Is the cloud’s fatal flaw offering users too much choice?


The last few years have seen an influx of ‘disruptive’ new tech startups entering the marketplace with all sorts of software as a service (SaaS) and app solutions for small businesses and larger enterprises. On the face of it, this is great news. However, the phrase “spoilt for choice” could also apply, and might even be causing paralysis in cloud service adoption.

With regards to document management systems (DMS), centralisation has been the goal for many years; however, the emergence of new tech with broad integration capabilities, such as SAP Modules and buzzy newcomer Slack, are turning that idea on its head.

The diffusion of data, documents and devices is rife these days, so it’s no longer practical for cloud-based document management systems to try to apply rigid rules and processes – after all, the tree that bends with the breeze stands the longest.

The future is flexible

Users will increasingly expect greater flexibility from their DMS (and collaborative tech in general), but what does this actually mean and could more choice end up stifling cloud adoption?

At the end of last year, I made a number of predictions about the future of online document management and concluded that the advent and advance of new tech would displace more established services, but could also muddy the waters for business decision-makers.

The number of different platforms that have surfaced and gained traction within the business world this year is unprecedented. In fact, the continued rise of Enterprise Social Networks (ESN) has been compared to the rise of personal computing in the nineties, in terms of the value gains experienced by full adopters.

So, is a more flexible and diverse document management toolset a good thing, or is it actually leading to some businesses turning away from the cloud in the face of too many options?

Seamless integration is key

The broad range of business process and workflow solutions on offer might seem intimidating, but this can be mitigated somewhat if the various apps integrate with each other in a secure, seamless, straightforward manner. This gives the user the freedom and flexibility to choose the best tool for the job and easily incorporate it into their enterprise content management (ECM) strategy.

Cloud services are designed to help businesses of all shapes and sizes reduce costs, improve collaboration and boost efficiency, which should all have a significant impact on bottom line. Document management systems in particular allow employees to access information wherever and whenever they need to, even simultaneously with their colleagues. The flexibility of the solution means the business itself is able to be more flexible, agile and competitive.

A more collaborative approach

Surely having more choice in the tools available, as well as greater accessibility and mobility, is preferable to the more rigid systems of a decade ago? People are far more likely to work from home nowadays, where they’ll want to access important business information and documents via their smartphone or tablet one day, and see any changes reflected on their office PC the next.

Secure, cloud-based platforms are also highly desirable as they allow freelancers and contractors (with the necessary access privileges) to log in from anywhere in the world and contribute to a project or workflow.

As SaaS and apps designed to facilitate remote working, file sharing and online collaboration begin to proliferate in the corporate world, the document management systems they integrate with will be forced to keep pace, or better yet, get ahead of the curve.

Ultimately, if these tools offer a genuine solution and make life easier for users, the ability to cherry pick from a broad range of options and plug them straight into your existing workflow has to be a good thing.

Security and convenience

The substantial increase in cloud-based DMS, SaaS and ESN adoption highlights how business behaviour is changing and evolving in terms of information management. A bring your own device (BYOD) approach is rapidly becoming the norm for remote interaction and collaboration, which helps promote an ‘always on’ mindset, particularly within startups.

Consumerisation within business will increase as wearable tech and the Internet of Things (IoT) become more pervasive and start to generate valuable data and insight. Taking control away from IT departments and putting it in the hands of the user can be dangerous, but there are advantages. Providing the devices, tools and platforms are secure and appropriate, letting your employees use the technology they’re most comfortable with should improve productivity and satisfaction.

Although they can sometimes appear to be at odds with each other, security and convenience have always been key considerations and that’s unlikely to change any time soon.

The rise of modularity

So is the profusion of disruptive tech really making life difficult for cloud-based DMS providers? Not really, no. It’s keeping us on our toes and forcing us to keep integration at the forefront of our solutions, which can only be good news for users.

Modular business tools, like SAP Business ByDesign, offer a diverse range of SaaS products, catering for project management, human resources, customer relationship management and many other business processes. I suspect modularity will become a staple of the best document management systems, allowing SMEs and enterprises to stack and build flexible, tailored solutions that meet their specific requirements.

I’m not sure if there’s ever been such a thing as a one-size-fits-all DMS package, but new tech with broad integration capabilities means flexibility and choice will be increasingly prized by users in the years to come.