Louella Fernandes explains how information managed services (IMS) can help organisations improve the way they process, share and manage information throughout its life-cycle and, in doing so, enhance communication and collaboration in the digital workplace.
A blurring of lines between the physical and digital office is creating an increasingly dispersed workforce that is communicating and collaborating in unprecedented ways. Gone is the static, paperbased, boardroom-centric world of old and in its
place is a new social, collaborative information landscape.
This trend is being driven by the new generation of millennials, due to make up 75% of the UK workforce by 2025. They have grown up in an always-on, connected world and are accustomed to collaborating through social media and real-time digital interactions. They have moved beyond BYOD (bring your own device) to BYOC (bring your own cloud, content and collaboration).
Yet, in many businesses, the easy collaboration and exchange of information desired by millennials is being frustrated by inadequate information management and processes:
- Fragmented and inaccessible content. Most organisations have accumulated multiple data silos that make it difficult for employees to collaborate across the organisation. Many have implemented collaboration and knowledge management tools, but they are often poorly integrated with business workflow applications, leading to low adoption.
- Complex manual processes. Organisations have made progress on digitising their processes, but many are still heavily dependent on paper, and paper trails cost time and money, as well as stifling productivity. A recent AIIM survey shows it can take around 37 minutes to find a paper document.
- Inadequate visual communications. The benefits of video conferencing and collaboration range from savings in business travel costs and the associated environmental impact to improved employee productivity and morale. Yet many organisations miss out on these benefits because they haven’t fully leveraged video conferencing or other visual solutions, such as large format interactive displays.
- Security risks. Workers frequently collaborate and exchange information with people outside the company, such as suppliers, partners, agencies and customers. Companies could suffer real financial consequences (and brand and reputational damage) if confidential or sensitive information is leaked.
A new framework
Next generation information managed services (IMS) is emerging as an effective solution to the challenges of information management and collaboration in the digital workplace. By equipping employees with software and services for content capture, communication, collaboration and conferencing, IMS helps businesses increase productivity, speed up response rates and improve interaction across departments and between partners and suppliers.
Rather than having multiple suppliers for a range of point solutions, IMS lets businesses use a single strategic partner to manage information through every stage of the document lifecycle, with all the benefits of a traditional managed services model.
Phase 1: Information capture
Before information can be used to create business value, it must be captured. This requires a full evaluation of how information, regardless of its source and format, enters an organisation and how it is used and accessed by employees, partners
Information can be captured from paper and digital content through multifunction printers (MFPs), business scanners or mobile devices. For instance, paper invoices or expenses receipts can be scanned and routed directly to an accounts application through an MFP interface panel.
Today, information capture must extend beyond simply digitising paper documents. Intelligent capture solutions need to transform data from structured sources (databases and spreadsheets) and unstructured ones (emails, images, video, social media content and text documents) into information that can be accessed quickly and easily.
Effective information capture minimises processing errors, improves data accuracy and accelerates business processes by making information instantly available in content repositories, for instance through a cloud sharing portal or broader enterprise content management (ECM) system.
Phase 2: Information management and collaboration
Another critical element of IMS is the effective management and sharing of information, for example by implementing workflow processes and secure authentication to ensure teams are collaborating securely and that only the right people have access to contracts, invoices, proprietary company information and other sensitive documents. The types of solution offered might include:
- Cloud document management and sharing. Employee efficiency can be significantly improved through the use of a cloud-based document sharing portal (e.g. Dropbox, Box, OneDrive or a privately hosted platform). This enables employees to access, share and collaborate on content, while maintaining high levels of control, privacy and protection. Access control is typically a key feature, along with detailed monitoring, search and reporting. Most advanced MFPs offer this capability directly from the user panel.
- Improved visual collaboration. As travel budgets are cut and the workforce simultaneously becomes more mobile and distributed, interactive meeting rooms are becoming a critical business tool for employee collaboration. Sophisticated meeting room solutions can combine touch-enabled displays with an HD video camera, microphones and speakers to enable rich audio, video and data collaboration and integration with costeffective VOIP (voice over IP) systems. Interactive whiteboards or large format touchscreen displays ensure everyone can see the information being presented and make notes on each other’s displays. Employees can write in digital ink over any application and save work as a PDF or Microsoft Office file.
Phase 3: Information output In the third phase, information is distributed by an organisation in a variety of digital and hard copy formats. Two examples are personalised cross-media communications and digital signage:
- Personalised communications. In today’s multichannel world, it’s vital that an organisation can create and deliver communications to staff, customers, suppliers and partners any time via their channel of choice – be that print or digital media. This can lead to faster decisionmaking and better engagement with employees, customers and partners. Based on defined rules, customer communications management (CCM) solutions enable organisations to create and distribute communications across multiple channels.
Printed communications can be made dynamic and interactive through the use of QR codes, pURLs (personal URLs) or augmented reality (AR), driving customers to online and mobile channels. For example, adding a pURL to a statement or invoice provides an opportunity to crosssell other financial services or products.
- Digital signage. Technologies such as LCD or plasma display panels, electronic billboards and projection screens provide organisations with a flexible tool for conveying timely and targeted messages to key audiences. Intelligent digital signage systems can provide a robust platform for collecting, aggregating and displaying information in meaningful, actionable ways.
By providing a range of services that cover the complete information lifecycle, an integrated IMS can lay the foundation for an immersive collaborative experience.
Intelligent information capture can unlock the value of paper documents and make them more accessible for sharing and collaboration; cloud sharing platforms can connect a dispersed workforce and enhance productivity and decisionmaking; and interactive meeting room technology – be it video conferencing or interactive whiteboards – can overcome the challenges of traditional face-to-face meetings and eliminate the need to share physical documents.
The best information managed service providers will offer the right combination of document management, audio-visual and IT skills and may leverage third party partnerships to offer limitless solutions. Ultimately, the providers best placed to help drive innovation in the digital workplace will be those that can offer broader and longer-term information management support for their customers.
Louella Fernandes is Associate Director, Print Services and Solutions at research company Quocirca. This is an abbreviated version of a new white paper produced in association with Sharp Business Solutions. The full length report, including graphics and additional research findings, can be downloaded from Quocirca’s website or from