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Information Evolution

Last week I attended the Open Text Content World Annual Conference and something I don’t normally specifically think much about hit me right between the eyes…the importance of knowing the right information. Not too many years back, business decisions were mostly based on either a conversation or a written narrative. Information generated internally and information gather externally was extremely limited. While radio greatly expanded verbal communication; television adds the visual. Still information that formulated enterprise content limited effective business decisions. Now we have the computer, networks, web and the cloud. We are adrift in a sea of meta data, searching for information!

Information or Meta Data

What one person has distilled from their vast sea of meta data as information may only be a single data point to another person. If we are not diligent, our decisions may be driven by incorrect, incomplete or irrelevant information. At Content World, there were thousands of individuals sharing information…through direct conversations, social networks and video. Just as these individuals must determine what information is important to them, corporations must undergo the same process.

SAP and Information

ERPs such as SAP provide the ability to break down business information at the most granular meta data level and then provide transactions to compile and visualize the meta data into meaningful business processes such as financial processes. When you combine the SAP structure with the vast unstructured associated documentation, one begins to wonder how any corporation effectively manages the content not to mention accessing the correct information when making financial decisions. I venture that most of us have made a less than good business decision and when confronted we respond with…”I did not know about that” or “when did the procedure change” or “no one told me”…sound familiar?

My Personal Journey

Much of my business journey in the financial world has occurred with not enough information. Now like many of you the pendulum has swung and I have more information than I can possible ever use, so how do I find my way? The answer is Enterprise Content Management. It is relating supporting documentation to financial transactions, it is utilizing business rules that ensure the right information if available to the right person at the right time. Open Text ECM combined with SAP connects the dots so that financial decisions I once made based on very limited information is now based on relevant, timely and fully accessible up to date information. I find myself asking “where have you been all my life”.

Examples

If the CFO reports to the external stakeholders that the company profit has improved this sounds great if you have no other information. If you can quickly determine how it compares with past years, how it compares to competition, are there legal or tax issues or has a merger impacted the results…your decisions may change from great to something else.

Another example is if a vendor bills you and you think the price or quantity delivered is incorrect, you need to know all the information related to the transaction. SAP Invoice Management by Open Text is one example of the financial tools available to optimize the financial process. On the flip side when a customer disputes a billing, similar documentation is required to prove the billing is correct. Having access to the non structured emails, delivery tickets and such combined with a rule driven electronic communication results in an a decision based on all the information, not just a best guess at the time.

So, it appears to me that the problem is not We Know Too Much rather we need to utilize the proper tools like SAP, Open Text ECM, social networks, e-books and yes even person to person conversations that enable us to make effective business decisions.

For more information on SAP and Open Text see… http://www.sap.com/community/ebook/2011_SAP_Opentext/en/index.epx

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