After a long career of working in the telecommunications, data networking, and cloud computing service provider industries, I recently took an opportunity with Zia Consulting to serve customers with their digital transformation and content management initiatives. Zia Consulting is an industry leading systems integrator focused on the strategy, migration, integration, and customization of digital transformation and content management solutions for enterprise customers. For more than fifteen years, Boulder, CO based Zia Consulting has been recognized by many of the top enterprise content management services technology providers as the partner of the year and the system integrator of choice for servicing their customers.
As with any new job, and even more with a career in a new technology, my first weeks were comprised of heavy training. I soon discovered how oblivious I had been to the importance of content management. My focus had been on the infrastructure and, although I had transitioned customer data to cloud platforms, I had remained mostly agnostic to how data was managed for day-to-day use by the organization. I understood the technology of making the data repository secure, maximizing the availability of the data, and how to backup and recover the data. However, I quickly began to realize that a company’s ability to effectively harness and use their content was directly related to their ability to serve clients and remain competitive in their industry. I also realized that managing compliance, security, and governance to the record level is often ignored but is equally as important as, and requires more skill and complex processes than, securing the data repository as a whole. If managing data is a game of chess, placing content in the cloud is knowing the rules, while digital transformation and enterprise content management is a grand master skill.
As I dove into training, I naturally began to recognize use case after use case that I could apply to my previous career industry. Setting aside customers I had worked with, I started thinking of opportunities to deploy technology to allow telecommunications, data networking, and cloud service providers to better serve their employees, partners, and customers. Through my upcoming series of blogs, I will outline some use cases that apply to these service providers and show how I believe they would benefit from focused digital transformation and content management strategies.
As a point of reference, I have sales and operations experience in these industries at both the individual performer and executive level. I started my career as an engineer, transitioned to sales, and have held recent positions at the vice president level of F500 service providers and consulting companies. I have been part of many teams tasked with improving the client experience through process change or the use of technology. I find myself reflecting on how much better the results might have been with some of the recent knowledge I have gained at Zia Consulting. In each series, I will outline a use case for a specific line of business and how client experience, employee engagement, or the use of company resources could be improved with the strategic deployment of available technologies. I know that there are several lines of business within these services providers that could benefit from the use case discussed in each series. However, it will be easier to address a single line of business so as to remain focused. Zia Consulting has the ability to effectively deploy the technology that will be outlined in each use case, but the true strength of Zia Consulting is the expertise to tie the technologies of each use case together to create a complete content management platform and a digital transformation strategy that addresses every critical component required by our customers.
Use Case One: Capture Technology
If you’d asked me a few months ago what I knew about capture technology, I would have probably told you that it was the ability to scan paper records into a PDF format. I now realize that there are highly effective tools available that will turn unstructured content into actionable data, and that data capture solutions can be leveraged to reduce errors, improve workflow, and save any company or line of business resources and money.
As a quick definition, structured data indicates a database, a table with rows and columns that includes specific information in a specific format. This data is often contained in company systems that serve enterprise resource management, customer relationship management, or employee records. Unstructured content includes just about everything else. Most files fit into the unstructured data bucket—emails, PDFs, faxes, audio files, and video files to name a few. Most company communications, brochures, or records in paper or digital form are considered unstructured content. I have seen several statistics that claim unstructured data accounts for about 80% of a company’s information and that unstructured content doubles about every 90 days. Think about all the information located in email folders, shared drives, cloud drives, local PC drives, or sitting in file cabinets. How can this information be effectively captured, stored, and managed?
The use case for capture technology that I will outline focuses on the customer contracting to service delivery process. Although I have seen improvements in recent years with contract generation and electronic signature automation, the process of taking a signed customer agreement and effectively moving all the important data from the agreement to critical systems (order processing, provisioning, CRM, and commissioning to name a few) remains a very manual process.
At the end of each monthly sales cycle, service providers typically experience a peak influx of orders and forms to process. It does not make financial sense for a company to staff for these peak periods, so the result is what I call “the pig in the snake” effect. These sales orders begin to slowly work their way through the process and the multitude of service provider’s systems. These processes usually involve a variety of forms with detailed information fields and often requires the repeated rekeying of information into the required systems. I have frequently experienced the loss of information, missed orders, or incorrectly keyed information resulting in employee and customer frustration or lost revenue.
Suppose for a moment that Zia Consulting could assist your company with the cost-effective deployment of a technology that would largely automate the gathering of data for this order-to-delivery process. This technology would monitor a folder, web forms, or email addresses and automatically process all files or attachments without human touch. This capture technology would open these files and conduct a complete optical character recognition (OCR) scan of the entire file. The deployed solution would extract all of the relevant data fields from the file and even go so far as to recognize and classify the document by type while assigning metadata to the file in a usable and consistent manner. No more haphazard employee generated file name structures. The data fields from these files could automatically be made available or moved to all the various systems required to process the service order. In the event that the system has difficulty reading the file and there is not enough confidence in the extracted data, the file could be flagged for manual review. Since captures and extracts all the text on the document, the reviewing employee is still not required to manually key in data. The employee is able to move the data from the scanned file to the appropriate fields with the click of a mouse.
The automation of these repeatable and manual processes allows you to refocus your staff on serving the customer and actually provisioning the order. Your company would realize a significant reduction in order entry errors and briefcase time. The resulting reduction in order process time would have a direct impact on customer satisfaction and the ability to realize billed revenue sooner.
I think about the various data field intensive forms that are still in use today:
- Letters of agency with lists of telephone and toll-free numbers
- Sales orders
- User profile forms that outline each users’ unique settings and configurations
- Customer credit applications
- Customer contact and authorization lists
How many times does the customer’s service address, different billing address, name, contact name, email address, phone number, services ordered, and order dollar amount get keyed into systems by employee resources? The technology to automate the gathering and use of this unstructured content while removing the pain point associated with data entry and errors is available and proven.
Zia Consulting has been deploying this technology for more than a decade in many different industries. Zia Consulting has used this technology to automate the gathering of data for mortgage processing, insurance claims, transportation and shipping, human resources, accounts payable/receivable, and manufacturing companies to name a few. Although I focused on the sales to delivery line of business, the technology service provider industry has many lines of business to improve with capture technology. A recent customer commented that as a result of Zia Consulting’s recommended capture technology deployment “32% more hours are now dedicated to value-add activities.”
As exciting as capture technology is, I look forward to diving into additional areas of digital transformation and content management in future blog posts following the line of business to address other key areas. I know that most service providers have legacy systems and often multiple systems as a result of company acquisition and understand that the complete replacement of these legacy systems is often too much of an undertaking or would be disruptive to the business. I will focus on solutions that can be easily deployed alongside, or over the top of, existing platforms in a way to unify these legacy systems to significantly improve process and serve clients. The topics I will cover in this series are:
- Workflows: Taking captured data and using automated workflows to improve processing and approvals
- Managing multiple content repositories: The ability to remove swivel chair activity with a single content pane of glass
- Security, governance, compliance, and retention solutions
- Audit and Analytics: The monthly recurring revenue model—contracts, billing, receivables, commissions, spiffs, COGS—quickly account for every penny with minimal resources and automated actions
I hope that you have found this blog informative. If you are an executive responsible for data management at your company, or a key stakeholder for a line of business that could benefit from the technology outlined in my blogs, please do not hesitate to contact me, or the Zia team, with feedback or questions.