Digital Files in Administration: “Old habits die hard”

In public administration, the introduction of digital files keeps running into misgivings and reservations. Most of these are not founded in logic, as online magazine Kommune 21 recently determined in an article. Usually, they have much more to do with prejudices – prejudices that would be easy to disarm with arguments, if they weren’t so ingrained.

 

Paper Files Have Served Their Purpose

“Old habits die hard,” as they say, and change can be a tough and even painful process. As Kommune 21 rightly found, paper files today are nothing if not an old habit. They originated at the end of the 19th century. They are certainly no longer capable of meeting the diverse challenges facing modern administration, which include growing floods of data and managing modern communication media. As the author determined, the only way for paper files to retain the importance and usefulness they had 150 years ago would be if businesses printed out all their important e-mails and data to file them away. But who would want that?

 

Introducing Digital Files Efficiently

By now it must be clear – digital files are more than just “nice to have;” in today’s business world, they’re doubtlessly an indispensable “must.” But instead of concentrating on how to introduce digital files into administration efficiently, or how to create digital files that are uniform and available for all professional divisions – in many branches, scepticism still reigns. Or, to put it in the author’s own words: “Opinions of digital files are often coloured by apprehensions, opinions, and impressions, and do not have much to do with concrete knowledge. This needs to change, quickly.”

Digitise? Not Just for Arbor Day…

Did you know? April 25th was Arbor Day. Originally conceived by journalist Julius Sterling Morton in the USA, and celebrated for the first time in Nebraska in 1852, the United Nations adopted Arbor Day into its calendar in 1951. In Germany, President Theodor Heuss planted a maple tree in the Bonner Hofgarten during the first day of action in 1952. So much for the history of the day.

 

Trees? That’s nice, but …

We have to admit: Most of us are not really that interested in trees. They look nice, give us shade, and are the green lungs of our world. But what else do they do? They drop resin on your car – and raking the leaves is not the most fun autumn activity one could imagine. The relationship between people and tree is, we might say, ambivalent.

Trees would probably agree. Trees might not see their lives with humans in such a positive light. Larger and larger areas are being paved over – it hasn’t been this easy to get a logging permit since the stone age. Of course, the alternative is not much better for trees. If they aren’t logged, they while away the hours lining a stuffy city street, or have to put up with the joggers and mountain bikers in the park. And if they are truly unlucky, they will end up as paper somewhere in a printer, and be printed with all sorts of unnecessary tables or other nonsense that will have served its purpose after an hour or so.

 

Printing? A Task We Can Do Without

It is true – for some time, we saw a wave of ecological interest in offices. “Think before you print” was the motto, and every e-mail had a note attached to keep recipients aware of their CO2 footprints and stimulate their ecological consciences. But as so often happens, interest waned, and wagging fingers went right back to clicking the “Print” button.

And all this in an era when the paperless office is closer than ever before. Digitised documents and workflows are a tree’s best friend. If we only introduced them comprehensively, our trees could get comfortable in their bark once again and take a deep breath. And so could we. This is an attitude EASY supported with a tree sponsorship event, under the motto: “Planting trees – instead of printing. Work paperlessly with EASY SOFTWARE.”

So: Let’s all pitch in. Just start printing less. The tree of the year for 2016, the basswood, is sure to thank you for it. It might not say so outright – perhaps just with a gentle rustling this summer – but it will give you one very important gift: Oxygen.

Collaboration: difficult situation in Germany

Nobody doubts that collaboration is one of today’s most important corporate trends. Company structures are highly decentralized and fragmented, and teams are divided over multiple units or group companies. This makes a recent survey by PAC software consultants all the more interesting. They questioned 150 managers in German companies to get a snapshot of current opinions. And what did they discover? That the technical equipment to make cooperation happen is often lacking.

 

Sounds good in principle, but …

Even the structures of the companies surveyed make it obvious what a high value they must place on collaboration. Almost two thirds have multiple locations in Germany, and over a third have branches outside of Germany as well. Around 30 percent are part of a multi-national group, and almost half of the companies work frequently with external employees. These are ideal conditions for a blossoming culture of collaboration. At least, that’s what it seems – with 68 percent of participants agreeing that functional collaboration offers “major” or “very major” potential for improvement, in particular regarding processes and operations.

 

IT facilities lacking

But there are three stumbling blocks that can keep virtual collaboration from really getting off the ground. 46 percent, for instance, criticize the culture of exchange. 45 percent view the organizational conditions for virtual teams as problematic. Even more, 48 percent to be exact, would assess the technical equipment offered by their own employers as “mediocre” or even “very bad.” That smarts – these are powerful tools, after all. EASY ECM Suite might be something for these companies to consider – its comprehensive collaboration features could be a great help, and have been on the market for quite some time.

 

One other interesting aspect of the whole question: at least 55 percent of companies are integrating investment in virtual collaboration into their corporate strategies, and another 28 percent are integrating this investment in their IT strategy. Only a minority of 17 percent place decisions about investing in the hands of individual business units. This gives us hope for the future. One thing’s for sure: in today’s world, no company should fail to use the possibilities for collaboration that digitalization creates. If they do, they might regret it.

On-Demand Models – Ideal for Small Municipalities?

Digitization is finding its way into municipal government as well, slowly but surely. Experts estimate that ten to twenty percent of administrators already work electronically – from bookkeeping to digital archiving, and from the land registry to the fines and penalties office. But scepticism still reigns in many quarters. Cloud solutions can help.

 

Slow and Steady

Predictions claim that most municipalities will have gone digital within ten years. Some people might be asking themselves: why will it take so long? Haven’t we been talking about digital administration for ages already? We have, of course. But we can’t overlook the fact that politicians have to stand up for the costs and investment of digitization – and there’s not much tougher in these times of lean public coffers, especially if your promotion depends on staying in the good graces of the voters.

 

On-Demand: Slimmed Down and More Flexible

Cloud solutions may be a good path for these clients to get out of a dilemma that shouldn’t be underestimated. If they do nothing at all, their political opponents are likely to hold that stance against them. On the other hand, if they do start handing out money, they have to prove as quickly as possible that it’s been used well, and that the investment is paying off.

 

ECM From the Cloud Pays Off Quicker

That’s why cloud-based ECM solutions, in comparison to classic on-premise approaches, are practically made for this target audience. Initial investments and maintenance costs for hardware are eliminated. Implementation is faster. And the solution itself is just like the budget: slimmed down, with transparent costs that clearly relate to actual use. This means city chambers will find it much easier to stand up for their decision to digitize administration. The lower the initial investment costs, the quicker the community will see a return. The solution pays off even quicker.

 

A Return During Your Own Term? Why Not?

While earlier hardware or on-premise based solutions might have only paid off during the next or subsequent legislative terms in concrete euros and cents, politicians can now see returns even while they’re still in office. To reap the fruits of their labour, so to speak, in political terms. To do so, of course, they’ll have to sow their crops early…

Document-Intensive Processes: Digital, but Still…

Print and document management is driving corporate digital transformations, according to a current study. A record-breaking 91% of all companies in Germany have recognized the potential of digitization for document-intensive processes. According to the study, 53% of all documents are already transmitted digitally.

 

Development Slower than Projected

Many companies, however, are still finding it difficult to say goodbye to paper. The IDC also researched the reasons for this in its study on the issue, entitled: “Print & Document Management in Germany 2016.” Reason 1: customers want paper. 2: to conform with legal requirements. Reason 3: working with paper documents is physically easier. And, last but not least, reason 4: employees want paper.

 

The good thing about these reasons is that they are likely to dissolve as the workforce grows younger. Except for one of them: if companies have legal concerns with switching over to electronic documents, this either means that policies and regulations are too comprehensive or too complex, or that ECM system suppliers need to explain their products better – or both.

 

Process Optimization is a Key Motivating Factor

This is especially true since the reasons for digitizing document-intensive processes are so convincing: 56% of survey participants see opportunities to optimize their processes. This represents a peak in this view – two years ago, “just” 42% saw room for optimization. In 2014, lowering operating costs was the main priority, with 54% approval. Today, it’s just 43%. Lowering printing costs remains crucial for about half of study participants.

 

Of course, in 2014 IDC expected the percentage of digital documents in companies in the year 2016 to already be 13% over the numbers from 2014. As of now, the growth is just a sluggish 2%. Of course, 2016 still has a little ways to go. And as IDC found out, companies still have some big plans in the works: 51% are preparing document workflows, 49% are working on electronic archiving, and 48% are automating document-intensive processes. By the end of the year, it is likely that significantly more documents will be available digitally than they are today. What was it Victor Hugo said? Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come. More information here.

Mid-sized businesses making their way into the cloud – with EASY on hand to help

The cloud is taking off: some mid-sized businesses are still sceptical of its benefits, but the majority seem to be convinced, having decided that problems like data privacy and data security can be overcome. A recent study confirmed this shift. But one thing’s not in the study: the EASY ECM Suite from the cloud offers a way for mid-sized businesses to forget all their worries about data security and data privacy.

 

20 percent believe: the cloud’s getting safer

85 percent of mid-sized companies are already using cloud technology or are intensively considering the matter. Flexibility and agility are more important to them than cost reductions, as surveys by Crisp Research prove. That’s good to know.

Of course, their concerns haven’t gone away – 49 out of 100 companies surveyed worry that a lack of data privacy could be a problem. 63 percent are concerned about security. But, on the other hand, a fifth also believe that the cloud is getting safer.

 

Service providers have to gain trust

No wonder – when it comes to security and data privacy, quite a lot’s been happening in the past few years. Edward Snowden’s revelations and the failed Safe Harbor agreement have even strengthened this trend, and the EU is busy building a domestic digital market with the same rules for infrastructure and services.

This is great news, in EASY’s opinion. Of course, EASY was pretty early to the party. When we developed EASY ECM Suite from the cloud, we knew right from the start – although on-demand solutions do offer plenty of advantages, we still needed to overcome concerns and worries from our potential customers.

The solution is simple: we must only save the data provided by mid-sized companies in highly secure German computing centres. This is a measure that builds trust, with German data privacy provisions still counting as some of the strictest in the world. Above all, it’s important to be able to spit this protected data back out when it’s needed. EASY promises both, and EASY delivers both.

Digitalization: The economy has room to grow

The automotive industry is leading the way, but the tourism segment seems to have fallen asleep at the wheel when it comes to digitalization. Well, that might be a little too provocative, but the basic idea matches up with current findings by Arthur D. Little. Here’s a good example of one typical statistic: only two of 103 companies are already “digitally centred,” according to analysts.

 

“Digital Transformation – How to Become Digital Leader” is the title of the study, in which the corporate consulting firm determined the “Digital Transformation Index” for international groups. A few of the more than 100 corporate groups are even located in Germany.

 

Heterogeneous overall picture

At first glance, the results are shocking. Only two companies achieved 7.5 index points on a scale from 1 to 10. In times in which it seems everyone’s talking about digitalization, many international players achieve only a barely average index of 3.92.

 

Looking at individual industries, the automotive sector seems well underway with around 5 points. Media and telecommunications have acceptable results of 4.2 and 4.1 points. The worst digitalization results are, on the other hand, from segments like travel and transport. They barely make it to the finish line with 3.5 points.

 

Still room for development

No need to be sceptical, however. Quite the contrary: companies working through complex transformation processes have to keep their eye on the potentials. There’s definitely room to move up – just because results are bad now, that doesn’t mean companies aren’t doing anything or aren’t investing.

 

Ultimately, the investigation told us that the next three years were going to represent a focal point in efforts towards digitalization and automation. Companies can choose from a wide variety of solutions for this purpose. Knowledge on digital process design is also available on the market. The goal now for the IT industry is to utilize opportunities and make the advantages of digitalization clear. The next index is sure to look better.

Authorization Management: Make Data Accessible and Protect Information

More and more employees feel unsatisfied with their places of employment. Current surveys assume that up to 34 percent of employees will want to change jobs within the next two years. Fluctuation within companies is growing. Enterprise Content Management has never been more important than it is today.

 

Generation Y especially willing to change

Excessive demands and difficult targets, no promotions, a lack of meaningfulness – the reasons workers want to change jobs are varied, especially for young, high potential employees in Generation Y. These reasons can’t always be pushed out of the way with money, no matter how much it is. Against this background, companies don’t just need to ask how they can hang on to young employees. They need to think specifically about the functionality of their processes and the security of their data.

 

More and more data – accessible to every newbie?

Fluctuation isn’t the only thing that’s growing. Data volumes grow every year as well. Key information is hidden in a wide variety of places in the company – on file servers, in e-mail inboxes, and in the archive. Quickly training new employees and ensuring they are able to operate based on their existing knowledge without much prior training is just as important as protecting sensitive information from unauthorized access by new employees or by colleagues leaving the company. An authorization system is a necessity, and should be able to adapt quickly and easily.

 

New momentum for a well-known topic

This is not a new problem. It’s been around since the new generation of interns, the increasing number of freelance workers, and the trend of home offices came on the scene. However, new numbers on the likelihood that young employees will change jobs give them a new quality. Companies would do well to think about how they can make their data accessible while protecting it at the same time. Enterprise Content Management is certainly a must.

Digital Transformation: Bosses are responsible

Most companies understand the importance of process digitization very well. However, most companies also seem to have trouble with implementation, as one study found out. The problem: bosses delegate responsibility, instead of managing it themselves.

 

On size and complexity

At least, this is what one survey commissioned by a digital consulting firm found. 2,000 major companies with annual revenues of at least 250 million euros took part in the survey. The size of these companies alone tells us that they have to deal with a complex process landscape. There has to be some room for optimization there – any company that doesn’t digitize their processes today might have to clear the field for a better prepared competitor tomorrow.

 

Digitize, don’t delegate

Nevertheless, lots of companies seem to be stalled out – and there’s a reason for that. Less than half of all bosses consider digitization to be part of their jobs. The rest delegate digitization. In 24 percent of the companies, CEOs or executive managers are working on digitization. In another 24 percent, the executive board is handling the issue. Thirty percent of companies, in contrast, hand over the reins to the IT department, and ten percent set up a staff unit to deal with it. The rest divide the work over multiple smaller company units that work on digital processes.

 

Who’s got the big picture in mind?

Well, there’s really nothing wrong with letting the IT department handle implementing digitization or participate in developing a digitization strategy. In reality, it’s a necessity. But the vision for how a company plans to set up its processes in the future needs to come from above. Someone needs to set the course, hold it all together, and make sure that the company ends up with a comprehensive digital process model. No single division can accomplish this – it’s an obligation of top management. Bosses have to drive the process forward, instead of commissioning individual departments. If they delegate too much, all they’re doing is opening the door to internal rivalries and obstruction.

The Challenge of Big Data: Knowing What’s Important

The topic of Big Data has been enjoying increased interest in the press, the economy, and in research for quite some time. But it’s not without its controversies: both ethical and moral issues continue to come up for discussion time and again. For example, there is the concern that the mass collection of data may be irreconcilable with fundamental data protection. We could discuss the HR department as an example here: you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks that making decisions on promoting or even firing an employee based solely on quantitative data would be a good idea. Nobody wants to see employers combing through exhaustive documentation of an employee’s every working hour.

 

Big, Smart, or Predictive?

But this isn’t really the purpose of Big Data. More and more, a growing chorus of voices is calling for Smart Data instead of Big Data, and new terms like advanced analytics or predictive analytics seem to be springing up everywhere you look. Diligent data collection won’t do anyone any good if data analysis and application doesn’t have functional value. What could be more boring than a giant data wasteland that never produces any meaning or any message?

 

The Answer to Complexity: Relevance

To avoid this scenario, companies need to be clear that not every piece of information is valuable in and of itself. The trick is to extract only relevant information and to use it as the basis for developing arguments or making decisions. This makes it possible to create exciting, future-oriented, and reasonable application scenarios. This has been the case, for example, in gene research, the automotive industry, and the insurance sector.

 

New Job Descriptions, New Solutions

The complexity of Big or Smart Data is also clear when we consider that the topic has spawned totally new job descriptions. The Fraunhofer Academy, for example, recently started offering a certification program for Data Scientists. EASY SOFTWARE AG is also moving towards a smart future, helping its customers to master all of their company data. EASY Discovery provides a good tool allowing enterprises to call up information from a variety of sources at once and assess it in an integrated fashion.

 

Key to Competitive Ability

One current 2016 study by BARC offers extensive insights on the topic of Big Data. 40% of users surveyed consider advanced analytic processes to be important, and 94% believe they will be relevant in the future. The biggest difficulties seem to be a lack of experience and IT resources. Nevertheless: up to now, most expertise is offered by the IT, financial, and telecommunications industries.