A graduate of the Institut des Sciences et Technologie at the Ecole polytechnique universitaire Pierre et Marie Curie, Michel Rauche began his career as a Design Engineer at Syseca, subsequently moving on to become a Project Director at Télésystèmes, a post he left to take over as Director of the Networks and Systems subsidiary of Excel Engineering. In 1992, he joined Bull’s Engineering subsidiary and took over as Director of the Messaging and Exchange Systems group. He then moved to Bull Group head office to become Director of the Intranet Business Unit. He is currently responsible for pre-sales operations in the Bull France Sales Division, as well as overseeing the commercial development of Bull’s ILM (Information Lifecycle Management) offering.
From on-line form filling to digital archiving, the transformation of physical business processes into paperless exchanges is an increasing wide-ranging field. Bull works on a very broad spectrum of these kinds of projects, for public and private sector customers alike, which we tend to define under the broad term of ‘dematerialization’: effectively, the act of transforming physical document flows, and everything that is done to them during their lifecycle, into purely digital processes.
This process relies on IT applications at every stage: in the acquisition and creation of information, its management, exchange and distribution, preservation and restitution. Over the whole information lifecycle, a wide range of tools are often linked to the concept of dematerialization including optical character recognition (OCR), electronic document management, workflow management, portals, search engines, archiving systems… However, implemented individually, none of these is capable of delivering all the benefits that you might expect from a full-scale dematerialization project. In effect, any point where the processing of an electronic document is interrupted – where it ends up having to be printed out or re-input – can have a very significant impact on the benefits that would otherwise be achieved. Which is why the biggest challenge in any dematerialization project is to tackle the issue holistically, to harmoniously and effectively integrate all the various stages of the information lifecycle: a concept usually known as Information Lifecycle Management (ILM).
A huge variety of benefits can come from dematerialization, many of them quite significant. There are noticeable cost benefits too: processing a paper invoice costs between €12 and €15, while an electronic one is less than €2. And businesses today spend an average of 10% of their turnover on managing paper documents, which are copied 19 times on average and typically one in 20 of them is lost. As well as the considerable savings and environmental benefits involved when less paper is used (the cost of printing, storage space, handling…), exchanges become more fluid, information is easier to find very quickly, the quality, integrity and durability of data are preserved… all benefits that combine to improve an organization’s efficiency. Customers get faster and more reliable responses. Users waste less time looking for information or manipulating it, so they can concentrate on tasks that add much more value to their business. And from operational control to product innovation or risk management, the whole organization can make better use of its information assets. This combination of advantages makes ILM especially attractive and it is no coincidence that it is the fastest growing aspect of computing today and that, in France dematerialization is explicitly highlighted as one of the challenges for the State public policy revision program (the RGPP or Révision Générale des Politiques Publiques) and the Digital France 2012 plan.
Bull has been supporting both public and private sector organizations in their approaches to dematerialization, as a systems integrator and software publisher, for over two decades. Combined with the rich wealth of technical and business know-how within the Group, this experience means Bull is in an excellent position to offer a global approach that effectively tackles the challenges and specific demands of dematerialization. In particular, during the course of its work in this area, Bull has identified the key success factors for ILM projects.
A corporate project
The sheer scale of the potential benefits, the extent of the changes it involves and the diversity of the business areas and employees who will ultimately be affected mean that ILM/dematerialization projects should ideally be driven from the highest level in the organization. In particular, visible support from senior management is essential to understand the cultural aspects of these initiatives, which can sometimes elicit strong resistance. Dematerialization often affects the most mundane of tasks and deeply rooted habits. It not only introduces concepts of efficiency, but also opportunities that require explanation and transparency. And if users do not feel a sense of ownership for the new tools, if they still print out electronic records in an effort to replicate their paper filing system, then not only the benefits but also the whole credibility of the approach will be called into question. Which is why Bull insists on the importance of change management and supports organizations throughout this whole process, starting as early as possible with awareness-building, communication, training, documentation, support… Capitalizing on its specific expertise in trend-spotting and business intelligence, Bull can also help extend ILM projects, to develop more efficient research practices and better ways of utilizing information that is already available.
A business project
For Bull, dematerialization is far from just a question of transposing existing documents and processes into digital form. The room for maneuver that it opens up and the possibilities offered by the tools used call for much broader organizational and operational thinking, often crossing different functional boundaries. Because it restructures processes and ways of working, a dematerialization project is essentially a business project. The way that working groups are organized and the involvement of all stakeholder departments (operational, legal, security, archiving, IT…) right from the early specifications, are essential to ensuring that the project goes well. Bull itself approaches dematerialization with a sector-specific focus (local authorities, healthcare, defense…) to help each organization consolidate and respond to all the organizational, operational and regulatory challenges of ILM. This last issue, in particular, is fundamentally important: moving to a computerized system brings up major questions of compliance and security that are specific to each sector and business area, and Bull has develop recognized expertise in regulatory issues precisely so that it can take these issues fully into account. Finally, considering the project from the business angle ensures that the right kind of attention is paid to how it the system will be used and its ergonomic aspects, which is essential if the solution is to take its natural place among the everyday tools used by the business. For example, a one-stop shop approach might be favored to help centralize access to information or archiving as a function of the possible way that documents will be used, rather than as a result of where they came from.
A services integration project
ILM projects do not generally involve a huge amount of development work or very high levels of technical expertise, and the processes that are implemented are rarely complex. On the other hand, from data capture to archiving, these projects are characterized by great technical, organizational and regulatory diversity. They call on numerous skills and a heterogeneous range of tools that have to be seamlessly combined. So a dematerialization project is really a services integration project, whose success depends above all on clear organization and objectives. The risks of losing the thread in this process are proportional to the possibilities it offers: if the need is not clearly expressed, if the specification is not precise enough, if the business is not convinced of the benefits of the solution and involved in developing it, there is a risk that it will become simply an ‘IT’ project and end up with all the pain of a system that the organization has turned its back on. Bull positions itself as a single point of contact, which understands and manages all the parameters, to help program managers and contracting authorities establish shared objectives and reach them together.
A project focused on the future
Just like archiving solutions, which have to be considered over the very long term (to enable the reconstruction of whole career paths or archives with a historical value, for example), ILM systems have to last and therefore also to evolve as usage, technology and regulations change. So scalability is one of the essential characteristics of a dematerialization solution, which must be capable of taking into account new services, new management rules and new legal constraints. Experience also shows that successful implementations often have a knock-on effect and that the system gradually expands. For example, having put a training management process in HR on line, you can then move on to appraisals, then holidays, payroll… You also have to plan for regulatory changes, and Bull (which plays an active role in the standards committees set up, for example, by AFNOR, the French standards organization), is ideally placed to take any modifications into account immediately.
Finally, security is another essential aspect of ILM solutions and a key challenge for the future. By putting in place appropriate rules and security mechanisms, you create the conditions for the durability, integrity and confidentiality of information. The more that processes are computerized, the greater the need to build trust; and delivering proven security solutions, such as those implemented by Bull, are essential proof of this.
In response to all these challenges, Bull offers a comprehensive range of services to provide end-to-end assistance for public sector bodies and private businesses alike: awareness-building, proof-of-concept (POC), support for contracting authorities, systems integration, operational and outsourcing services, qualification audits… Bull can also call on its industry-leading technology partners including EMC Documentum, Microsoft, Alfresco, Maarch, Cimail, Itesoft, BSV and others, and business partners such as Démat Concept Services, as well as all its internal expertise (StoreWay for storage, Evidian for security, Coriolis and Genesis for local authorities, Open Source…) to provide all the hardware, software and consulting components needed to build a complete dematerialization solution, and use it to exploit the full potential of digital information.