It’s time to act so you can hit the road running as the world re-opens for business.

In a recent partner call, we were reviewing the business status of both our clients and prospects in the US and Europe—and it’s not as bad as advertised. If you listen to what you hear in the media, especially in the US, the business climate is abysmal. Although the pandemic has put a number of small companies out of business, especially restaurants and small mom and pop shops, the status of tech companies is surprisingly healthy. This is primarily due to the fact that tech businesses, for the most part, were quick to react as the pandemic hit and they cleaned up their businesses knowing that tough times were ahead. 

Companies got rid of dead weight and trimmed their workforces.        Consequently, they’ve been able to hold the line, if not show modest growth through the end of 2020—and forecasts for 2021 are looking very positive. Companies like Oracle, IBM and Kofax made substantial cuts to their workforces as the pandemic progressed, but in the long run, those cuts needed to be made. The pandemic prompted needed changes that probably would have lingered without the pandemic acting as a catalyst. 

The sky is not falling

A survey of our customers shows that while many took a step backwards early in the pandemic, they have quickly recovered what was lost and they are operating at 2019 levels—if not showing some modest growth. In fact, in 2020, tech stocks, represented by the Technology Select Sector (SPDR ETF XLK), have outperformed the broader market. They have provided investors with a total return of 32.9%, above the Russell 1000’s total return of 18.1% over the past 12 months (as of January 2021). On a relative basis,

many tech companies are actually above their pre-COVID-19 valuations.

While the pandemic and lockdowns lasted far longer than any of us anticipated, it looks like there is finally light at the end of the tunnel. Companies are making strategic moves and investors are fueling the anticipated growth—as evidenced by UI Path, an RPA company, raising $750 million in venture capital to fund future growth.

Digital Transformation is at the Forefront of a New Industrial Revolution

The acceleration in the use of digital technology due to the pandemic is launching a new industrial revolution. During this past year, as we moved to working remotely, one area that has seen tremendous growth is the digitalization of everything from online customer service to supply-chain management. 

Brendan Gaffey, a senior partner at McKinsey states that “One of the things that has always inspired me about the technology sector is it’s nimble and it’s fast. I think this is not just an opportunity for tech to recover faster than other industries. This is an expansion opportunity for tech in terms of growth and bringing its ability to disrupt and drive efficiencies to sectors that have yet to really feel that disruption”. 

Prior to the pandemic, it took years for “game-changing” technologies to evolve from the conceptual stage to mainstream productivity tools. The COVID-19 crisis has sped up that transition, especially in the areas of digitalization using Intelligent Capture, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), and Artificial intelligence (AI). A McKinsey survey published in October 2020 found that companies are three times likelier than they were before the crisis to conduct at least 80 percent of their customer interactions digitally.

As tech companies think about the future as we come out of the pandemic, we need to ask, “Where should I focus product development and how do I adjust my sales and marketing efforts to a changing business environment”?  To be successful, companies need to take advantage of their relative strengths and marry those strengths with the changes we’ve seen in the marketplace. More and more people are working remotely and automation is playing a larger role in changing processes and improving productivity.

Preparing to adapt to the “New Normal” in today’s business

According to Lareina Yee, a senior partner at McKinsey, “In the last century, we often thought about technology as enablement, as the back office, as something that we use to support our businesses. In this century—and certainly, post COVID-19—technology’s going to be very much in the front. It will be the competitive differentiator for how all businesses and ecosystems work.”

While Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) drive digital transformation and continue to dominate the conversation in the technology industry, Intelligent Process Automation (IPA), an area of focus for the UNDRSTND Group, is making headlines and helping companies meet the new normal in today’s business. Within IPA there’s an ecosystem of technologies such as capture, content intelligence, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), image recognition, chat bots, machine learning and automated customer communications that can be pieced together to form a solution specifically tailored to solve a company’s processing needs. By fitting together different technologies it’s possible to tailor solutions for any Industry or application.

At its core, IPA utilizes RPA to automate repetitive knowledge work though software robots that have been given smart capabilities to satisfy specific process requirements. AI and machine learning help train the robots to make decisions and chat bots, and automated customer communications tie it all together to improve customer interactions. From a business perspective, IPA delivers all of the required technology for automating a process in a form that is scalable and easy to access.

Managing knowledge work effectively through IPA should be front and center on every organization’s agenda. It is the most important integration of technologies designed to meet today’s demand for automation—regardless of application or industry. By integrating business processes, meaningful gains in productivity can be achieved while meeting the demands of the new normal in a post pandemic environment. 

However, Intelligent Process Automation involves more than just linking together technologies—it encompasses a wide range of issues beyond the technology used to support it.  IPA requires new business models and potential organizational changes required to effectively go to market.

We are encouraged by the activities we are seeing with our clients surrounding IPA, as well as other technologies. We think that the actions they are taking now to improve their operations in 2021, be it strategy-wise, acquisitions, product positioning, sales enablement or marketing, will serve them well into the future. Please feel free to contact us to discuss your options and to help you strategize your actions as we exit the pandemic and enter the light as the world re-opens for business.       


Can regulatory compliance be different this time?

I always cringe a bit when I see regulatory compliance taking the headlines in our information management industry, as it did once again at The AIIM Conference 2020 held March 3rd through 5th in my hometown of Dallas. The obvious drivers this time around were the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) from the European Union and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). This group is spurring similar regulations across many other U.S. states, and almost assuredly soon across the entire nation. You see, I agree with a sentiment shared on the conference main stage by AIIM President Peggy Winton when she said (and I may be paraphrasing, but only slightly), that only lawyers make money from GDPR. That in a nutshell is the basis for my angst.

Now before suppliers and practitioners in our space – doing great work to help government agencies and public companies achieve GDPR and/or CCPA compliance – and making a good living doing so tune me out, please give me a chance to explore the topic further. Because, I might just change my mind and hopefully a few others before all is said and done. But to possibly do so, we first need to get to the bottom of the problem.

Historically, regulatory compliance, as it relates to technology and investment in our industry, has long been viewed primarily as a cost of doing business, especially by U.S. companies. This has often been seen as an expense to be managed and minimized, as well as often an exercise in rationalizing the “less versus more” approach. Sometimes it is a risk/reward analysis of saving money by cutting a few compliance corners, even if it means an increased chance of a publicly visible compliance failure with fines.

I believe that the reason for this is that most customers of these businesses didn’t really care that much about the underlying regulations. At least they didn’t care enough to take their business elsewhere in sufficient quantity when a company had a compliance failure to drive a different perspective in the industry. Thus, compliance became an expense and not an investment, because in business it has always been, and will always be, about protecting and growing the revenue stream.

Tying it back to our information management industry, as suppliers – once you hitch your wagon to compliance – it is really hard to also be seen as providers of solutions that drive revenue… and driving revenue is where the lion’s share of investment is going these days. In fact, Most Digital Transformation strategies and initiatives center on serving the customer better and earning more revenue in doing so. Regulatory compliance, and those focused on it, are just a cost of doing business to be dealt with and overcome in the pursuit of revenue… possibly until now.

You see, for the first time, regulatory compliance is personal. Yes, literally and not figuratively, it’s personal because it is about our personally identifiable information (PII). We may not care if a company we are doing business with breaks some arcane government regulation, but we sure as heck care if they don’t take care of our PII. Add to that an undeniable shift of sentiment of younger consumers expecting broadly higher character behavior from the companies with which they do business, and we have a real chance that meeting regulatory compliance obligations and driving revenue growth share some common ground.

However, I think there is one more important piece of this puzzle necessary to really drive these two strange bedfellows together. I saw and heard several “green shots” from the AIIM Conference on this front. The concept to a simple thinker like myself has two major facets. The first is building powerful information management solutions that broadly enhance user productivity with core compliance actions that are fully automated and built in from the point of design. If you just think the exact opposite of things like add on records management modules with manual records declarations, you’ll get the picture.

The second is engaging the customer directly with the solutions that put data protection/compliance easily, firmly and visibly in the hands of the customer. For example, this can be accomplished by letting the customer decide how their PII is used – and doing so under an industry standard framework with easy buttons for decisioning where the consumer intuitively knows exactly what they are signing up for. For this last point I need to mention that I borrowed this idea from information management, data privacy and compliance expert, Andrew Pery, who spoke eloquently and convincingly at the conference on this very topic.

Can you imagine what we can achieve as an industry, with suppliers and practitioners working together? Especially if we could deliver regulatory compliance (most importantly in the form of protecting PII), all while demonstrating revenue growth fueled by improved customer experience and confidence in the suppliers that they do business with and in the security of their PII? Going full circle back to Peggy Winton’s comments mentioned above, when considered in context, her comments were about urging us as an industry to take on this very challenge, and include the opportunity of combining compliance and customer experience. If this is done in a way that takes information management back to the forefront of technology investment and broadly leading Digital Transformation initiatives across all industries – this is a vision that gives me anything but angst.

As we head into a new year and a new decade, I thought it was an appropriate time to build on my blog from earlier in 2019 The Future of Work Part 1 and take a look at what might be just around the corner in 2020 as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Digital Workers start to gain traction in real world business transformation solutions and applications.

There is much to think, and maybe worry, about as we enter a new decade with the continued presence of  political and social pressures that would have been hard to predict 10 years ago but are really influencing how people think about technology and if they should be pessimistic or optimistic about what the future holds. The Economist just wrote a year end special report on the contemporary worries of the impact of technology. A very worthy read if you subscribe online or can still find a copy on the shelves.

However, to me the challenge is much clearer and well defined and has been worked on actively by vendors in the ECM and BPM space for many years. The defining trend at the intersection of business and technology over the last 10+ years has been the drive for worker productivity (we could have called it “digital working” I guess – it is the same thing!) especially in white collar processes where costs are high and transformation to new business models hard to execute irrespective of the IT budget companies throw at their challenges. This is where the combination of content and process technologies has real proven impact and can continue to be leveraged as companies under take digital transformation projects to support new business models.

Achieving new levels of white collar worker productivity means making more of the workers more productive more of the time – essentially spreading expertise that used to be resident in one or two departmental “experts” to a much broader number of people but in a simpler and easier to consume way. This spreading, or democratization, of expertise can be achieved through better sharing of information, automation of work tasks and processes and adding intelligence and machine learning to many steps in what used to be manual processes.

Gartner just announced their Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2020 and at #3 on the list is what they call the Democratization of Expertise – defined as “wider access to technical expertise (e.g., ML, application development etc.) or business domain expertise (e.g., sales process, economic analysis etc.) for users via a radically simplified experience and without requiring extensive and costly training”

This Gartner definition aligns with some of my thoughts expressed in The Future of Work Part 1 and  I believe the journey to a democratic work environment is going to be long and hard and full of business process automation challenges the many of the people who will read this blog will be very aware of and well prepared for. This combination of technical expertise and business domain expertise is really what information management has always been about.

My view is that in this brave new world instead of working the way some dark technology system says  workers should work, these digital workers will be given the power to work the way that is best for them – best for their customer, their supplier, their business partners – whomever their stakeholders are. The desire of corporations to build fixed business processes that provide predictable outcomes, hard coded into massive systems and technology platforms is breaking down due to AI and Machine Learning technologies. This could be seen as impending anarchy in the workplace, but the tools and skills exist today to bring an appropriate level of structure to digital business processes without constraining the creativity of a new generation of digitally aware workers. The concept of well trained “digital workers” being able to consume the services and application they need, when and how they want, is no longer an information management dream – solutions exist today that help workers collaborate, manage and process all types of work objects and “cases” in the way they believe will generate the best outcomes.

Companies will need to build a digital process environment where workers inside and outside the corporate firewall can pick the apps they feel will help them do their job best. And the chances are that, as with any normal distribution, some people will have the skills and capability to adapt to this new environment very quickly, the majority of people will do “OK” and 20% of the people will struggle to make the transition so this basically becomes a change management challenge more than a technology challenge.

If we make a broad assumption that a large percentage of the 20% that struggle will be retiring in the next 3-5 years then our focus should really be on how to leverage the 20% of leaders to capture their skills and best practices to enable and train the 60% in the middle of the curve.

Normal Distribution Curve

So, tools that offer flexible choices in task selection for digital workers but then map and analyze the best practice and the most productive end to end processes will be in high demand. These will include tools that analyze what information is accessed and when and how to complete a set of tasks with the highest quality outcome. There will also be a need to analyze tasks and map the timeline and sequence of task execution.

Many of these tools exists already, some have been packaged into solutions that focus on specific types of work like insurance claims processing or fraud investigation, others are available to be easily integrated with existing platforms like, SAP etc.

Irrespective of the tools available the key will be the availability of skills and expertise in business process and information management techniques that transcend technology and, although these will need to be upgraded, there are many very well trained and skilled practitioners who already have deep knowledge of how to assemble digital processes and work practices. The AIIM community of professionals has a robust set of best practice, education courses and real world experience than can help organizations large and small in the continued pursuit of white collar productivity and transforming their workforces into true digital workers not just human robots!

Reposted with permission from
Simon Boardman
Verto Advisors

Ten for Twenty

Here’s Verto’s “predictions” for 2020. These are based on some observations from 2019 and our reading of the tea leaves. Just to remind you, while some of these are obviously more serious than others, there’s the constant “hum of humor”. But as we know, just because something strikes us as amusing, doesn’t mean it’s trivial as well.

1. Email’s decline continues. The email engine companies’ attempts to make it more difficult for you to send emails (using their systems) actually starts to pay off…This seems strange as our demand for such systems will also decline, but it would explain why Salesforce has invested zero dollars in Pardot!

2. The conflict between trust and attribution continues to be denied in the race for the undeniable physical evidence of ROI. As some continue the “holy crusade of attribution”, people ignore the notion that trust (or the lack of it) is central to B2B sales and marketing success and that an exclusive focus on attribution drives suspicion of the prospect higher, which drives results and lead yields lower. Suspicion rises, trust declines, demand gen results go south, and the nightmare of denial and recrimination continues.

3The distinction between sales and marketing becomes recognized as increasingly pointless.  Some companies disband both organizations recruiting a new range of professionals but without restricting their thinking by applying outdated labels (like Sales or Marketing). The new departments are called “Sshhmarketing”.

4. LinkedIn Listlessness. Somebody starts a rumor that the only people on LinkedIn are other sales and marketing people AND those trying to sell LinkedIn lead gen tactics, technologies and ideas. Microsoft deny this in a communication that also coincidently offers a webinar series on “Demand Gen ideas that Maximize your Investment in Sales Navigator.” I am reminded that someone recently said that in short order B2B social media marketing would quickly “go the way of the fax machine.”

5. Sales method, enablement and training people wake up and realize that all those assumptions about the rationality of the buyer (that use labels like “economic buyers”) are out of date as humans are apparently irrational (who knew?). They realize that trying to assign reasons for buyers’ behavior based on ideas like fear, desire or obligation (whilst being good thoughts) are impossible to practically assign to individual buyers as anything more conclusive would require a Jedi Mind Trick or Vulcan Mind-Meld (depending on your Star Wars or Star Trek allegiance). This is often because buyers don’t really know the answer themselves, and when they do… guess what? They lie.

6. Enlightened sales and marketing leaders recognize the need for more thoughtful approaches as to how they make decisions regarding marketing strategy, demand gen tactics and sales enablement activities. In other words, some stop following the crowd and listening to people who caveat everything they say with the phrase “best practice”.

7. Some sales leaders stop using the hunter/farmer mentality, instead adopting a team idea that mixes sellers who are willing and able to challenge the contemporary thinking of an organization and upset the status quo (creating demand) with those who are better at working emerging projects with buyers who are moving into a buying cycle (active demand). 

8. Companies (often kids living in their parents’ basement) will continue to develop sales and marketing software whose benefit appears to most of us to be niche (at best) and downright obscure (at worse). Examples would include apps to detect what color shirt the prospect was wearing when they didn’t click on your link, “buyer intent apps” that claim to know what the prospect had for lunch and an on line test that can determine how little most people know about digital marketing tools, despite claiming to be “experts” – superfluous to requirements as we have learned to assume this already. The PE and VC firms will continue to throw money at these until most of these firms join the ranks of the “walking dead” where debt far exceeds what they’ll ever make to pay it off. What the PE and VC guys will realize is that most of these firms don’t have anything compelling, and despite claims to the counter, the founders lack real ambition, don’t want to work that hard and are actually quite happy living cheap in their parents’ basement.

9. After the WeWork debacle, companies will continue to take the idea that “all companies are technology companies” literally and position themselves to be something they obviously are not. We expect to see this in the soft drink space as a global provider positions itself in the technology health drink space (the technology being in liquid form), and fast food chains will emphasize the technology enabled “buying experience” of said food to be paramount rather than the pleasure experienced from consuming said food. The Wall St experts will continue to fall for it (like they did with WeWork) while the rest of us once more wonder whether it’s really us who “just don’t get it”.

10. The 10 Most Annoying Words of 2019 – So here’s 10 words we think established themselves as THE most annoying, misunderstood, badly used, pretentious words usually used in the wrong context in 2019 – feel free to add your own:

  • Pivot
  • Narrative
  • Granular (as in “getting granular”)
  • Juxtaposed (should only be used in discussions on philosophy)
  • Solution (that one just won’t go away)
  • Content …followed by any other word….enough already
  • Holistic
  • Robust (should be reserved for wine only)
  • Cohesion (its the new Synergy)
  • Account Based Marketing (yes, its three words that when used together are actually a category in its own right – well done)
  • Omnichannel

Annoying buzzwords are always good fun to bandy around. I know a few people who play buzzword bingo when they get on conference calls. Sounds AWESOME (hey, there’s another). In all seriousness, we believe language is important and words matter (as does getting them in the right order – to quote an old Monty Python sketch). But joking aside, our careless use of language means we will soon run out of words. Then we’ll have to start putting puerile adjectives or adverbs like “super” in front of everything….ooops. 

I am writing this blog sitting in one of the more unique locations for an industry trade meeting that I have ever experienced – The Churchill War Rooms in London. You can always rely on AIIM and its President Peggy Winton to pick interesting places to draw a crowd. My previous AIIM Advisory Trade Member (ATM) experience in London was held inside of Tower Bridge! Being in London at the height of all the Brexit drama and debate does make you feel a bit like heading for a military bunker but we are not here to discuss Brexit (thank goodness) but rather to apply some serious information management experience and talent to the future of our industry and more importantly to The Future of Work itself! 

I am fascinated by the intensity of debate on the future of work. Recently I attended a presentation by the politico-economist Paul Mason on the future of work and his new book The Radical Defence of the Human Being. I have reviewed AIIM’s latest report on the Digital Workplace by John Mancini (excellent video summary by John >> here) and numerous articles in The Economist and more mainstream press. The rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and other technology solutions are leading to a fascinating overlap of discussions that range from the technocratic to the wider social impacts. 

In my opinion, the future of work and the emergence of the digital workplace is possibly the number one issue facing both businesses (large and small, global and local) and their technology vendors. The very serious social and economic issues associated with how people will work in the future, the replacement of human tasks by “robots” (of both the physical and virtual type) and the relentless trend toward online commerce and services are creating critical questions that essentially remain unanswered. 

So, what did the information management industry’s leading vendors at the London meeting think the answers are? Well… AIIM did an excellent job in assembling a panel of end users from some high profile organizations that were able to speak very eloquently on the challenges confronting them in information management – from basic records management and archiving to the critical issues of serving global customers with information in almost every conceivable format. The panelists were top quality speakers from The Church of England, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited and The International Criminal Court. They explained real world problems for which there are no easy answers – for information access, management, analysis and processing. 

It’s obvious from the discussion that the “digital workplace” is the end game, and that reaching that goal is a journey of many steps. But the real challenge seems to be figuring what steps to take when and how. Implementing advanced RPA solutions ahead of getting control of the thousands of documents that exist in your Dropbox or OneDrive folders would sound a bit foolish, because surely even robots need to know where the information is in order to execute a process step or two! Or implementing advance content intelligence and AI across all sources of information when you can’t even address your customer emails in a timely manner would make no sense. 

The immediate challenge, and one that vendors can help solve, is more around the practices, methodologies, processes and approaches that help their customers embrace more productive ways of working in planned steps on a digital workplace roadmap. Each conversation with the customer should acknowledge that even though there may be similarities, each company’s roadmap will be different in some way and therefore the future of work at each organization will also be different.

I believe it is every vendor’s responsibility to have an opinion and vision on The Future of Work as it pertains to their technology and solutions – and that doesn’t mean a technology pitch which focuses on product features and functions, but a well thought through vision for how their products and solutions can help their customers achieve specific steps on their roadmap to a digital workplace. Examples could be case management solutions for a range of critical business tasks that are related to complaints irrespective of the source of the complaint (web, social media, email, paper, voice etc) that automates basic manual tasks using RPA technology and executes predictive analysis on incoming complaints to match a specific customer service professionals skillset and maybe even their personality to the “tone” of the complaint. 

The roots of these solutions that help customers achieve their digital workplace vision are very much in the technologies many of us know well – the capture and identification of content, the management of information, the automation of manual tasks using business process automation technologies, etc. However, the narrative around these solutions has changed and its absolutely critical that vendors who once painted themselves as “Enterprise Content Management” or “Document Capture” solution providers now reinvent themselves. They need to recast their Go-To-Market Strategies, Positioning & Messaging and their Pipeline Development efforts to reflect this new world and the journey towards the digital workplace.  Having an opinion and vision for The Future of Work is no longer optional, it is imperative and should be front and center in all vendor positioning, from the web site to the sales presentations – anything less will condemn them to the back row in an increasingly noisy and hectic market place. 

Having just returned from the 2019 AIIM show in beautiful San Diego, I found AIIM’s conference messaging of Digital Transformation through the overarching theme of “Customer Experience” spot on. Unfortunately, most of the vendors exhibiting hadn’t jumped on that bandwagon with their messaging and were still promoting the back-office functionality of their technology.

Peggy Winton, the President of AIIM gave a moving Key Note address on the first day, not only on the changes in the industry, but within the AIIM organization itself. She also emphasized the Association’s redefinition of the AIIM Acronym. The New representation emphasized being the Association of Intelligent Information Management. This was very much in keeping with the industry’s struggles to redefine itself, starting with Gartner’s declaration of ECM being dead and the birth of content services. I believe that Gartner’s declaration from last year formed the basis for AIIM’s new focus on three areas of the business as well as a new landmark graphic to describe Content Services, Process Services and Analytic Services.

She also shared what I considered to be the best quote of the show by Amitabh Srivastav, which highlights the value of information: “If the organization treats the information as an asset, similar to other corporate assets, then the risk is either not utilizing the asset to its maximum value and reap it’s benefit, or the risk of loosing the asset and therefore it’s value to the organization”.

The Keynote on the second day, given by Blake Morgan, was totally centered on the Customer Experience. Blake gave a lively presentation illustrating the importance of utilizing the customer to shape all of its technology decisions. It also illustrated the success companies like Sephora and Netfix have had in revolutionizing their industries by understanding their customers and building their businesses around the customer experience.

Most of the major industry leaders were there featuring their long-standing content services solutions along with Microsoft who oddly enough featured Office 365. There were also a number of companies featuring Robotic Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence as well as data privacy and regulatory compliance. Two companies that stood out to me were ABBYY, who featured their new “Content IQ” positioning and an interesting start-up competing with MS Office 365 named OnlyOffice. Both companies put a new and interesting twist on existing technology.

I think what amazed me most, was my conversations with the attendees who had little knowledge of what the vendors were offering and how the technology has advanced. Few if any were aware of RPA, intelligent capture or what role AI now plays in business processes. This led me to believe there is ample room for better marketing, strategy, positioning and messaging on behalf of the industry and the vendors as a whole.

Michael Burzynski

Managing Partner & Founder


If you haven’t already seen it, here is the link to Brian Halligan’s recent Harvard Business Review article on how we need to apply a different approach to creating sales & marketing momentum and how changes in buyer behavior demand that we change our processes and engagement models to ensure continued revenue growth.

Great read, very thought provoking. I don’t totally agree that the Sales Funnel should be “retired” as it provides the backbone for sales and marketing KPI’s that resonate across companies and are a benchmark for almost every technology focused sales organization. Having said that, Brian’s Sales Flywheel model certainly reflects the complexities of the challenges faced by sales and marketing executives today.

His observations on “better product” and “lighter experience” engagement models certainly resonate with me and the conversations I am having with UNDRSTND Group clients every day.


Recently I have been reflecting on the challenges of running a successful small/medium size software and services company in the B2B space. Many of our clients fall into this category – founded by smart enthusiastic leaders who didn’t fit into big companies!
These leaders are keen to prove their worth by creating interesting products and solutions. Sometimes focused on innovative ideas and not a little bit of technical brilliance, sometimes focused on customer intimacy and building world class solutions for customers who really don’t understand how to solve a particular business problem themselves .
Over last few months I have worked with maybe a dozen companies like this in a variety of solution areas  and some things seem to be constant:
  1. Ability to apply a rigid focus to positioning, marketing and selling is nearly always missing – the compulsion to find revenue to sustain the company and the exciting idea is overwhelming and anyone who will listen is consider a “rich target” irrespective on any segmentation and targeting strategy.
  2. Product features and functions seem to be an obsession over merging a software offering with services to provide a solution or “whole product” as defined in Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm epistle which I think of as a software marketeers “bible”.
  3. And finally, asking for, and more importantly taking, advice seems to be ridiculously hard to do for these creative entrepreneurs. No matter how tough the road gets and how challenging staying focused on the agreed strategy becomes CEO’s and Managing Directors still believe they know best and simply won’t ask for help.
My experience has taught me that the knowledge gained by building a small company into a big company and all the mistakes and errors I made along the way are critical insights that small software companies who are doing it for the first time need to hear. But it is almost as if they are afraid to ask and because it highly likely that the entrepreneur is on this journey for the first (and maybe only) time  in their career they don’t know what they don’t know.
If they are on their first venture then IMHO I believe it’s a pre-requisite to find people who have the answers on how to build a successful business in enterprise software. And not only find someone who can offer safe advice on general business issues and challenges but find experts who can help with targeting, solutions, sales process and execution. The companies I have seen who have worked through their targeting and execution offerings in a focused way significantly out perform those that don’t.
And by “outperform” I don’t just mean revenue and profit – I mean quality of life and fun!
If you know where you are going and how you are going to get there you can stop questioning yourself all the time. A lot of small company executives are miserable with their lot , they try one thing and then another..,,, and then another – without planning and advice from experts…. as a result nothing really works well enough which becomes a self fulfilling and depressing situation often resulting in long hours, increased anxiety and questioning their whole strategy!
I say “ get some help” and build a plan for targeting & execution and share it with people who can help you – that way you will sleep better at night, probably become more profitable and never have to worry about going back to work for a big company again!!

To read our latest views on the Information Management market and the evolving role for Content Services and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) – download our presentation from the recent AIIM & Nuxeo Webinar here >>



Thoughts on the 2018 AIIM Conference

When considering the fact that our industry does not currently have a name, it is hard not to think about how the world reacted when Prince changed his name to a symbol. As you will recall, there was no pronunciation for the symbol, so people starting calling him “the Artist formally known as Prince.” So, I guess we could be the industry formally known as Enterprise Content Management (ECM), right?

Labels obviously serve a purpose in life, and the software industry makes great use of labels, often just three letter acronyms, to define market segments and more. But labels also have a downside, too. They can be laden with negative connotations and stereotypes, warranted or not, and once you have a nickname, it can be hard to shake. In addition, labels place parameters on what may reasonably be included in the generally accepted definition behind the label. Plus, labels can also make us a bit lazy. Instead of going to the trouble to really communicate what we really do, we just throw out the label and assume the recipient will get it.

So, as I enjoyed a few days in beautiful San Antonio, Texas at The AIIM 2018 Conference this past week, I found it interesting to see how the participants dealt with our nascent identity problem. You know what? They did very well, indeed!

The first thing I noticed was that Vendors were embracing new ECM technologies at an accelerated pace to create innovative solutions that will have a big impact on the use cases traditionally addressed with ECM. All across the show floor, vendors had the chance to show off their machine learning, artificial intelligence, analytics and Robotic Process Automation. In addition, perhaps due to the lack of rigid labels, the vendors focused on really communicating their service and value.

As for the end-user attendees, they appeared unfazed by the new technology. They viewed the vendors exhibiting as a natural source for hybrid solutions built from a combination of historic ECM technology and the newer, modern offerings. As a matter of fact, they were one of the most optimistic, engaged groups of end users I have ever seen at an event in our industry. 

I also want to commend the AIIM folks for the hard work and reflection they put into this conference. AIIM made a pitch, suggesting our industry be rebranded as “Intelligent Information Management,” which is the new meaning of the “IIM” in the AIIM name. However, they didn’t force it. Much like those of us without the language to describe our work, they also focused on communicating the value that we bring by delivering innovative solutions that enhance business processes and minimize risk. I especially appreciated that AIIM touted the benefits of improving the customer experience through our solutions — the UNDRSTND Group fully endorses this strategy, and we look forward to expanding its use.

So, as I made my way back home from the Alamo City in my home state, I reflected back on the AIIM Conference with a smile on my face. And thought to myself — you know, maybe it isn’t so bad not having a label for our industry … In fact it can be a bit liberating.

Brent Bussell
Founder and Managing Partner