To understand the radical changes that have occurred in the way we store and manage information over the past two decades, one need only look at Sven Behrendt’s career. Twenty five years ago, he was working for a microfilm service provider.
He witnessed the first wave of transformation coming when his employer looked to expand the business with an external partner. Put on the hunt, Sven stumbled upon SER Group, a global leader in enterprise content management (ECM).
Paperless and increasingly digital, ECM was the more sophisticated new kid on the block for organising information. The partnership with SER Group worked out so well that Sven didn’t remain an outsider for very long.
"I had a job interview with the founder, who gave me a four-anda-half-hour lecture on his visions and goals for the next five years. He then asked me, ‘Will you join us?’ I was won over and simply said ‘yes’."
More than two decades later, he is now its COO and Managing Director. According to Sven, the evolution in management has never stopped. "In the beginning, ECM was shaped by hardware providers of technology such as storage devices, scanners and display cards. We were regarded as long-term custodians of information in the IT landscape back then," he says.
"But, over time, ECM has shifted from being a system of records to a system of understanding, in which intelligence – for example, content analytics – plays a central role. Customers no longer want custodians of historical information; they want systems that proactively provide the right business context, based on content and metadata, giving them valuable insights to help them work with greater agility, efficiency and compliance. ECM today serves as an information hub that unites process automation, document management and collaboration services."
Sven prides himself on being a good communicator and counts it as being crucial to success. "I held several positions at SER Group before becoming COO and all of these positions had one thing in common: a lot of direct contact with customers.
"One important lesson I’ve learned over the years is that listening is the foundation of all effective communication." In fact, never has understanding customer requirements been more imperative than now, when default, ready-made products and services are often considered inadequate.
"In recent years, we have been getting more requests for out-of-the-box solutions, especially in software as a service (SaaS) platforms," Sven confirms.
"We have to respond with greater agility to market developments nowadays. Long development times are no longer acceptable." SaaS refers to cloud-based applications that customers can access via the internet browser, removing the need to download software.
SER Group plans to expand its footprint in this market sector. The firm’s agility and willingness to listen to customer needs served it well during COVID-19 pandemic this year when its clients requested a collaboration solution that would enable document-based work to be managed between internal and external remote workers.
Within two weeks, the Doxis4 Universal Workspace, a SaaS platform that could be launched without IT support, was developed. It’s the simpler version of the firm’s flagship Doxis4® iRoom®, which has additional, more complex features such as virtual project rooms and customer portals.
"The feedback from our employees and customers during the pandemic has been very positive," Sven says. "We never missed a beat, which could be attributed to the fact that we are users of our own platform – Doxis4 – and thus were technologically prepared. Our customers noticed no changes; they received the same excellent support. I am immensely proud of how we have all mastered this challenge."
He is confident that because the firm is constantly evolving and successfully anticipating the next industry innovations in intelligent information management, it will never have to go through a disruptive revolution.
One important lesson i’ve learned over the years is that listening is the foundation of all effective communication.
"Right now, we are seeing the rise of enterprise search, which gives users access to information regardless of where it is stored, to easily share knowledge with customers and business partners without losing precious time on searching.
"The biggest change over the next 10 years, however, will come from AI. ECM will be enhanced by the use of AI in information extraction, automation of business processes, language processing, AI-supported decision-making and automated machine learning.
"With these technologies, customer and employee experiences will be boosted and companies can use the information they have to shed light on patterns, risks in their businesses and more. These are all benefits we are offering or plan to offer our clients."