The Innovator’s Dilemma and Records Management in the Cognitive Era

In his seminal 1997 bestselling book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen described how the success of a company’s traditional product offerings can prevent the company from adopting new technologies or business models that meet their customers’ unstated or future needs. In the book, Christensen provides a number of examples where some very successful companies across a wide range of industries – from computer manufacturers to steel mill operators – had become so trapped by their own traditional success that they fail to see new opportunities that rapid advances in technology had created. Instead, smaller, more forward thinking companies recognize these opportunities and leverage what Christensen termed ‘disruptive technologies’ to develop new products that quickly make the old products obsolete. Often putting the much older, much larger companies out of business.

Consider the notion of self-driving cars. Once thought of as science fiction, no one with even the most elementary understanding of technology doesn’t believe that self-driving cars will be part of our lives in the very near future. And these automobiles will eventually generated hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue for companies that manufacture them.

Yet who is committing tremendous resources and spending millions of dollars on the research and development of these cars? Is it GM? Toyota? Honda? No, these companies are perfectly content to sit back and continue to build essentially the same cars they’ve made for the last thirty or forty years. All while dozens of other companies outside of the traditional automobile manufacturing space (including, ironically, tech giants, Google, Amazon and Facebook) have spent billions of dollars hoping to be the first to completely eliminate the human component of the car-driving process.

Right now, information lifecycle management product vendors are deeply entrenched in their own version of the innovator’s dilemma. Sales of expensive, monolithic enterprise content and records management products – developed over decades and based on horribly complex, failed functional methodologies – are in the beginning stages of an irreversible decline. Fewer and fewer organizations are willing to invest hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars to develop solutions that never get adopted by their end users and don’t solve their organization’s expanding information management challenges.

Yet the revenue streams generated by the sales of these legacy information lifecycle products – and the consulting services and maintenance fees customers pay to support them – make it almost impossible for these vendors to accept that progress has simply left their products behind. So these vendors choose to continue to market their products to a dwindling group of customers rather than spending time and money developing the types of innovative solutions that their customers actually need.

Meanwhile, the new Cognitive Era of Business has ushered in amazing advances in analytic technologies and cloud-based computing that allow for the creation of enterprise information lifecycle solutions that leapfrog traditional legacy applications. These solutions are created by agile, free-thinking product companies with functional designers unburdened by the restrictions of adhering to 20-year-old paper-based records management methodologies.

Cognitive Era technologies enable disruptive records management policies that automate virtually every information lifecycle process in the organization. These technologies completely eliminate the records management burden shouldered by the end user. And they allow for the application of retention and disposition on all of an organization’s information – regardless of format – across the entire enterprise.

And unlike solutions created with legacy content and records management products, information lifecycle management solutions that leverage these technologies are capable of managing the massive volume of information being created today. These solutions will save businesses billions of dollars, while simultaneously making them far more efficient.

These next generation records management solutions will revolutionize how we manage information from creation to final disposition. They will show tremendous, almost immediate, return on investment. And they will mitigate risk in ways never before imagined.

Just don’t expect to see them come from the same tired product vendors you’ve worked with over the last few decades…

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