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August 2008 Archives

August 29, 2008

From the Show Floor: ILTA '08

This week I was in Grapevine, Texas where the annual International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) conference was held. ILTA has been going strong for several years now, but I have to say this year was one of the best conferences I've been to yet with regards to the session content, the great people I spoke with all week and of course the great venue.

The week was especially successful for us at the show because we saw a lot of traction at the booth and also to our peer group sessions, as a result of some of the announcements we made this week.

Our email management session was the most popular (it was a full house!). A few of our clients put together some key points about their approach to email management, which been a hot topic for quite awhile and is one of the main reasons we announced our new email lifecycle management solution this week.

As we mentioned in the announcement, the offering addresses the largest business problem facing firms these days, which is managing enormous volumes of client- and matter-related emails. To solve this problem, we took our email archiving capabilities for Microsoft Exchange, tied it together with our LegalKEY records management system, and added a series of efficient filing components to really give firms the power to manage the entire lifecycle of emails from creation to disposition.

The offering also addresses key concerns at most firms, such as scalability, user adoption and compliance when it comes to implementing the right system, but really these are the key things we focus on with every solution we come out with.

This week we also got to announce a couple of new customers who have taken some significant steps towards making their law firms more efficient. Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel for example will be using document management to control its document-based knowledge assets in a secure, integrated, and intuitive environment; while global law firm, Hunton & Williams is in the process of replacing its existing conflicts checking system with our LegalKEY Conflicts Management and New Business Intake systems.

Well, I've pretty much given my last bit of energy this week writing this post. I have to catch my flight back to New York soon and you can bet I'm going to take this long weekend to try to relax and enjoy the sunshine before things get even busier this fall.


August 19, 2008

Web 2.0: Seeing beyond the hype

Any sanguine observer of web trends and technology generally could not be blamed for rolling their eyes at yet another Web 2.0 corporate initiative. But give us a second to explain. For regarding Web 2.0 - all hype aside -- there really is something worth talking about here. First, it doesn't really matter if you call Web 2.0, Internet 2.0, or the "next next" thing. What the meaning behind the term, whatever term, suggests is that we have reached a common milestone in the development of Internet related technologies generally, and digital media technologies specifically (of particular interest to Artesia, Open Text's Digital Media Group) that taken together enable a fundamentally different approach to putting together large complex systems. Scott Bowen, President of Artesia, talks more about this in our latest podcast launched this week.

It wasn't of course a particular day or time, a specific invention or product, but rather taken writ large we have entered a period of modularity where interoperability and flexibility are as important, if not more so, than sheer functionality (can we do it at all) or performance (yeah we can do it but it takes a week). Where once streaming audio over the Internet was a feat, today video delivered over IP is common place whether online or as part of a service providers infrastructure.

Here at Open Text we're excited about the opportunities these trends present. First our flagship Digital Asset Management product is being used in more and different use cases. Where once perhaps just a very nice and very important virtual filing cabinet, today it is rare where a customer doesn't integrate its enterprise DAM with other systems ranging from online ecommerce systems to backend financial and billing infrastructures. Robust public APIs of course are the secret sauce - the LegosTM of the digital world. Our latest version, Artesia DAM 6.8, for example, shipped with a full complement of web services that have been used to extend the system's core functionality in many directions from large file delivery to web content management integration. We'll be expanding this set of web services even further with future releases and, in fact, are the very method we are using to integrate other products from the Open Text suite including the Business Process server which will make heretowith one-off process changes easy to recreate, re-use, and modify as the situation fits.

Secondly, Web 2.0 means we can build, test, configure, and support our product differently and we expect even more robustly than ever before. Where once DAM was something of an art with custom implementations the norm, over the years our team and the associated technologies have matured such that today we have a standard client services methodology and a range of delivery options from fully integrated behind-the-firewall enterprise DAM to a completely hosted "Artesia On Demand" for which no local IT-infrastructure is required.

So Web 2.0, surely it's been hyped, but don't let the hype distract you from the significant technical trends it represents.


Strategies that Make Accounts Payable Pay Off

Last week, we announced that Citrix Systems has selected Open Text for a solution that helps manage content from Accounts Payable (AP). The idea is to optimize AP workflow to improve overall speed, control and visibility of its operations as well as extract additional value from its investment in SAP® solutions.

Citrix offers a good example of what we're seeing in the larger market: More companies looking to optimize accounts payable to reduce costs and improve efficiency. With the right approach, companies can cut average invoice processing time by improving the handling of problem invoices, avoiding duplicate payments, and taking better advantage of early payment discounts. About 85 percent of invoices coming into the typical company are still in paper form, so automating the handling of invoices once they're received is critical.

There are several strategies companies can follow to successfully automate the handling of AP processes and documentation. The key is to take a holistic view of the process, rather than view each invoice independently, transaction by transaction. Understanding each invoice in the broader business context and being able to connect invoices to other related content, such as supporting documents, change orders, email-trails and other information, is essential for success. Today, this content is disconnected from invoices and AP systems. Here are some of the strategies companies should consider when assessing how they can improve automation of AP processes and the handling of AP content:

  • Move aggressively from paper to universal electronic invoice processing. This involves scanning paper-based invoices and then applying optical character recognition software to extract as much information as possible. Vendor self-service portals, vendor networks, electronic transfers and other Web-based solutions are gaining momentum as techniques for reducing paper volume.
  • Don't just automate broken processes. Recognize the difference between process automation and process optimization. Organizations that focus on automation run the risk of having a fast bad process. Take a close look at process flows to ensure that they are well-designed and fully optimized. From there, automation can begin to deliver significant gains.
  • Address the problem of information silos. For many organizations, an important part of the solution has proven to be a set of enterprise content services tightly integrated with transactional systems such as SAP or Oracle. These services can pull together content from across the enterprise stored in multiple repositories and present it to users in the context of a particular vendor, project or invoice. In some cases, related content from different systems can be presented in a familiar client application, such as Microsoft Office Outlook or Excel, saving the need to launch a separate application window and reducing training costs. Content services also provide comprehensive search capabilities to help users quickly locate content across multiple systems.
  • Consider the company's broader records management needs. Many companies now need to incorporate invoices into a broader records management system that maintains all business-critical documents according to pre-defined rules. Records management needs are driven by compliance and regulatory requirements.
You can find out about Open Text's ECM solutions for AP here. There's also a recently-published study on Open Text's AP solutions by research firm PayStream Advisors which you can find here.

August 13, 2008

Blogs and the CEO?

Interesting developments south of the border...

On July 30, 2008, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) voted "unanimously" to start looking at web sites - specifically emerging interactive technology - as new ways to open up channels of communication and disclosure between corporations and the investor and shareholder community. According to SEC Chairman Christopher Cox in the July 30 statement, "Ongoing developments in technology have increased both the markets' and investors' demand for more timely company disclosure on the Web, and in turn, raised new securities law issues for public companies to consider".

While on the surface this new guidance might not have direct applicability to Canadian public sector, this statement represents a critical turning point in the journey to Government 2.0. Increasingly regulatory and legislative bodies are being compelled by emerging technology and changing information worker habits to look at new content forms and channels. This SEC development recognizes that corporate disclosures can now legitimately be made through new communication channels - including blogs and investor communities or forums. Companies who want to pursue cost effective and interactive shareholder communication can now explore these Web 2.0 inspired tools that have proved so valuable in other areas of customer engagement.

Open Text will be watching this interesting collision between 2.0 culture and content and the legal compliance obligations we see in both private and public sector. As new forms of content and online communication become more widely accepted in the eyes of courts, regulatory bodies and public sector agencies, those of us who are concerned about records retention, preservation, corporate memory retention and appropriate disposal policies need to think hard about how new 2.0 content types are handled. Ensuring that information governance strategies and retention best practices extend to the next generation of electronic content is what we do best.

Click here if you've thought about these issues. We want to know: Are You Ready?

Originally posted on blog.gtec.com


August 5, 2008

The Five Cornerstones of a Contract Management Strategy

Last week we announced that EWE AG, one of Germany's largest energy providers, has rolled out a contract management solution based on enterprise content management software. The company's solution, called Central Contract Management, has helped to reduce risk, speed up operations and increase transparency.

Managing contracts, with all their dense language and many pages of details, is a difficult job for any organizations. This is because contracts often span many different individuals, departments and software applications. Pulling out the relevant details and making sure that those details are accurately represented and acted upon across the company is a big task. EWE, however, has taken the bull by the horns and is reaping the rewards.

For companies that are looking to make gains on the contract management front, I thought it would be worth revisiting the five cornerstones of a contract management strategy. You can download a comprehensive white paper on the topic here.

Automated Contract Creation
In order to provide a truly flexible system that eradicates cost at every stage of the contract lifecycle, the contract management system must provide the ability for trusted end users to make use of technology to create contracts and legal documentation within pre-planned and pre-approved parameters. This will enable resource constrained groups such as legal and procurement to focus on the creation of approved contract templates and best practices.

Secure Contract Negotiation
Contract negotiations between external parties often take place via e-mail. This can create many problems for contract negotiators. Sending an e-mail to five recipients will generate five separate copies of the contract. If the five recipients wish to make any comments or amendments to the contract, then there may be multiple versions of the document in circulation. This creates significant work for the contract manager when attempting to bring these versions together into a final contract, and can lead to a loss of control over what may be sensitive commercial information. A comprehensive contract management strategy should use a secure collaboration environment for contract negotiations with external parties.

Electronic Contract Repository
A comprehensive contract management strategy should include the implementation of a central electronic repository to store contracts and agreements. Paper filing cabinets or shared folders on a company network are not efficient mechanisms for storing sensitive information like contracts. The contract repository helps companies meet corporate governance rules, and gives authorized staff instant access to the latest version of any contract. Companies can also avoid the extra costs of retrieving archived contracts when needed from off-site paper stores, a common practice for many organizations.

Automatic Upload to Back-End Systems
Most organizations manually key contract data into back-end systems, an inefficient, time consuming, and sometimes error-prone process. A contract management strategy should insist on the use of data transfer technologies that can automatically extract key contract data and upload it to relevant back-end systems as required without any manual intervention.

Proactive Report & Alert Management
While documented processes around the creation, review and archiving of contracts are required to meet compliance requirements, the true commercial power of a contract management system is in its reporting ability. Reports are used to alert and provide actionable management information to staff members who require that information to carry out their business function. The terms of a contract can affect many parts of the business. Specialists like sales managers or the procurement team, will want to keep track of the finer detail relating to their principal transactions. Other business functions like finance, legal, operations, customer services, etc., may only need to view subsets of the contract data to either ensure that suppliers are complying with pre-negotiated terms or that customer commitments are being met so that the business is maximizing revenue while minimizing risk.


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