This article appears in the Fall 2018 magazine issue of DOCUMENT Strategy. Subscribe.

Image by: Martin Barraud, ©2018 Getty Images

The lack of information technology (IT) professionals within the enterprise, the huge costs associated with professional services, and the lengthy amount of time invested in large implementations are all topics that worry many large organizations. This is because the cost of these projects—not only the direct costs but also the reputational and organizational ones—is significant. However, what if we considered the below possibilities:
  • We could create the final code for a solution based solely on the business model
  • This code is fully automatic
  • We could insert manual code for some nitty-gritty situations
  • The code generator already controlled the manual code
  • The software modules could be reused in different projects
  • The code could be created for whatever standard technology the customer needs
Ok, let's put this into some context. The market is flooded with all sorts of software solutions for document management, process management, financial management, human resource management, and so on—each with greater or less adaptability to the customer’s business model. At the end of the day, the fact is that either customers will adapt to the software’s capabilities or spend a huge amount on professional services to customize the product for their needs.

This growing requirement for professional services has led to a clear shortage in IT professionals. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), IT staff was ranked the second most difficult job to fill in 2016. Furthermore, in their “2018 Talent Shortage Survey,” Manpower Group also reported that the US, Europe, and some areas in the East are still having difficulties filling IT jobs.

For any organization, whether public or private, what’s really important is the business information model. There are three main components to this model:
  • Data Modeling: This is where one identifies the different elements of data needed to manage the organization and how they relate to one another. This model should be built by someone that’s high enough in the organization to have a good bird's-eye view of the data for making effective decisions.
  • Interface Modeling: This is where one defines how the data will be presented to the user. Interfaces are very important, because at their heart, they largely define how user-friendly a solution will be. The interface model includes the forms that dictate how information will be laid out on the screen as well as the menus and submenus that may exist.
  • Process Modeling: Business processes are one of the fundamental parts of an organization’s business rules, and they define how information flows around the enterprise. No matter the process, it is necessary to provide a deep consideration for the task itself, the people involved, and the conditional circuits. Therefore, process modeling should be drafted by those in charge of departments.
The problem arises when there’s a shortage of IT staff to implement and code these models for the business. The larger the project is, the more relevant this problem will become. If you’re a small to medium-sized business, an out-of-the-box solution should perform just fine, since these companies will allow for some adaptability.

However, government projects or multi-national corporations require centralized management in order to maintain key performance indicators (KPIs) for the whole group or country. This often leads to huge implementation times and the high cost of professional services.

Yet, what if solutions could be generated by non-programmers, or generated to accommodate the real business models, and could be built to upgrade obsolete systems by capturing their functionality and user interface, thus, avoiding all sorts of change management issues?

Today, the arrival of automatic programming approaches for code generation and low-code development platforms brings a whole new perspective to how we implement document management solutions and their integration with our existing data needs. In government, healthcare, banking, or management, it is a new paradigm worth exploring.

Joao Penha-Lopes specializes in document management since 1998. He holds two postgraduate degrees in document management from the University Lusofona (Lisbon) and a PhD from Universidad de Alcala de Henares (Madrid) in 2013, with a thesis studying the economic benefits of electronic document management (EDM). He is an ARMA collaborator for publications and professionally acts as an advisor on critical information flows mostly for private corporations. Follow him on Twitter @JoaoPL1000.
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