driver remains the need for enhanced business efficiency. Companies realise they need to organise all the information that is not normally stored in the normal database.

"They need to manage this knowledge in terms of storage and in terms of process. This is one of the main drivers in the Middle East and it's basically the same driver we perceive in other major geographies," says Stellati.

"Compliancy, as far as we know today, is not one of the major drivers in the Middle East, but it is also true that most of the companies in the Middle East have a very strong commitment governance - to implementing good governance. Of course, compliancy is a subset of governance," he adds.

Al Siouty agrees compliancy is not so relevant in this part of the world yet. "Most of the time it (document management) is about huge amounts of paper and spending lots of time finding lost papers and freeing up space. People are more concerned about maximising their space and minimising clutter."

In a bid to get more companies to adopt document management solutions, an increasing number of vendors are now providing vertical solutions targeting specific industries, though Stellati prefers to call them 'vertical frameworks', saying that in effect they are tools that need to be personalised with business input rather than technical development.

Xerox too, believes in furthering verticalisation. "We tend to go very much for application replication," says Gale. "Where we have found something to be effective within a particular sector, we will try to take that to other sector players in that vertical because it's an advantage and process improvement. Being able to work around verticals is a key need around the region.

"Having someone go in who just understands the technology doesn't always help. You need to understand the legislation, the document requirements, the processes. The processes in construction are very different from those in finances; the processes in retail are very different to logistics. So having vertical consultants who understand the business and don’t need to ask the customer about it is key," he adds.

At NVSSoft, customisation is a given in any implementation which, together with the fact that its suites are totally locally developed and provide native Arab support, back up company claims that its solutions are totally tailored to the individual needs of the region.

"Most document management systems on the market are US-developed and just Arabised. Our solutions are built from the ground up and targeted at Arabic markets so they offer native Arabic support such as search, indexing and everything else. We also work very closely with our customers. In fact more than 90% of our clients required customisation. No one buys products as is. All of them have special needs and special requests," says Al Siouty.

But getting it right first time remains the most critical aspect of document management, because as Stellati concludes: It is a discipline not a solution. Once you start organising information and start optimising your profit you can never say it is over. It is something you have to do better all the time."

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