CIO Magazine pointed out that paper still rules the enterprise. It added some validity to what I had been seeing in the last few years. Having started with Documentum, we showcased solving “BIG” problems. Reducing time to market for new drugs and managing complex aircraft manuals. Back then, I rarely talked with the back office: corporate accounting, human resources, or legal. (I like to call them “The Big Three”.) Back then I thought that they were already using Enterprise Content Management (ECM) technology. I’ve come to realize that ECM vendors have often been missing the back office. So the back office has started going it alone.
Maybe it’s the fact that we don’t speak the back office language. I mean even the word “content” alone is foreign to what the back office worker does. ECM platforms come off sounding like, sure we can build you what you need. But business users are looking for solutions that get them started today. ECM vendors it’s time you learned to speak the business user’s language.
While electronic invoicing has been required in more and more countries around the globe, paper invoices are still the norm in the U.S. Even faxes are still in use. Accounting is another process that some organizations are reluctant to change. Usually as PO volumes increase, organizations look to reduce cycle times by supporting electronic or scanned invoices.
Electronic invoices can reduce the organization’s day’s sales outstanding (DSO). Even scanning of paper forms can reduce DSO with an organization’s major buyers. Some solutions will even extract line item details. But accounting is more than just invoices and PO’s. Vendor contracts are a big part of their processes. In reviewing invoice exceptions, accounting often needs to look at contracts to verify eligibility or contract prices. The story is not about the good transactions, but the bad one.
I was once told the first rule of IT was to never mess with payroll. It seems HR people feel the same way. To borrow a line from the HR Bartender, “I’ve never heard an employee say, ‘Well if I get 90% of what I earned, then I’m happy.” Or in other terms, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. It’s a common message I’ve heard over the years as an ECM deployment starts to talk to HR. Paper HR processes have been working for years so why change? Why take the risk?
Why, because HR processes do break. One of the biggest challenges is ensuring all documents are on file for an employee. For example, failing to maintain I-9 documentation can cost anywhere from $110 to $1,100 per form on the first offense. One company was fined over $600k for incomplete I-9 documents after an ICE audit. An employee file management solution would track the required I-9 for an employer. It would address not only the potential fine, but the current real-world resolution of time consuming manual self-audits. An employee file management solution would run a regular report indicating missing required documents.
Corporate counsel is probably the hardest language for software vendors to speak. I like to think that is because computer people think in binary terms of ones and zeros while legal people think in shades of grey. Corporate counsel is all about reducing risk across the enterprise. They’re not concerned with cycle times. Their biggest concern is maintaining control, which is why corporate legal often uses individual desktops instead of network storage for corporate contracts.
Managing an organization’s contracts in a contract management solution makes those contracts available to the right people at the right time. Sales people can see contracts only associated to their specific customer. Even the loading dock can see if a contract is in effect to accept a shipment. These systems track contract renewals to ensure that these other process continue to flow the right way. All of this reduces risk.
Speaking in Back Office Terms
I know I’m only touching the tip of the iceberg. There are more processes than I can write in a single post. We need to spend less time focused on talking to the IT department and more time listening to the business customer is saying. Then ECM vendors can really start fulfilling the “enterprise wide” vision. This is what some ECM vendors like M-Files and Newgen Software already are doing. It is by not listening and not speaking their language that we’ve started seeing vendors like Apttus, Determine and Esker making gains in the back office.