ECM, One Repository, and the Key Role of Classification

By Bryant Duhon posted 01-23-2013 16:19


In this AIIM 2013 Q&A, Lance Shaw talks about the need to consolidate information as much as possible. One tip, try to consolidate on as few products as possible moving forward. Plus, if you’re not paying attention to classification; you’re content is never going to be effective as it could – and should – be.

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Lance Shaw is the Principal Product Marketing Director for Oracle WebCenter Content. Lance is responsible for outbound evangelism, product messaging and positioning, thought leadership and social media marketing. Lance has over 16 years of experience in product marketing and technical product management, focusing on enterprise content management and collaboration solutions. Follow him on Twitter: @ltshaw711.

Duhon: What is the most important thing to get right when effectively managing information/content?

Shaw: With information growth continuing to grow at an exponential rate year after year, organizations face a number of challenges. For most organizations, the most important thing to get right is to address the needs on the user or consumption side of the equation. To be sure, administrative, compliance, and storage cost concerns must be addressed. But, the biggest challenge is to provide everyday users with the information they need, when they need it, and within the context of their particular business application or physical location.

This is not as simple as it might sound. We’ve all had that “where is that file” moment in our daily lives. When it comes to managing critical business content, ensuring that the right version of a particular file is readily available can mean the difference between costly delays and timely efficiency savings. A unified or limited number of information repositories that are integrated directly within business processes and provide access across mobile and desktop devices can make all the difference.

Duhon: We’ve been talking about information silos in this industry for at least two decades; how do we move from talking to doing?

Shaw: Eliminating information silos has been the ideal scenario for many years. But the reality is that over time, organizations take on new technologies for information management but are unable or unwilling to wean themselves from the earlier, now legacy, technologies. Eventually a company may find itself with several different content management systems, each still used by one or more departments for a vital business function. Software vendors periodically attempt to address this problem with new technologies that often end up adding additional layers of complexity. IBM Lotus Notes and Microsoft SharePoint are popular examples of collaboration and information sharing tools that instead of delivering on the promise of simplified content management, have over time magnified the information silo conundrum for most organizations.

Since content migration is frequently difficult or prohibitively expensive, the best opportunity for making actual progress on this front is for organizations to standardize on one ideal repository moving forward. When this is not possible, the goal should be to minimize and reduce the number of content repositories for all business applications moving forward. Using application integration frameworks and connectors, this new standard repository must be leveraged within the context of as many business processes as possible – which means that finding the right information management system that aligns with your overall business strategy is one of the leading selection criteria.

Stopping the creation of new information silos is job one. Then over time, business processes and applications can be updated to take advantage of this new repository and legacy systems can be put into maintenance mode where older information is still accessible but no new content is being added. This takes time, proper planning, and a firm hand at the wheel that helps minimize distractions created by the latest shiny new technology in order to drive information management costs down over time.

Duhon: Is a unified repository always the best choice, even if possible?

Shaw: A unified repository is the ideal in a world without organizational boundaries and no limitations on global bandwidth. For some organizations with a hierarchical and centralized management structure, a unified repository helps everyone know where to look for information, minimizes access and connection points, and helps keep costs at their lowest.

While a unified repository might be the ideal choice, the business realities of a global infrastructure combined with data access and sovereignty concerns can make it next to impossible. For these scenarios, the goal is to minimize the number of repositories being used across the organization, continually look for opportunities to reduce the number of systems being used, and deploy common information management policies across systems as much as possible, allowing for regional or country-specific governance requirements. This requires a centralized approach to information management, even if the size and scope of your organization demand separate physical repositories.

Duhon: Will the ability to farm out content to the cloud create more silos?

Shaw: Without proper information management policies and procedures in place, the Cloud could easily become the next information silo (or set of silos) for many companies. Content gets moved to a different location to address access issues and information management or administrative costs, but the net effect is that your important information is now being stored in more repositories than it was before. The information management challenges remain the same whether cloud or on-premise content repositories are being used. A centralized approach to the overall management of the information, regardless of physical location, can help reduce the tendency for organizations to have multiple cloud repositories. Because the cloud can be directly accessible to individual departments or sub-organizations, information management professionals have to be out in front of this movement, providing business users with the cloud access they need as it is warranted but with an eye towards keeping repositories to a minimum and coordinating content management policies.

Duhon: Can you describe the relationship between business analytics and content management?

Shaw: Applying analytics to the information being stored within a content management system can pay some significant dividends. Since 80% or more of information is “unstructured content” (files, images, reports, contracts, forms, etc.), being able realize trends in the information being used and better understand the meaning of the terms and phrases being used can radically improve how that information is subsequently used. When you couple this with the fact that the amount of information is growing exponentially for most companies, you quickly realize that finding the right content quickly will increasingly rely on analytics as a critical augmentation to full-text indexing.

In addition to helping internal users with content location and analysis, analytics can offer a significant improvement in the user experience being delivered to customers when they visit your website to locate information. By being able to better ascertain what customers are looking for in their queries and intelligently deliver the right content, more customers can be served more efficiently and the user experience is enhanced due to how quickly they were able to find the desired information.

Duhon: Talk a little bit about “lifecycle management.” The concept is not new, yet it seems hardly anyone is doing this well or effectively.

Shaw: Simply put, the concept of Content Lifecycle Management involves the coordinated, planned management of content from the day it enters the system by creation or capture, how it is classified, where it is stored, how it is accessed, and how long it lives (and in what form and location). So there are quite a few steps! And there lies the problem for many organizations – the coordination across these steps in the content lifecycle is not there. For example, content may be captured and ingested quite efficiently, but there are no disposition policies resulting in a never-ending pile of unneeded (or potentially dangerous!) content being kept needlessly. I would say however that for many organizations the single biggest stumbling block is related to the proper classification of information so that they truly know what they have and hence, how it should be handled. Oracle offers technology to automate the ingestion and classification of content for just this reason – it’s a key consideration in making the lifecycle of content in an organization complete. One thing is for sure; simply throwing more and more physical storage at the problem is no longer the answer!

Duhon: Oracle is still using the term “Enterprise Content Management” rather than enterprise information management or content management as other companies are starting to shift to. What’s in a name (or terminology in this case) and what’s next for ECM in 2013?

Shaw: A variety of different terms have been used by different ECM vendors over the years and Oracle is no exception. In past years, we used the term “UCM” or Universal Content Management as a term to help customers understand the differentiated capabilities of Oracle software and that it can be used to manage virtually any kind of content. Oracle has come back to the ECM acronym to describe the content management capabilities of WebCenter because it has proven to be the most recognized and established of terms by customers looking to get their content management costs under control. So while different vendors may use variations on the term, the underlying customer needs are the same – to get all content, in all of its forms under control whether that be Web content, social content, transactional content, and much more.

As for ECM in 2013, the fundamental approach for most companies will be a continuing focus on cost reduction as they look for the best possible financial position to make the most of a slowly recovering global economy. This means that ECM will increasingly be used as a way to drive process efficiencies, minimize reliance on paper, deliver secure mobile access, better satisfy (and keep!) customers via an optimized experience, and reduce costs through more complete integrations and new deployment models, including Cloud. Simply stated, ECM utilization will be a continuing evolution that enhances the bottom line through 2013 and beyond.

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