ChannelLife NZ - Making the most of the information explosion

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Making the most of the information explosion

Information is growing at an exponential rate and is continuing to explode into the digital landscape. IDC predicts that by 2010 the information added annually to the digital universe will have increased more than six fold from 161 exabytes in 2006 to 988 exabytes [one exabyte = one quintillion bytes]. Information organisation should be a core element of any business, and document management is key to ensuring a successful, efficient, reliable, and competent business.

Document management is essentially the process of handling this growing amount of data in such a way that information can be created, shared, organised, and stored efficiently and appropriately. Regardless of size, every organisation needs the right document management solution to improve access to documents and gain better control. The right solution can support regulatory compliance, computerise paper-intensive business processes, and raise employee efficiency.

Although many document management solutions tend to focus on scanning and archiving, there are many options. The Channel spoke to a few experts on the document management market to unearth current opportunities. 

Document management growth in New Zealand

Andy Rootes, EMC’s Partner Alliances Manager, Content Management and Archive ANZ, told The Channel that the market is experiencing massive growth, which means organisations need to access information more quickly.

“By reducing the amount of time it takes to find the information, by becoming more efficient and sharing information more collaboratively within the working environment, the business gains competitive advantage,” he said. 

Reducing labour time creates opportunities for better time management and better utilisation of skilled staff. “The key thing here is around productivity within an organisation and their staff,” continued Rootes.

Information is more and more becoming a strategic asset, and is actively being used as a differentiator among many businesses and organisations that want to be more efficient and cut costs.

Megan Twentyman, Managing Director for Mistral Software, believes the growth in the document management arena is due to a competitive and growing marketplace in which small businesses are growing and having to adjust to the demands that a larger workplace presents.

“Businesses are evolving and growing so, therefore, they’re having to look at which document management solution is going to work for them,” she said. “I think a lot of it’s actually the evolution of the New Zealand market place itself.”

Changes to improve business

Individuals are responsible for the creation of 70% of the digital universe, but enterprises are responsible for the security, privacy, reliability, and compliance of 85% of that digital data. Three main challenges organisations face when trying to deal with the systematisation of information are:



  •     Transforming existing business relationships by organising information creation, storage, management, security, retention, and disposal.


  •     Taking charge of the development of organisation-wide policies for information governance: security, retention, data access, and compliance.


  •     Implementing new tools and standards, as well as making the information infrastructure as flexible, adaptable and scalable as possible.

Over the last year major changes have taken place in the way information is stored and organised. Luke Duggan, Commercial/Enterprise Business Manager, Imaging & Printing Group South Pacific for HP, believes the biggest change is how document management solutions can be integrated with other business solutions, thereby allowing the seamless sharing of information, communication and collaboration.

“This is driven as much by vendors selling document management as part of whole business solutions aimed at improving business operations, as it is driven by customers placing improved productivity at the top of the wish list,” Duggan stated.

And the solutions are getting less complex. “They’re more flexible; they’re becoming scalable to meet the increasing demands of the growing rate of information,” explained Rootes.

From SMBs to large enterprises

Effective document management is equally important for small businesses as large enterprises. Fundamentally, the requirements are the same; they are just on a different scale. All businesses need to access and distribute information throughout the organisation and beyond. 

“They need a document management solution that is affordable but that is going to, long term, grow with their business. That’s essential,” said Twentyman. “The key for any any business when they’re looking at document management solutions is that they get a solution that is going to work for them now, and that is also going to grow with them, because there is no point in spending money on something and then two years down the track finding that it’s not actually going to work for what they do.”

Kate Walker, Director of SNIA ANZ, reiterated the importance of planning for the future and believes forecasts should be calculated for a 10-year period. “You need to make sure you do your Q&A and your organisation audit to ensure that the ROI you’re going to get meets your needs,” stated Walker.

Asking the right questions

Channel partners need to ensure they’re recommending the best solution to each customer, and it all comes down to asking the right questions. Understanding the needs of your customers and taking a genuine interest in trying to solve their business pain points is critical when tailoring a solution to meet their needs.

Because many different vendors offer many different products, it is important to establish, up front, what the client wants and needs to do. A series of fundamental questions can be asked to assess their current situation and which solution(s) may be appropriate.



  •     Why do you want to scan and what do you want to do with scanned documents?


  •     Do you want to be able to search scanned documents? How, and for what information?


  •     What is your volume output?


  •     How are you documenting and ensuring compliance?


  •     Do you need to access documents from your enterprise applications?


  •     Who needs access to saved documents?


  •     What types of document intensive processes, such as research and development, does your company have?

To help with this information gathering and sales process, HP enables qualified partners to access HP solutions sales tools.  HP provides  a checklist that can help channel partners ensure customers’ needs are being met when offering a document management solution, and considers asking questions regarding four key areas of document management:

Business



  •     Which business problems must affect cost and productivity?


  •     What regulations or standards must the organisation comply with on a mandatory basis?


  •     Which regulations or standards does the organisation comply with on a voluntary basis?

User



  •     Which departments and workgroups will use the solution? Should access be available to all?

Documents



  •     How many new documents will be created on an annual basis?


  •     How many existing documents do they need to anticipate converting to digital assets?


  •     How complex are these documents?

Network and integration



  •     What type of network does the customer use now? Are network upgrades planned?


  •     What software applications will their solution need to work with?

Untapped opportunities

When investigating untapped opportunities in the marketplace, take the bigger picture into account. Resellers need to realise document management is not just an IT issue anymore, and is about much more than simple storage capacity.

Paul Francois, Senior Product Manager for Comworth, said resellers need to be proactive in looking for opportunities. Businesses that need document management or have an existing system that is not very efficient can “be improved by introducing new technology”.

Francois advises resellers to look at their customers’ business processes and show them how improvements can be made. Any organisation that is document intensive or handles critical documents, such as government and local government, as well as the health and education sectors, provides excellent market opportunity. 

EMC encourages partners to look at a SaaS model. “I think this is an area where they can potentially add value to their client by providing a secure environment for organisations to have their document management needs locked up and supported by a very credible systems integrator,” said EMC’s Rootes.

Not only is targeting organisations with a high volume of document output an opportunity to expand, but Nuance’s ANZ Channels Manager, Vicki Rigg, highlights an additional opportunity: take advantage of volume licensing solutions when offering document management solutions.

“It [volume licensing] is a cost effective way to buy,” said Rigg. “There is a cost saving for resellers to sell on a volume licensing program. SMBs, government departments and corporate resellers should be looking at those options.”

Backup and recovery

With information such a valuable asset, it is important that accuracy is maintained. The Public Records Act, which will be in place in New Zealand by 2010, will require organisations to comply with the NZ government’s auditing requirements. Organisations must be able to control and protect information from being leaked, lost or misused.

Bill Taylor-Mountford, General Manager of Acronis, recommends having a suitable backup and recovery plan to provide a complete solution. Software that will safeguard an organisation’s information, and provide security, integrity and recoverability of their infrastructure should not be overlooked.

Taylor-Mountford believes resellers should be bundling document management solutions with third–party backup solutions. “Most [resellers] will not emphasise the need for backup or disaster recovery. A backup solution should be part of it as well,” he said.

Research conducted by Farid Neema of Peripheral Concepts, Inc., in March 2006, showed the cost of downtime varied from industry to industry, but SMBs lose approximately $18,000 per hour of downtime. In fact, according to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, four out of five companies that experience a significant data loss will be out of business within five years.

“No-one can predict when a disaster will happen; that’s why people need to consistently backup data. It’s like an insurance policy,” said Taylor-Mountford.

The paperless office — a myth?

Many businesses operate in a mixed environment of paper and electronic data, but document management software deals with the electronic organisation of data.

Mistral’s Twentyman does not believe the paperless office is a reality any time in the near future. When it comes to document management solutions, the more important issue is getting “paper smart”, as opposed to going paperless.

SNIA’s Walker echoes this view, and believes it will never happen unless the technology becomes more affordable. In her opinion, while the office internally can limit paper, for 99% of end users who work outside of the office, technology might not reach all remote work areas, hence paper becomes essential for work purposes.

However, Taylor-Mountford believes environmental factors are building the need for a paperless office and trends show that document management solutions are part of the move towards going paperless and being more ‘Green’.

Overall, understanding your clients’ business needs, both present and future, will ensure you are offering the right document management solution that will be most beneficial for their requirements.  

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