Have you ever had one of those embarrassing “first day” blunders at a new job that still pains you to think about? I’ve had a few, but the one that springs to mind came right after I started my second job. A colleague (and now long-term friend) asked me what an “ISIS driver” was. That question alone haunted me for weeks to come. Had it been a few years later, I probably would’ve stumbled my way through an answer about guys with AK-47s trying to take over the Middle East, but now realize that wasn’t the response my new co-worker was looking for! Being new to a company is one thing, but being new to an industry is something much scarier.
I had just entered the professional world I’m now comfortable in, and at the time the realm of unstructured and structured data was pretty daunting. One of the reasons was the “insider baseball” speak that everyone else at the company seemed to be familiar with except me – i.e. all the tech jargon that veterans use in everyday conversation but may as well be ancient Greek for outsiders and newbies like I was back then.
The buzz at the time was around Document Imaging. If you could capture documents through multiple sources and create a link between them and your ERP, SIS, EMR, EHR (or insert one of your favorite business system acronyms here), you were doing pretty good. If you could capture those documents, create integration, and move them through workflow then your solution was a powerhouse.
As I grew older and lost more hair, those acronyms evolved as well. Document Imaging grew up and was renamed Enterprise Content Management (ECM). This was a much more sophisticated version of its younger self. Not only could you achieve the three big wins I mentioned earlier, but now your clients could also create electronic forms, check documents in and out through library services, electronically sign content, adhere to retention schedules, and begin to perform data extraction from these same documents. Life was good and we were changing the way organizations and people did business (actually doing this – not just claiming we could in our marketing).
More importantly, we were giving our friends, partners, and clients precious time back in their day. ECM technology offered our customers the ability to get their work done quicker, so they could stop making lame excuses for missing their kid’s soccer practice and date night with their spouse. We were also making sure that admissions and AP staff were no longer working overtime on holidays, enabling companies to take advantage of early payment discounts, and eliminating the annoying paper chase that ensues when your expense report goes missing and your boss claims she never even saw it. This was the most rewarding aspect of my job: seeing meaningful “before and after” change.
Just as Document Imaging grew into Enterprise Content Management, Enterprise Content Management is now morphing into Content Services. By definition, this can be explained as the delivery of Content as a Service (CaaS) or Managed Content as a Service (MCaaS). As these terms imply, this is a service-oriented model, in which the provider delivers content on demand to the consumer via web services that are licensed under subscription. Now for the obvious question: What does this mean and why should you care?
In its most basic format, Content Services allows for your unstructured data and documents to live wherever you prefer them to reside (within an ECM system, Sharepoint, CRM, Fileshares, Google Drive, etc). Content Services is a front end to these repositories that serve up documents in a viewer through a seamless API integration. This allows you to enjoy the benefits you came to love in your ECM solution but with the helpful addition of a front end that allows you to view and manage ALL of your content through one solution. How awesome is that?
Where I think this new progression really gets exciting is through the joining of Content Services and Intelligent Information Management. Imagine receiving a student’s high school transcript. That document could be secured within your Content Services solution and made accessible to authorized users across campus through your Student Information System. Where Intelligent Information Management comes into play is by adding data extraction, machine learning, and predictive analytics into the equation.
If you work at a college or university, your staff is most likely still keying data from high school and college transcripts (or, if you work in a different department or industry, any other document, whether that be invoices, remittances, insurance documents, W2’s, etc.) into their system of record. This is time-consuming and error-prone. Though we could consider Intelligent Information Management through the lens of just about any piece of content or process, let’s get back to the transcript example. Through the use of data extraction tools, all of the transcript information – yes, every single word on the page – can be extracted and then validated against a database, system of record, or Student Information System. This validation process allows for us to be confident in the accuracy of our extraction. That valid, complete, and current data then is automatically uploaded or published in your system of record. Pretty cool, right?
This is where the process ends for most folks. Where I predict our future lies is with machine learning and predictive analytics also coming into play. As you probably know, and many researchers at organizations like AIIM have stated, 80% of the data in this world is unstructured. I’d predict that most of that information is in a format that it cannot be reported on. At least not yet. Through the data extraction process, you now have access to the raw data that lived in the unstructured world. We can and should be feeding that to analytics tools to create a better, more efficient future. Unless of course, your staff is cool with spending much of their day manually processing data.
In my prior example, think how powerful it would be to understand what high school courses equated to success in the engineering field. Are you placing the right high school students into the correct majors? Are you handling them with the care necessary for them to succeed in college and in the ‘real world’? Are you recruiting the ‘right’ students who can succeed in the environment you have created? Are these same students obtaining jobs in their field? After all, isn’t the end goal of college to prepare you for and then help you obtain a job that can become a life-long career you’re passionate about? (And if not, then perhaps we should re-think our higher education model.)
All of these possibilities are obtainable today. This topic is no longer futuristic wishful thinking, it is reality right now. The power of Content Services with Intelligent Information Management is ENORMOUS – would I really be using all caps otherwise? It has the power to shape the way we teach our students, treat our patients, handle our clients’ insurance claims, and more. I am as excited as I have ever been about the future of this industry and cannot wait to see the way it changes people’s lives. We now are talking about more than just giving someone precious time back. We can actually change the way we live our lives for the better. Even a first-day newbie couldn’t fail to grasp the significance of that!