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Smart Digital Content Platform

Why does the ECM software industry need to change? – Part 3 Supplier dependency

Below, I list what situations or common practices in the ECM software industry can and should change to improve our customers' experience.
¿Por qué la industria del software ECM debe cambiar? - Parte 3 La dependencia del proveedor / ECM software industry
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Veronica Meza

Continuing the series of articles on why the ECM software industry needs to change, in this new instalment I am going to analyse a common situation in our industry and in the software industry in general:

(If you missed the previous instalments, the link is at the end of the article).

An industry in which you are supplier-dependent

To be honest, we have seen some ridiculous things in the ECM software industry in this regard. For example, we have seen quotes of 6,000 USD for adding a field to a form, how hard can it be to add a field? But of course, the user who needs the field can’t add it himself, he has to order it from the supplier and the supplier has the right to set his price even if it is frankly abusive.

If you have specific needs – and everyone has them because you can use a document manager as it comes from the factory but you lose 90% of the power of having this type of software – you have a problem: you depend on a supplier to customise the platform.

In many cases, the customisation of ECM platforms involves the use of XML files that are not complex for a technical user, but for a business user they would be hell.

Other tools in our sector, in order to solve the customisation problem, have had to create separate tools that generate the necessary code to customise the document manager. The problem with these ‘customisers’ is – probably due to the complexity of the systems they customise – that they tend to be unintuitive or difficult for business users to understand.

The reality of most of the most popular ECM software tools is that they have been designed by developers to be customised by developers.

The impact of supplier dependence

  • Your company will go at the speed of the provider and not at the speed of the business users. They will set the cost and time to solve your needs.

  • Indefensibility: In Enterprise environments, ECM platforms often become the backbone of the company’s IT infrastructure. This means that at some point you will necessarily require changes, adjustments, functionalities. If you can’t do the developments in-house, you have no choice but to accept whatever the vendor asks you to do.

Of course, there is an alternative, which is to build an in-house technical team specialising in the platform you use. Problems:

  • Costs: having a team of IT people dedicated to a platform is not exactly cheap.
  • Market situations: for example, in the last 5 years we have seen a shortage and a very high turnover of technical profiles in the sector. Now it seems that this is starting to change, but in any case, we are talking about highly specialised staff.
  • Apprenticeship: if you find a specialist in the platform you are working with and you can hire him/her, this person will not have to learn the technology. It will be expensive, of course, but you will save on training costs. Otherwise, you will have to pay the toll of learning the equipment, which may be in time, money or trouble.

THIS SHOULD NOT BE THE CASE. So when we made the decision – a risky one, to say the least – to build an ECM platform in a sector full of very big fish, and to stop implementing other third-party platforms, we made a number of design and policy commitments:

  • Make it a low-code product: once the end-user understands the basics of the platform, they can quickly configure their business processes.
  • Make training free: Athento customers can access to learn themselves how to configure the platform to meet their needs.
  • Eliminate deployment problems: the fact that users can add a field in less than a minute and see it directly in the user interface and if they don’t like it they can delete it without having to deploy, restart, or put the world on standby, is priceless.
  • Speed: the product is designed so that a process can be configured quickly. Hot, without reboots. You do it and you see the result. If the customer’s IT policies allow it, even directly on production. Do you have a new process that you would like to digitalise? Create a new team in Athento and configure it yourself right now!

In this sense, the reader of this article might object that the customisation possibilities are probably very limited. Our company has always worked in Enterprise environments, with many applications, in which, on many occasions, the client has transferred to Athento the burden of solving what was not achieved in other applications (read business cores, CRMs, ERPs, etc.). We could not afford to design software that was not extensible and flexible, which would have been easier for us. Therefore, Athento also has a development framework that allows technical users to customise the platform in terms of automatisms, integrations, front-end, security and other aspects.

In addition to the reality of our clients, the reality of our own company has led us to develop a low-code application. Athento is a small company BY CHOICE. Between our staff in Spain and Colombia, we do not have more than 30 employees. We cannot – and do not want to – live off professional services. We have taken away the complex of being small with years of experience and specialisation in this sector. In these 18 years we have learned to value our freedom, sustainability and economic independence. To make decisions that align with our values and the way we see the world. It was not always like that and we had to learn from the sticks we were dealt by reality. In conclusion, the reality of our customers and our company have shaped our product, and one of the characteristics of that shape is that our customers must be autonomous to customise the product, by technical users, but above all, by those who know the business best and who, therefore, are the ones who can build the best solutions to their technological challenges.

Don’t miss the last installment soon.