Records management is a rapidly evolving field with the influx of digital content that records managers must steward.  The challenge isn’t just managing electronic records, but non-records, content and other data as all information needs to be governed because all information provides risk because of many factors such as e-discovery, data breaches and so much more.  For this reason, I decided to review “Doing Digital Right: How Companies Can Thrive In The Next Digital Era,” by Louis Lamoureux.   It is important for records managers to understand how companies are implementing digital solutions to prepare for the upcoming challenges.

This book is primarily about digital disruption and how to be prepared for it.  Lamoureux sets the stage by talking about how computers and the internet changed how businesses function in the first digital next.  Next, he looks at key digital technologies in the second digital age, those technologies include social, mobile, analytics, cloud (SMAC stack) and big data.  He also discusses how the second digital age is evolving into the third digital age with technologies such as machine learning, internet of things, robotics, artificial language, natural language processing, machine learning and computer vision.  With this foundation set he goes on to describe how the technologies in third digital age can improve products, processes and the customer journey.

The bulk of the book deals with technology in the third digital age so many of the pertinent works that Lamourex references are not books, but web pages and journal articles from 2016 and onwards.  Some of the web pages and journal that Lamourex references is Forbes, Harvard Business Review, ZD Net, Wall Street Journal and CSO Online to name a few.  Lamourex also extensively cites his own research for the book.  His research includes examining five years of annual reports (2011 through 2015) of over 400 companies to analyze any correlations between digital initiatives and business performance.  The companies included in his research primarily came from Standard and Poor’s 500 index and to ensure Canadian representation he also included 20 of the largest companies on the Toronto Stock Exchange.  He describes his methodology this way:

To identify the extent to which each company was undertaking digital initiatives, we examined annual reports for mentions of words associated with such initiatives and activities.  This research was conducted in a manner akin to sentiment analysis, which corporations undertake to learn what customers are saying about that. We took the number of mentions as an indication of the company’s digital activity (Lamourex, 2017, Location No. 318).

Whether in first digital, second digital or third digital, the one constant with companies that successfully use digital technology is to have a vision which involves using technology to make better products, achieve process improvement and make things easier for the customer.  Doing digital right means having a vision of positive business outcomes which is achieved through having business uses that incorporate digital technologies to improve products, processes and the customer journey.

In setting a vision for doing digital in an organization Lamourex believes it’s important for an organization to identify if they offer a differentiated product or a commodity product.  A differentiated product is some type of tool or something tangible that a consumer would buy.  With differentiated products disruption is likely to occur when building a better product using digital tools.  In regard to internal processes and the customer journey disruption is possible, but doesn’t have as high of a return on investment.  An example that Lamourex gives for disruption with a differentiated product is with luggage that can be locked and unlocked with a mobile device or your fingerprint, luggage that is self-propelling and will stay within six inches of its owner and luggage that can check itself in at the airport.  Lamourex lists two types of commodity products in which disruption is likely, the first involves lowering cost through improving internal processes and the second is creating a smoother customer journey for the consumer.  An example of lowering cost through improving internal products is in financial services where artificial intelligence reduce manual effort in areas such as financial advice and basic legal services.  An example of making the customer journey easier is in meal delivery by using robotics, predictive ordering, autonomous delivery and en-route preparation so that customers can receive prepared food quicker and easier.

One of the things that I found helpful about the book is how it laid out digital vision questions.  If you want to use digital technologies to maximize the value of a differentiated product you should ask yourself, “What digital technology or information is valuable to customers and should be embedded into our products or provided as a service?”  If you want to use digital technologies to improve processes by minimizing the cost and effort you should ask yourself, “How do we minimize movement and automate processes and make them faster, more reliable and lower cost?”  If you want to use digital technology to enhance the customer journey you should ask yourself, “How can digital make the customer processes such as ordering, receiving, getting service, and using the products easier?”

Working in records manager for a registered investment advisor this quote particularly hit close to home as it showed how technology is changing the industry:

In the area of compliance, banks are using Natual Language Processing and machine learning to automate compliance to deal with increasing regulatory requirements. These types of artificial intelligence are helping track money laundering, sanction list monitoring, and billing fraud.  Companies are moving toward automated and continuous monitoring and the ability to report compliance at any moment. Dashboards include real-time analytics on enterprise risk and compliance. Regulatory and legal requirements are on the increase. Having more digital assets means more tracking of those assets. Records management requirements include digital as well as physical assets. The SMAC technologies, the rapid pace of innovation, and the increased collaboration with external parties have all complicated risk and compliance management (Lamourex, 2017, Location No. 1,589).

I believe this book can be particularly helpful for records managers as Lamourex talks a lot about internal process improvement.  With records management involving more workflow and business process management it is important to understand how digital tools can be leveraged to get critical information to the right places and faster as well ensuring it is authentic, auditable and preservable.

My one complaint about the book is that the author didn’t spend more time talking about governance.  He closes the book saying, “The execution plan must include necessary governance,” but he doesn’t go into any specifics.  The most successful digital initiative will lose the majority of its return on investment if no one is held accountable the data or if the data isn’t managed properly so it doesn’t start to lost money over time from becoming redundant, obsolete and trivial.  Overall, I enjoyed “Doing Digital Right” and believe it is a valuable read for anyone in information governance who wants to know what is on the horizon and will give them talking points about the third digital age and how to prepare for it from an information governance standpoint.