A couple of weeks ago I shared my enthusiasm about going to the then-imminent AIIM Forum Europe expo and conference in London.
Well – did my day out at The Grand Connaught Rooms live up to my exalted expectations? I am delighted to say it did, beyond the always-nice aspect of seeing old friends, colleagues and clients.
One of the things that tortures us a bit in this market is whether to call it document management, content management or content services. Whatever you call it, one thing was clear – there’s a huge new energy coming into the industry that makes it a really exciting time to be in this space.
Many of the people I chatted with at the show, point as evidence to the large number of new entrants coming into the market, which can be very well tracked by recent (and very bullish) market probes by respected figures like Gartner and Forrester. I can’t say yet if I agree: but there’s definitely, definitely something stirring in the undergrowth here!
Finally Getting the Marketing Right – Shock!?
Many of us are convinced this bounce might largely be down to the fact that we’re finally positioning ourselves not as a technology in search of a problem, but listening to what actual business owners will actually buy! As perhaps the most central figure of the whole event, Peggy Winton, President & CEO of AIIM itself, put it to me, “The biggest thing, particularly for the information governance and compliance members of our community, is that they are starting to really appreciate the need to change the conversation away from the inner workings of what a retention schedule might look like —and focus instead on what is the ultimate mission-criticality of whatever piece of the information picture they are working with… forget all our endless talk about GDPR, other privacy regulations, whatever. The business leaders you are working for are never going to get excited about that because it’s still viewed as a cost of doing business, not something that’s going to give them that mission-critical solution!”
Jennifer Van Lent, Managing Director of Dutch-headquartered European HubSpot and Autopilot partner Digital Doorway out of Amsterdam, agrees. “What you’re seeing now, which is one of the reasons 2019’s Forum was so interesting, is that people have been able to take a step back. They’re not talking about Enterprise Content Management services in a silo, they’re not talking about Records Management services or scanning in a silo anymore; they’re finally talking about what is impactful to a customer; what is the business process that I have, what are the issues that I have? About whether or not it’s reading documents or managing my data, what kind of insights can I generate, and how can I help that bring value to my organisation?
“Ultimately, people don’t think about technology, they think, ‘I’ve got a problem, how can I solve it?’ So for me, attending things like the Forum is seeing how many vendors have at last been able to capture that story in a way that is way better positioning than perhaps they were doing even two or three years ago.”
I can’t tell you how long I’ve waited for this insight to become the DM/ECM/CS consensus!
New Tech, Yes… But Do We Really Need It as Yet?
Here I spoke with someone who sits in a privileged, but neutral, position at the centre of the market, independent journalist Dave Tyler (Document Manager mag editor). He told me, “it does feel as though AI/Machine Learning and RPA have moved into the broader market; they’re generally more accepted. When you see news stories on the BBC website about robotics with pictures of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ‘Terminator’, you know some of these concepts at least have gone mainstream. But whether ‘AI’ here will prove to be, say, RPA, in the sense we know it and in the sense of Kofax and such like are offering as products, is a slightly different question, though. I think, as with all of these technologies, there’s been this slight marketing spin put on it so that everything suddenly sounds like AI… everything sounds like robotics, whereas a lot of it really is BPM by another name.
“I think, really, a lot of all that stuff is process automation, which we’re very good at, and which we’ve been doing for a number of years.”
Cloud, Cloud Everywhere – But Do I Need to Drink It?
When will we stop agonising about getting our customers in the Cloud?
As Peggy noted, “The reality is, cloud should not be first for certain organisations, and ultimately the users don’t care anyway. They don’t care where their information lives; they just want access to it when they need it, and they want to have the same experience out in the field as if they were at home, back at the corporate mothership. We need to really think about what processes work better in the cloud, then see if there a service provider that you’re getting that particular function from better than elsewhere.”
Dave Jones disagrees and I suspect he may be speaking for many on the vendor half of today’s Content Services community. “People will say, let’s [go to cloud at last], let’s do the whole damn thing in one go and build ourselves an infrastructure ready not just for 2020, but beyond. That’s why I think we’ve got almost a perfect storm arriving; the need to go to cloud, the fact that there are new vendors that are hitting things like the Gartner Magic Quadrant and the Forrester Wave, and them being visible for people, combined with how, via things like the iPhone, everybody is now used to continuous updates, cloud, and ease of use. All of those are coming together at the same time— and that means that this industry is going to look very different in three years’ time!”
I do have to say the logic for his belief makes sense: we’re not in the cloud because we don’t want to be, but for many customers, it’s just been easier to stay as we are.
Well, I did want some food for thought, and I certainly got some.
Roll on AIIM Forum 2020, say I!
AIIM Forum Europe was held on the 19th of November, which built on 17 years of success of the previous show, AIIM Forum UK but was re-modelled for 2019 to AIIM Forum Europe
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