*This is a guest blog written by SeeUnity CEO and Co-founder, Dan Anderson. This is part of a longer blog series we are calling Looking Ahead: CEO Blog Series
Technology in firms and organizations has changed tremendously since I started in the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) industry. People like me are used to being tied down to on-premise systems. Before, there was no such thing as cloud storage or mobile devices that are basically little super computers to allow you to work from anywhere. There were just systems on the desktops we did our work on, at physical work locations that we had to go to each and every day. But now, 21st-century technology has turned us into mobile workers, and the first generation to be considered digital natives is taking over our workforce.
At the end of August/early September, we attended ILTACON 2016 in Washington, D.C. The main theme of the conference was 21st-century technology. In one particular session, they talked about getting Gen X and Baby Boomers to work with Millennials, otherwise known as digital natives. Currently, Millennials make up a third of the workforce in the US according to Forbes. By the year 2020, Millennials will make up nearly 50% of the US workforce. This means at least half of your workforce is going to be tech savvy and expect the use of certain technologies. We keep seeing article after article complaining about the Millennial workforce. But the complaints are just a commentary about how a business might want to prepare for the future. In terms of technology, if you’re behind, you’re done. Millennials as a group aren’t used to being tied down. They are a group that is used to being connected to everything at all times. In addition to Millennials gaining ground in the workforce, you should also expect that the landscape of clients and customers is also shifting to be the Millennial generation. In turn, you will see that your clients and customers are also looking for you to provide the use of certain technologies to do business with them.
The Enterprise Content Management market is catching up with these digital natives. No longer are ECM systems tied to a physical location with on-premise systems. Traditional ECM systems like OpenText, Documentum, and iManage are adapting and adding models to support cloud. In addition, cloud-based platforms like NetDocuments and M-Files are entering the scene. It doesn’t stop there either, because not only do Millennials not like being tied down, they also demand constant access to their data and clients want easy and immediate access to the content. This has brought new technologies like HighQ Collaborate and Box into clear view of law firms. This provides a challenge to firms and organizations who have been using their legacy systems for years, and are struggling to accommodate these new technologies. A major driver to take the plunge into 21st-century tech (like cloud systems or mobile devices) is to stay competitive in a world where Millennials rule. Users are now demanding different ways to interact and collaborate with their content; in turn, firms and organizations are trying to find the best way to do this. For organizations that have information governance initiatives, it is key to be able to provide a solution that will keep data and content secure while still providing a competitive advantage.
Two worlds are colliding between the legacy ECM on-premise systems and the new age browser-based file sharing and collaboration sites. The problem here is that both are still needed. ECM systems are crucial to maintaining content compliance and structure, while the new age systems are required for sharing and working with that content. You have to have both. But frequently they don’t work together, and if they do, often they don’t well.
This is truly where content synchronization comes into play. The Millennial generation as a whole are more fluent in the world of technology and will go out and seek their own ways to share and interact with content. Unauthorized sharing with clients can lead to many issues with governance and compliance. That said, what do you do to combat this? Well first, you look into how you can provide the ease of use and flexibility to your clients and employees. Decide on a solution, or set of solutions, that will work for everyone (IT, employees, clients, etc.) Then move on to governance initiatives and implementing the new system. What we’re seeing our customers do is to unchain their employees from the ECM, allowing them to work in more collaborative ways like SharePoint, OneDrive, or HighQ, but keep their native ECM systems in place. Synchronization of this content is vital to make sure that this works for several reasons. To begin, you can set up your synchronization to either publish, archive, or bi-directionally sync based on your needs. The important aspect to this is that everything will live in its main repository. Based on how that data is being used, it can be published out for a client to review and sign, or be archived away. This helps significantly with versioning, specifically, to empower your employees to always have the right version of a particular document.
Unchaining from the enterprise is what Millennials are asking firms and organizations to do. They want different ways to interact with their content, and with the improvements to technology, they have been given that privilege.