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18th of October 2018

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Realising the digital workplace in an era of digital transformation

Every IT leader has digital transformation on their agenda, and we see organisations at very different stages in their journey - from new starters to trailblazers. Still, many companies are struggling to keep up with the rapid rate of enterprise innovation and modern ways of working.

The last two decades have seen four major eras of content management driving workplace change. It began with the original concept of file sharing – emails and physical media – which then moved to become a basic form of content management powered by companies like Documentum and OpenText. Soon after, technology moved towards enterprise file sync and share, where we saw the emergence of offerings such as Google GDrive and Microsoft OneDrive. Most recently, with the rise of AWS, Microsoft Azure and Salesforce, enterprise IT has been dominated by line-of-business apps and custom development.

These waves of change have resulted in a fragmented file sharing experience, disjointed processes and siloed data. With files scattered across different sharing tools, document management systems and storage infrastructure, enterprises are facing the challenge of keeping data secure, processes compliant, and users happy.

Today, these challenges can be broken down into three main areas:

Business process must be reimagined for the digital age. Legacy approaches to Enterprise Content Management (ECM) remain difficult to implement, use and adapt. Today's digital-first world has little place for cumbersome workflows to manage and govern business-critical records. Nor do businesses have hours to build custom processes which are generally complex, time-intensive and too often result in manual workarounds. Companies need a better way to capture, process and manage their content, yet most workflow tools remain notoriously difficult to use.Modern employees expect a digital workplace. Work-life integration is the new reality for many workers: they wish for the freedom to be productive wherever they are, and major changes are already happening.Globally, we are seeing the rise of flexible independent workers - there are already around 77 million freelancers in Europe, India, and the United States alone and this trend is only set to grow.By 2025, Millennials are expected to make up 75 per cent of the workforce, and that digital native generation wants easy collaboration in the extended enterprise and from any device.They expect the ability to use and move seamlessly between many productivity apps to get work done and connect with their co-workers. All of this requires that companies give employees flexible technology tools and the security to keep content easily accessible and safe. The longer enterprises wait to change workflows and services, the more difficult it will be to attract, hire and retain modern talent.Growing attention to data security and residency. Most recently, GDPR has had a global impact. But even beyond GDPR, companies of all industries are enhancing their compliance posture to support data management and privacy. They must address data residency requirements, select from key encryption options, and meet retention and legal hold needs. A successful organisation is one that can tick all these boxes without impacting its employees’ ability to get work done. This is extra challenging for companies that are in heavily regulated industries, have a vast amount of data, and/or have been in existence for a long time, who typically by default also have a significant amount of data.

How can enterprises of today face these three challenges and build a digital workplace? The only way is in the cloud. Cloud content management combines centralised, cloud-native content services with advanced security and governance. It enables collaboration and process management to operate seamlessly across the enterprise; it integrates with the apps that employees already work with; it remains secure and compliant across industries and geographies; and it’s designed for the needs of developers, IT and crucially, end users.

Traditional, on-premise monolithic infrastructure does not solve for the current challenges enterprises are facing. There has been a shift towards modern, reference architecture and “best of breed” services that better enable companies to scale. They can now use centralised content management systems to leverage hyper-specialised service software (for example: Concur, Workday, Coupa), thereby removing friction while increasing speed, reliability and productivity. Enterprises no longer need to so heavily rely on a single cloud-vendor, but instead, glean the value of an integrated stack.

That value only grows when businesses use artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI and ML) solutions and models. Organisations today have more unstructured data than ever before, and with AI/ML, are finally able to structure and utilise the hidden insights of their content. It’s often portrayed as a future-thinking topic, but AI is already having a significant impact on the enterprise. Gartner predicts the global business value derived from AI will increase by 70 per cent in 2018 from 2017. State-of-the-art artificial intelligence technologies such as IBM Watson Studio, Azure Custom Vision and Google Cloud AutoML are in high-demand, easier to deploy than ever before with modern, reference architecture, and are leading the way to power innovation at scale. This means that businesses are moving from guesswork and intuition to data-driven decision making, and manual processes are giving way to AI-powered, automated workflows.

Going digital

The more data a business has, the easier it is to identify inefficiencies and subsequent opportunities for automation. No longer does an employee need to watch a lengthy video from beginning to end to find one vital piece of information; they can jump through information multi-dimensionally and consume video in a non-linear manner, increasing their workplace productivity. Customer service calls do not need to be manually transcribed and prioritised; audio transcripts can be run through sentiment analysis models to identify key phrases to speed response time and accuracy, providing customers with a better experience. Smarter content results in smarter ways to work and do business.

We know that companies must ‘go digital’. Businesses can’t simply add software to a legacy business model or process and call it digital. Workplace and businesses processes must be fundamentally reimagined for the digital age. Major trends including AI and ML are only going to accelerate the radical transformation of workplaces and businesses. We’ll come to see more change in how we work in the next five years than over the past 20. What will the future of work look like at your company?

Chris Baker, SVP and General Manager, EMEA, BoxImage Credit: Chombosan / Shutterstock

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