Digital Transformation sounds sexy. It’s about taking all your manual and paper processes and making them faster and electronic. The impetus behind this transformation is that everybody is connected today, though wi-fi, satellite networks, mobile devices, and even laptops and PCs. A lot of work has been spent on enabling the UIs on these devices to help users to have a top notch digital experience. However, it seems that back-end systems, where information coming in from these UIs is processed, are still not up to speed. At least this is what we were told when putting together stories for our last [Jan. 26] issue.
“A lot of companies have mobile apps and digital interfaces, and they are very fast at pre-approving a loan,” Alan Swahn, VP of marketing at ISV and systems integrator AI Foundry, told us. “But, to actually issue that loan, they are still dealing with a lot of paper and armies of people keying in data. So, while the UI may have gone through a digital transformation, everything else is old school.”
Added, Ralf Göbel, COO of data capture software and crowdsourcing specialist ScaleHub, “The problem is that the back-end systems used to process this input are not fast enough. The apps and Web sites might be flexible and fast enough to provide a great experience on the front-end, but the back ends at many big companies have not kept up, and they are too slow.”
This is not a new problem. It was back in 2010 that AIIM, with the help of noted technology author and consultant Geoffrey Moore, first started talking about connecting Systems of Engagement (the front end) with Systems of Record (the back-end). Since then it seems the disconnect has only widened, as investments have tilted toward improving mobile apps and UIs, and, as usual, back-end improvements in areas like ECM, have been often pushed (no pun intended) to the back burner.
Obviously, this would seem to create opportunity for savvy capture and ECM vendors and integrators who know how to package their software and services as part of a total Digital Transformation solution. That said, their systems need to be architected correctly to integrate with multi-channel front-end input avenues, as well as other back-end systems that are driving business decisions.
RPA is an interesting avenue for achieving some of this integration. As we also went over in last week’s issue, when Kofax first purchased Kapow, it was presented as application integration software. This capability (as well as the ability to learn by example) seems to be one of the core tenets of products in the emerging RPA space. And indeed, while Kofax has yet to see much crossover between capture and RPA, there are RPA vendors like UiPath, which, through a partnership with ABBYY, have added document processing to their RPA portfolios.
Kofax has seen a parallel between the capture and RPA markets in the desire by users to introduce workflow automation to data being gathered to RPA and data being captured from documents. This makes absolute sense within the landscape of the Digital Transformation, where the desire is to get things done faster and in a more automated way. So, if you look at it from a process management standpoint, UI, capture, and RPA all should be connected, along with automated workflows and back-end systems. That seems to be the Holy Grail of Digital Transformation.
I’ll leave you with one more analogy. Let’s go back to my first statement about the Digital Transformation being sexy. Unfortunately, more often than not, however, today it seems to be like the beautiful person you meet at the bar whose conversation might only go as deep as reality TV. Introducing capture, RPA, and workflow could be akin to sending this person to college (and even grad school), where they learn to discuss business, politics, philosophy and all sorts of other interesting topics. Of course, the question is, do you have the budget for that? It’s my hunch that if you look at the ROIs for college, and you look at the ROIs for completing the Digital Transformation, they might be similar. At least I’m hoping their both positive, with two teenagers in school and a business heavily invested in the capture and ECM markets.