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The critical role of enterprise content management in digital transformation

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Many organizations are talking about digital transformation, but there is not a strong consensus on what that means. This is understandable; a digital transformation for a retailer is not the same as one for a hospital or for a manufacturer. However, they all have some elements in common, such as a vision for creating an organizational environment in which information and processes flow smoothly, the ability to meet the unique needs of each recipient, and a desire for interactions to be as automated as possible so humans can focus on the business tasks that require their creativity.

Digital transformation represents a cultural and organizational change as well as an operational one. It should reflect a different way of doing things that goes beyond the technologies that may be employed to effect these changes. “Sometimes organizations are too tactical in their thinking,” said John Mancini, CEO of Content Results, which specializes in research and consulting on topics related to enterprise content. “Many process innovations are worthwhile, but they are not necessarily transformative. Transformation should be viewed holistically, with an understanding that the content side, the process side, and the governance side are all related.”

Content is at the heart of digital transformation, not only because it constitutes the information resources that need to be managed, but because it supports more advanced functions associated with transformation, such as personalization and AI-driven chatbots. “It’s also important to remember that you can’t do the transformative things until you address the basics,” commented Mancini. This involves keeping the big picture in mind while also managing the details.

A broad vision of transformation

Headquartered in Columbus, Ind., Cummins is a global Fortune 500 company that designs, manufactures, distributes, and services a broad portfolio of power solutions. The company’s products range from diesel and natural gas engines to hybrid and electric platforms, as well as powertrain-related technologies, including battery systems, fuel systems, emission solutions, and electrical power generation systems. It serves customers in about 190 countries and territories through a network of approximately 600 company-owned and independent distributor locations.

Given its expansive reach and large volume of corporate information, Cummins saw considerable value in launching a major digital transformation. As part of this initiative, Cummins decided to consolidate its internal content in one companywide enterprise content management (ECM) system. The company selected the SharePoint platform from Microsoft as the best match for its needs, and developed a carefully thought-out and comprehensive plan. “Digital transformation is now occurring across all of our business units,” said Charley Barth, global director of ECM at Cummins. “Our CIO oversees mission-critical information system resources and leads the IT activities required for the transformation.”

Included in the vision for Cummins’ digital transformation is the ECM-driven initiative to automate paper-based processes and go paperless by 2025, which will in turn eliminate the need for paper storage. From a knowledge management viewpoint, standardizing across the enterprise allows content to be leveraged more effectively. “We want to treat our unstructured content as an asset that can be used to build knowledge and strengthen collaboration,” Barth commented. “Digital transformation also means putting tools in place that help us provision and govern our IT tools to ensure that we are adhering to global and internal regulations.”

Cummins established a three-tiered approach that supports management of individual files through OneDrive, team files through the Cummins Connect corporate portal, and records files in a digital records center. In addition, the company uses Box for external collaboration, as external users do not have access to the SharePoint content. Adobe Acrobat is used for electronic signatures and e-forms management. “This configuration of tools ensures that our employees, who are distributed throughout the world, can access the materials they need, and collaborate efficiently,” noted Barth.

Cummins’ digital transformation has allowed the company to deploy a virtual archive of critical records that can be accessed from any device and any location. It has also allowed workers to share files with external partners in a user-friendly, intuitive environment that puts security wrappers around each document. “Information governance and the ability to adhere to our internal information policies has been a huge benefit,” explained Barth. “In addition to having a new content management environment, we are now able to provide a global solution that can connect to our legacy applications and embed our information governance policies. Retention, classification, and information handling can now be easily configured across the enterprise.” Electronic signature capabilities and e-forms design can be used by all employees without their having to understand coding or using confusing interfaces.

Cummins leadership knows that in order to compete, it needs to be agile both in its product development and the way it manages its information. “As we move toward a cloud-first, mobile-first strategy, we will need to provide the latest technology to our front-line employees and leaders. Our top goals for content management are to ensure security of our information assets, increase knowledge throughout the company, and strengthen collaboration between our employees and stakeholders. We will look carefully at any tool or platform that helps us to move toward those goals while minimizing costs,” said Barth.

The company has an employee experience review that helps assess software solutions before they go into production. “Ensuring we provide everyone the tools they need to accomplish their respective missions is at the forefront of our designs for the future,” said Barth. “Enhancements to our video/audio conferencing, external file sync and share, and governance tools will be a constant evolution.”

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