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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. 

 

The state of the art in marketing practices continues to evolve at a breakneck pace in our social, mobile, viral, info-tainment, personalized experience and short attention span driven world.  And the small software and services companies that we work with at UNDRSTND Group are finding it challenging to keep up.  So, let’s think about this practically and pragmatically, because for these B-2-B technology solution businesses, marketing is just a means to an end, not an end in and of itself.

 

If you don’t have a thought provoking, compelling and actively updated Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram and Web presence does this make you a bad company? No, of course not, but expectations are high for many that use these tools.  So, for the person who relies on Twitter for much of their news and interaction with the world at large, your failure to engage them on that platform could be problematic, if they are good target for your solutions.  But if you repeat this line of thinking for every viable channel of communications to your target audience it can become overwhelming and beyond the means of a small software and services company to address.

 

The story is similar on the content front.  Thought leadership blogs or more ambitious white papers are popular today.  Other people respond best to short videos but they better be entertaining and professionally produced which can become expensive.  And many people would prefer to consume complete self-discovery experiences on your website where they learn most everything they need to know about your offerings at their own pace without having to interact with a human and it better not be boring either (think about our experience as consumers on automobile manufacturer web sites exploring and building our dream car).  And of course, the pressure to constantly update material is greater than ever.  Oh, and have you implemented a chat function on your website?  Not yet? then you better get after it!

 

Now that we have shocked and depressed the small software and services business owner with a modest marketing budget, let’s get back to what we are trying to achieve with our marketing efforts and that is to drive revenue.  We’re not trying to win marketing awards or impress our neighbors with the cool company we are running … we’re trying to make our sales targets.  And to that end, let’s get practical and pragmatic with some ideas for how to make marketing work for us today:

 

  1. Less can be more. You’re better off investing in five really good marketing assets than spreading yourself too thin trying to have twenty pieces of collateral that end up being not compelling and become dated before you can circle around to all of them on a refresh cycle.
  2. Have a compelling website. It is the outside world’s window into your business.  So, don’t let that be a window into your cluttered garage full of old boxes and lawn equipment.  And remember that less can be more, so five really compelling pages is better than twenty pages of dated material.
  3. Drive them to your website. Once you’ve made sure that your website is good, use many of the other channels to drive people to your website.  A modest but compelling presence on social media that motivates people to visit your website is a good step.
  4. Multi-Channel Your Content. Do one really nice video to make sure to touch the YouTube crowd and reuse it across all your channels.
  5. Leverage other people’s content. Find well thought of businesses with larger marketing budgets with whom you don’t compete and ride their coat tails through thoughtful links and commentary around their thought leadership.
  6. Make marketing everybody’s job. Just about everybody in a small company can pitch it and help with your social presence.  The whole team should be active on social media building a following and promoting your brand and your message as part of their everyday jobs.

 

These are just a few high level practical ideas that we hope will spur your thinking and get you started down the road to successful marketing on a small budget in today’s world.  And if you still need help on this front, we’re always here at UNDRSTND Group.

 

Brent Bussell
Founder and Managing Partner
UNDRSTND Group

 

In Brave New World by Aldous Huxley set in AD 2540 a new world order has emerged while older, lower castes struggle to find their identity. I cite this book and author because for the past 18 months or so I have been blogging and speaking at conferences about the need for the digital content industry, to embrace major strategic change of direction at a vendor level – essentially to find their own “brave new world”.

At Docville in 2016 and again earlier this year, I spoke about “What Is Your Next Best Action?” and “Building a Growth Strategy” in my keynotes speeches and in our  UNDRSTND Group blog I have called attention to the echo chamber in which we seem to live and our indecisiveness as an industry but finally I really do believe that things are getting better and that we are now quickly moving beyond the “green shoots” of a new industry narrative and strategy for Enterprise Content Management. The brave new world is upon us and its exciting.

Some recent events have caught my eye and really give me hope:

  • Upland Software’s acquisition strategy is well documented but their recent $24.4mn acquisition of Waterfall, a cloud-based mobile messaging platform, to fuel their customer engagement solutions strategy shows a more creative use of digital content technologies than some of their other acquisitions. This also makes Upland a $100mn revenue per annum player in what they call the “Enterprise Work Management” market.
  • Ephesoft became a VC darling recently with a $15mn raise from Mercato Partners that will allow them to attack the cloud-based document capture market with new vigor. Founded in 2010 by ex-Kofax executives you might expect Ephesoft to be suffering from the same challenges as the former independent document capture industry leader, but instead they are charging ahead and posting significant growth while others decline.
  • Nuxeo, founded in the early 2000’s in France raised $20mn from Goldman Sachs in September 2016 to help them expand into North America. This alone would have you ranking them as a vendor to watch but then recently they hired both Chris McLaughlin and Danny Pidutti – former FileNet and Documentum talents that have a strong reputation for leading transformative change in product and marketing strategy. No doubt some creative solutions and go-to-market strategies will follow!
  • M-Files, a Finnish company, raised €33mn in 2016 to juice up international growth and are now making big in-roads into the SME solutions space for digital content solutions and not just in accounts payable! They have a broad range of solutions templates on offer to speed the deployment of content management for customers and partners alike.
  • Hyland’s acquisition of Perceptive and the Brainware suite looks to be a smart move to re-energize their business and certainly makes them a force to be reckoned with globally. It’s great to see a private equity investor, in this case Thoma Bravo the long-time backers of Hyland, stepping in to help fuel growth not just look for synergies, efficiencies and cost savings.

These vendors each have a vision and are putting financial resources behind that vision and seeing positive results – this is not status quo, consolidation stuff! These examples help me to believe there is a strong case for growth in the ECM and related solutions space. The larger vendors who consolidated the market in the mid-2000’s (IBM, EMC, Oracle) have other priorities these days but customers still have a serious need to move information to where it is needed and allow their customers, employees and business partners to make better decisions faster. They see value in these types of solutions and modifying standard products to specific business processes is the way to gain market advantage in an increasingly competitive world.

I am looking forward to my upcoming client workshops and speaking engagements and I feel that I can confidently share that growth is back in the digital content and process solutions space – assuming you are living in the Brave New World and not on the Islands that is! 😊

Martyn Christian
Founder and Managing Partner
UNDRSTND Group

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