There's a range of digital forces currently reshaping the business world, but none is having a more profound impact than Big Data.
Arriving in a myriad of forms, it's being generated by customers, suppliers, partners and even competitors. The businesses that succeed during the next five years will be those which do the best job of putting this data deluge to work.
It wasn't that long ago when businesses struggled with the concept of having to store terabytes of data. Now, with data growing at exponential rates, many organisations are pondering a world where quantities are measured in exabytes or even zettabytes (billions of terabytes). The objective for businesses is to take this data, analyse it, and turn it into actionable information.
Managing Big Data
One of the biggest causes of the challenges around Big Data is that it has become almost too easy to capture and store. Where once data storage was expensive and tightly controlled, it's now possible to readily house vast amounts for an almost negligible cost.
As a result, businesses store everything from emails and reports to documents, spreadsheets, and chat logs in addition to the paper-based correspondence organisations continue to collect and store today. The result is a mountain of data that can be almost impossible to manage or to put into any type of meaningful use.
An effective solution to this challenge is to deploy an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) platform to streamline the way data is collected, stored and retrieved within an organisation. ECM solutions offer the ability to capture business content from multiple sources including web forms, mobile applications, email and physical documents, just to name a few.
After gathering this content, the ECM platform leverages business rules to automate its processing. This includes interacting with other line-of-business applications to maintain a seamless process flow throughout the organisation.
Improving the customer experience
ECM solutions can also be tightly integrated with an organisation's Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platform. As well as resulting in significant improvements in efficiency and processing speeds, this can also have a direct impact on customer service.
Today's customers no longer yearn for easier ways to do business - they have come to expect it. If Bank A allows them to apply for a loan electronically and can approve it within hours, they will prefer it to Bank B which is still using paper-based processes.
If a retailer can provide them with targeted discount deals based on previous sales and known preferences, they are likely to spend their dollars there rather than opt for one that treats them like a stranger.
To achieve these types of positive customer experiences, a growing number of businesses are realising the benefits of leveraging both their ERP platforms and a fully featured ECM system. By being able to extract meaning and knowledge from mountains of collected data, they are able to more readily offer the types of customer engagement that are now being expected as standard.
ECM solutions are no longer just about the process of digitising and storing critical business content such as transaction receipts, invoices and personnel files. They are designed to complement a line of business platform so that the business is better positioned to leverage end-to-end processes that directly benefit the customer.
Ongoing business benefits
ECM solutions can significantly improve the management of Big Data within a business. In turn, this can increase collaboration, boost efficiency and improve levels of customer service.
However, organisations should also be aware of the challenge posed by security. Cyber criminals are constantly looking for new vulnerabilities they can use to gain access to corporate data and resources. Businesses should put controls in place which ultimately provide governance over who can use them and how they can be accessed.
Indeed, an ECM solution must be framed by a robust, permissions-driven security model throughout its lifecycle that ensures that only appropriate users can access archived content. Audit trails should track who has searched for and viewed records, and when.
The good news today is that there are enterprise file sync-and-share solutions that provide secure, cloud-based document collaboration and sharing while ensuring an organisation retains full ownership and control of key business information. When deployed in conjunction with an ECM solution, cloud-based document sharing becomes an automated part of everyday business processes, reducing bottlenecks caused by the manual copying and pasting of files as well as providing a crucial audit trail.
Today, Big Data is often portrayed as either a massive opportunity or an insurmountable force that could cause problems. While the sheer volumes of data being created may be daunting, they should not overwhelm.
By deploying the right tools, such as an effective ECM platform, a business can ensure it is best placed to take advantage of all the opportunities that Big Data can deliver.