Innovation and Growth for 2020 and Beyond
Every year, Laserfiche, a leader in the process automation and document management software space, hosts a conference that is focused on innovation and growth. Thousands of people from all over the world come to Long Beach, California to learn and network. For those of us in colder climates, the chance to feel the warm sunshine in February has some draw as well.
The conference, though focused on the products and services of Laserfiche, and how they are being used in the marketplace, goes much deeper. The process automation marketplace, or as Gartner refers to it, Content Services Platforms, is a very innovative space, and the conference is a great measure of new technology and its application for organizations all over the globe.
Guy Kawasaki spoke at the keynote and endeared himself to the crowd with very candid stories about his Apple days and his interactions with Steve Jobs. He went on to discuss innovation and his keys to innovating. He stated that innovation is not just taking a step in the right direction. Innovation is a jump to the next curve. He also intoned that it usually means a change of mind. You must consciously shift your thought to the new instead of what has always worked in the past. He also urged the crowd to, “Churn baby, churn.”, as innovation is a never-ending cycle, and it requires a deep focus on change.
To many, innovation is something other people do. It must be waited on, just to make sure that it is safe. The reality is that wherever we fit in business, we have an opportunity to innovate or stand still. Both have their risks and more often in this world of exponential innovation, standing still means falling behind. The conference highlighted many accessible and innovative technologies that are ready to be implemented now. Here are a few of the highlights:
1. Machine Learning – This might be one of those concepts that seems a bit too distant to grasp and use. However, it is accessible right now. Laserfiche has created something they call Smart Capture. Smart Capture uses machine learning to understand semi-structured data and identify fields on a document like an invoice. It eliminates the need to key in invoice information to your accounting system. While there are other products that do this and have done this for a long time, Laserfiche is using the developing technology, machine learning, to do it in an efficient and quite innovative way. Coming soon are more Smart Capture customizations to handle things like Contracts and HR documents.
2. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) – RPA has been the hype in the market for the last couple of years. Laserfiche has created an interesting toolset that is now released that allows us to very quickly, in a “no code” way, automate simple tasks that previously would have been boring, repetitive tasks for an employee. For instance, in the example above with an invoice payment process, if we can automatically recognize the data, we can then use RPA to feed the data into our accounting screens and automate the entry. Anything that involves moving data between two systems is relatively easy to automate. Simple action recorders create smart routines, that can then be used repeatedly, in an unattended fashion to run just as if a human were doing it but with even more consistency. Just have the “bot” do it.
3. Electronic Signature Automation – You may be thinking that electronic signing has been around for a long time, and it has. However, one of the product showcases I saw was quite intriguing. The product was OneSpan Signatures, They provided a convincing case, where contract signing could be automated to the point where very little human interaction was necessary. The automated workflow could select the proper contract, fill in the necessary customer specific information, identify the areas for signature, and then send it off for electronic signing in a secure and verifiable way. Once signed, it would store the document, make it searchable, notify the appropriate parties, and complete the process, all the while following up, and making sure nobody forgot to do their part. This is not a new technology, but the automation applied in this instance presented a very complete package and high value to the company using it.
4. Agile Integration – Integration is a broad term, and sometimes one that makes us cringe. In the past, it was often accompanied by a big price tag and lots of discussion about how to make it work. Integration is more a key to innovation than ever before. Different software systems within our organizations need to talk and pass data. Most innovation is targeted at producing operational efficiency, and it is hard to be efficient when your systems don’t share information well. Often sharing of information between systems is done by interfacing with an API, basically requiring someone to develop something with programming. New no-code and low-code tools make the process much simpler. RPA is one of these integration methods, and allows one to record actions, and teach the software bot how to repeat them. Other low-code options allow a designer to access a database by simply filling in some key fields and initiating a workflow action. Integration is easier than ever and really allows us to hand data and actions between systems.
5. Cloud Hosting – We’ve been hearing about cloud for years now. Many of us have moved some things to the cloud. The interesting thing about the cloud is that there are so many ways to host things. We have all probably hosted something using the SaaS (Software as a Service) model. This would be like hosting your email using Office365 or Google, where you pay a monthly or annual fee. It really converts things to a service. You don’t worry about servers, memory, or disk space, you just pay for the service. Not so commonly referred to as IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), more organizations than ever are using the large hosting companies like Microsoft, Amazon and Google to host servers in the cloud. The language is shifting from on-premise to self-hosted. An organization might self-host on their own hardware, or with one of the large cloud vendors. Laserfiche has developed their own cloud hosted SaaS offering, but also has engineered their product to run well on Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS. This aligns well with what we see happening in the technology marketplace. as large cloud vendors have become accessible, affordable, secure and easy to manage.
Empower 2020 gave those who attended a great view of what can be accomplished with new and innovate technology. Laserfiche is all about changing how organizations operate and how process workers perform day to day tasks. CTaccess builds solutions on the Laserfiche platform to automate the tasks that a machine can do, so people can focus on relationships and things that require human intelligence. We are back from the conference with a smile on our face from feeling a little sunshine, but more importantly, excited to help organizations automate and grow in 2020!
Scott Hirschfeld is the President of CTaccess, an Elm Grove IT support company that has been helping small businesses stop focusing on IT and getting back to doing business since 1990. Under his leadership CTaccess provides the business minded approach of larger IT companies with the personalized touch of the smaller ones. Connect with Scott on LinkedIn.