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EDITOR’S NOTE: In this Q & A, ebizQ’s Peter Schooff speaks with author, speaker and industry leader John Mancini about mobile computing’s impact on enterprise content management (ECM). Mancini is president of AIIM International, the global community of information professionals. This interview, excerpted from a companion podcast, has been edited for length, clarity, and editorial style.

ebizQ: What’s the current current state of mobility in today's workplace?

Mancini:
I think mobility is perhaps the most interesting thing that's going on these days and the thing that has changed probably more than anything that I can think of in the past decade.

One data point just really strikes me, which is that there are more people in the world right now with cellphones than with toothbrushes. So when you think about that, that has occurred in an incredibly small period of time; in a decade, we've gotten there. We've gotten to the point where there are over five billion cellphone subscriptions out there.

We've moved into a world in which everybody has connectivity. The majority of the people in the world use their phones for Internet access. That can't help but have massive impacts on how we deliver content, how we initiate processes, how we deliver value. All those things change exponentially in this world that we're going into directly as a result of mobility.

ebizQ: Now, how is this extreme connectivity impacting enterprise content management?

Mancini:
We know it's pretty interesting. We’re in a world that I would characterize as one where the intentions are very high right now, but the reality is definitely mixed.

We’ve done one some research under the title Process Revolution at AIIM.org/research. When we asked organizations how important they thought mobility was, we got two-thirds of them saying, for example, that mobility is going to be extremely important to their business processes moving forward. People can see a real tangible impact of mobility on the speed of customer responsiveness, so that's the intention side of the coin, if you will.

Then you ask, "What are you actually doing [in terms of mobile]," and you get data like 76% of organizations saying they have no mobile processes in their organization. When we ask "What is the percentage of overall processes that could be mobile that actually are mobile," people, on average, and say 2.5% When we ask, "Do you have access to your content management system through mobile devices," most people say no.

So clearly there's a big gap on the process side as well as on the content side between what people would like to do and what they're actually doing right now.

ebizQ: With this explosion of mobile devices [including iPads and other tablet computers], what happens to security? How does a company's content remain secure?

Mancini:
That's a really good point you make about tablets; I think is that sometimes people tend to equate mobility just with the cell phone device. I even did that in my little introduction.

But as you think about [mobile], this is really something that's far more than just cellphones. This is basically a question of how people work, where they work, what devices they use to work. That whole equation is changing really, really dramatically and, as you say, with massive impacts on what it means to be a worker and what security means for organizations.

I'll give you an example. When I talk to, say, a records-management crowd and we talk about control based-issues relative to enterprise information, that's a pretty strident crowd when it comes to those issues. The whole question of losing control of information through mobility scares them to death. [The approach tends to be:] "Let's put all the controls in place so that we don't allow these devices into our organizations. Then you ask, "How many of you view Dropbox?" And, usually somewhat sheepishly, maybe a third to a half of the hands will go up.

What that means to me is that if you think about mobility, it changes the nature of what you can control. I think organizations have to get much, much more prudent about really identifying the key elements of control, give up on some of the things that are increasingly spinning out of control, and try to put the emphasis and the focus on the stuff that's really critically important.

The other aspect to this is that we're ultimately going down [the path of] BYOD--bring your own device. [That's going to be a] big, big challenge moving forward, one that I don't think people have a lot of answers to right now.

ebizQ: What are some of the important tips for an effective mobile ECM strategy?

Mancini:
They all come down to a pretty core thing, which is that for all of this to be really effective, organizations need to start with business process. Sometimes there's a tendency to get overly infatuated with the devices. I like to say that the world changed in December 2010 when all those CEOs got iPads as holiday presents and they came into their organizations after the holidays and said, "Gee, how do I connect this to the network?" That's a device-centric view of the world.

My fundamental advice to people is to think about business process, think about how people work, and where they work, and then use that as a way to back into the question of how you approach the question of mobility. Because if you start with a device and then back into process, you're going to be really, really frustrated. You need to start with the process, start with how you're trying to engage employees, how you're trying to engage partners, how you're trying to engage customers, where are they trying to engage with you. Then hen approach mobility through that prism.

ebizQ: What are some of the key mistakes that you've come across that people should avoid?

Mancini:
When we asked people in the scanning and capture arena, which is kind of a corollary to this whole question of mobility, about what's holding them back, people typically said it's lack of management initiative and mandates with regards to getting rid of paper.

So I think when it comes to this question of mobility, the same thing applies. It's one of the points that I tried to make in my "Occupy IT" e-book, which is that the business has to exert the criticality of mobile technologies as a core underlying part of their strategy. Not as a bolt-on. Not as something you'll think about later. Not as something that "we'll worry about when we have time." [Instead, it should be] a key strategic element in thinking about how people interact with your content, interact with your business processes, interact with your organization.

So I think the key mistake that people make is they underestimate the nature of the challenge that's out there in front of them, and, as a result, there tends to be a little bit too much of the business-as-usual approach.

ebizQ: Looking ahead, what do you see for all of this--both mobile technology and enterprise content management?

Mancini:
It’s a pretty exciting time in both dimensions. The thing that strikes me as really, really fascinating moving forward with regards to mobile technologies is that only 20% of the devices out there are smart devices at the moment. So you start thinking about what's the impact going to be as these devices become more and more prevalent [along with tablets and other mobile devices]. Has that changed the nature of what it means to interact with an organization, either as an employee or a customer?

When you think about it from the perspective of content management, it really highlights the criticality of thinking in content terms and thinking in process terms. We've been an advocate for a long time of the critical importance of viewing business processes holistically and thinking about how they actually are deployed within organizations.

I think we're in the limelight right now. I think organizations are finally getting it. They understand that mobility makes their organizations more transparent than they ever have before and they have got to have backend systems that have integrity and that work well in a variety of settings.

The other thing that's really interesting to think about is that we've just been through this power outage in the [Washington, D.C.] area and up and down the East Coast. As you disconnect from devices for two or three days, it really does highlight how interconnected all this is, and you've touched on some of the issues that we've really got to think about. We've got to think about security. We've got to think about the connections between systems. We've got to think about processes and how information interacts with them. That becomes a pretty challenging thing as systems get more and more interconnected.

READER FEEDBACK: What do you think about the impact of mobility on ECM? ebizQ editors would like to hear about your experiences. Contact Site Editor Anne Stuart at editor@ebizq.net.



About the Author

Peter Schooff is a former contributing editor for ebizQ, where he also managed the ebizQ Forum for several years. Previously, Peter managed the database operations for a major cigar company, served as writer/editor of an early Internet entertainment site and developed a computer accounting system for several retail stores. Peter can be reached at pschooff@techtarget.com.

More by Peter Schooff

About ebizQ

ebizQ is the insider’s guide to next-generation business process management. We offer a growing collection of independent editorial articles on BPM trends, issues, challenges and solutions, all targeted to business and IT BPM professionals.

We cover BPM standards, governance, technology and continuous process improvement, as well as process discovery, modeling, simulation and optimization, among many other areas. We follow case management, decision management, business rules management, operational intelligence, complex event processing and other related topics. We closely track important trends such as the rise of social BPM, mobile BPM and BPM in the cloud. We also explore BPM’s use in functional areas, such as supply chain and customer management, and in key verticals, such as financial services, health care, insurance and government.

ebizQ's other BPM-oriented content includes podcasts, webcasts, webinars, white papers, a variety of expert blogs, a lively online forum and much more.

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