Extend the Power of EDM with BPA | 3 minute read
While the core capabilities of Electronic Document Management (EDM) – document versioning, check-in and checkout, search, and workflow – have remained largely the same over the past 15 years, advances in usability, scalability, application delivery and “smart” technologies that improve process automation have dramatically changed its value proposition. Today’s EDM systems draw on new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to ramp up the ROI on organizations’ EDM investment. This is particularly important for small to mid-sized businesses that may have been less willing previously to invest than larger enterprises.
Why Today’s EDM Delivers So Much ROI
A maturing market, more sophisticated and demanding buyers, and trends in technology have contributed to lower initial and ongoing cost with greater breadth of capabilities, making the ROI for EDM one of the best bargains available for small to mid-sized companies. Once only accessible to large firms with specialized IT resources and budgets, EDM and all or the accompanying “smart” technologies are now available for a broad range of budgets and applications.
In fact, today’s question for organizations is no longer “Can we afford EDM?” but rather, “Can we afford not to have EDM (and all it’s time-saving, cost-cutting capabilities)?”
Vendors Have Invested in Usability
As traditional EDM solutions have matured, vendors have recognized that the key to broad adoption by organizations of all sizes, and in many different industries, is usability, so they’ve invested in making applications more intuitive and easier to use. This is evidenced by the fact that, just a few years ago, training and IT resources were significant budget items for many EDM projects. Today, most applications require limited, if any, training, and, thanks to Cloud platforms, virtually no IT capabilities. This means business users – not developers or business analysts – can manage hierarchies, configure workflows, and manage setting up on their own.
Broader usability and new technologies have opened the application of EDM to more business uses, and enabled companies to open their EDM workflows and collaboration spaces to casual users. It has also enabled companies to extend EDM beyond internal users to partners, customers, and other outside collaborators, driving even greater returns.
- Artificial Intelligence (def): The theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.
- Machine Learning (def): Machine learning is an application of artificial intelligence (AI) that provides systems the ability to automatically learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed.
- Robotic Process Automation (def):) refers to software that can be easily programmed to do basic tasks across applications just as human workers do. ... RPA software is designed to reduce the burden of repetitive, simple tasks on employees.
Job Loss or Worse?
Discussions of these technologies sometimes create unease by those who fear they may evolve from being a benefit to being a menace that eliminates jobs and “takes over” the world as we know it. Even Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have warned of AI’s threats. However, we’re not all operating from the same definition of the terms and while the foundation is generally the same, the focus of artificial intelligence depends entirely upon the parameters within which it is used.
Advances in search, text analytics, and optical recognition have extended the capabilities of EDM to make applications more intelligent – and users more productive. Vendors such as Paper Alternative Solutions, for example, promote e-form capture and intelligent document recognition to dramatically reduce the amount of time and effort needed to bring volumes of content into EDM applications for processing and management.
While in some cases, this may result in job loss, most often it simply reduces the staff time and effort associated with scanning and categorizing documents, freeing existing employees to move into more rewarding activities. In other cases, as companies address document management issues that simply weren’t cost-effective to support before EDM, organizational efficiency increases and they don’t need to add new hires. Interestingly, most of the jobs that are eliminated as a result of the increased efficiency of EDM and “smart” technologies are the jobs that include boring, repetitive tasks and have high turn-over rates. Eliminating high turn-over helps to lower cost of personnel acquisition and training.
The New Bottom Line
Early EDM projects were often about eliminating paper and filing costs or meeting the document-heavy regulatory requirements of industries such as pharmaceuticals or aerospace and defense. Today they are all about productivity, efficiency and error-reduction and access for all types of users, while reducing organizational costs. Today, everyone – from sales people and administration, to HR and accounting professionals, as well as enterprise consumers of content – uses EDM. As EDM and smart automation technologies become a core requirement for the enterprise, it will be used to address more business needs, offering the opportunity for even greater returns.
Companies and organizations of all sizes need to take advantage of the new economies of EDM automation. Computer World estimates that “Business spending on artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and robotic process automation (RPA) technologies will see explosive growth over the next few years, with about half of enterprises using the technologies at scale by 2025.”
The article also states that, “According to the study, which underpins the report, 37% of enterprises are currently examining the potential of AI technology, 24% are running proof-of-concept projects, 12% are using IA selectively, while 13% are not using it at all.
CW goes on to say that “AI uptake is expected to accelerate over the next three years, (emphasis mine) with all enterprises using the technology to some extent – 49% using it at scale, 29% using it selectively and 11% running proofs of concept.
Why Your Business Should Automate
No matter what business your company is in, if you’re a small to mid-size business, then you’re concerned with three things:
- operational costs
While large corporations also face competition and monitor costs and profits, a change in any one of them doesn’t have the same impact that it can have on smaller companies.
Small to midsize businesses compete not only with each other, but also sit squarely in the shadow of larger, more powerful companies. In order to succeed in the face of this type of competition, an investment in process automation helps small to mid-size businesses control costs, accommodate growth and compete in changing marketplace. Put simply, in order to remain competitive, you need to automate before someone else automates you out of business.