by Shahida Sweeney

Cochlear refines digital roadmap

Feb 27, 20154 mins
Collaboration SoftwareSmall and Medium Business

Australian hearing implant company, Cochlear, is refining its digital roadmap with investments in an enterprise content management (ECM) system across core lines of business.

The company is investing in ECM to share knowledge digitally, streamline operations, and manage the cost of information storage across 100 countries and has partnered with OpenText to roll out the solution.

Dr Mark Cotterell, Cochlear’s information architect, told CIO this digital initiative involves taking a closer look at how information is stored, shared and managed in a highly-dispersed business, medical and research environment.

Strategic considerations

The initial investment involves migrating business process documents into digital format, covering company-wide operations. “We’ve had to stand back and take a more strategic look at how enterprise information is managed, especially as we’re a global company,” Cotterell said.

“The evolution and thinking is around information management that adapts to dynamic business needs, especially in a digital economy.”

Over three decades, Cochlear has spearheaded hearing implant innovation, while offering relief to hundreds and thousands of affected people worldwide.

The company’s runaway success is marked by technology innovation and delivering products, from bench to business, in a fiercely competitive and highly-regulated market.

Disparate systems

“We’ve relied on disparate content repositories, and email to collaborate across lines of business,” Cotterell recalled. “This was a major impediment to operational efficiencies. There were barriers to going digital, without a rethink about how information is managed and shared.”

The challenge for Cochlear was its reliance on disparate content repositories, and email as a collaboration tool. Investing in the more intuitive ECM platform helps manage the lifecycle of corporate and medical knowledge.

Digital on-boarding

Success lies in being able to capture, classify, manage, retain, or delete content, as and where needed. “We work in a complex, highly-regulated and dynamic environment,” Cotterell said.

This digital “on-boarding” involves transforming paper-based processes into digital based processes. “A centralised repository makes it easier for work areas to share ideas and improve collaboration,” he said.

“The aim is ensuring globally-dispersed staff, or partners stay connected. This is about improving the flow of information, and innovating as a business.”

Beyond the technology, one challenge lies in changing the cultural mind-set about information or knowledge sharing. “Moreover, digital is not just about scanning and storing a piece of paper,” added Cotterell.

“It’s a total change in mind-set, involving 21st century information needs,” he said.

With headquarters in Sydney, twenty regional offices, and more than 2,700 staff, Cochlear faces challenges with managing reams of information, in different formats, and dispersed business groups.

“We’ve had an exponential growth in data,” added Cotterell. “There’s the cost to store, backup and find information. A tailored enterprise management system enables us to tackle storage and management cost.”

Information on the move

Cochlear’s digital information repository is being hosted at two data centres in Sydney and Orange. There is point-to-point connectivity with global offices. The data can be sourced from desktops or mobile devices, in a highly secure environment.

The company is investing in dedicated security. “We’re governed by stringent regulation, and deal in sensitive patient information,” said Cotterell.

“Digital has a reputation for being less secure. We remain mindful of security in a connected environment.”

OpenText’s global CMO, Adam Howatson, noted there are 3 billion internet users worldwide. “There’re profound changes in how information is managed. This demand is powered by digital content.”

In five to 10 years, the information terrain will be unrecognisable, noted Howatson. “The challenge is going digital – but, also acknowledging needs across highly-regulated sectors.”

OpenText has a customer base of 100,000 globally, including Fortune 500 companies. The company’s footprint encompasses highly-regulated vertical sectors, including government, healthcare, finance, energy and utilities, automotive, and telecoms.

Follow Shahida Sweeney on Twitter: @ShahidaSweeney