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The Creation of Content Chaos

By Emily Long posted 03-18-2015 19:13


How did we get here?

It’s taken nearly 10 years to arrive at our current state of Content Chaos—perhaps starting back in 2007 when managing compliance/risk began its steady decline as the primary business driver for investments into ECM systems.  At the same, we initiated the rapid growth of collaboration—simplified sharing of documents both internally and externally—as the leading reason for new ECM investments.

If we define content chaos as the inability to properly find, manage, and secure documents and records, it’s clear from virtually every metric that most organizations (if not all) are facing content chaos in 2015.  Whether it’s the amount of time each day that knowledge workers spend searching for documents, or the number of times the wrong version of a document is used, or even the significant investments that companies are forced to make in human capital to staff information governance or records management groups, due to the failure of technology to address these areas.  Not to mention the fact that in the news virtually every week is another Sony Pictures or Anthem, where data or content security is the headline for another enterprise.

So how did we get here?  Today we’ll look at three key areas that helped us create our world of content chaos: ECM Avoidance, the Dropbox Problem, and SharePoint Sprawl.

ECM Avoidance

It’s interesting to consider that all of the “find, manage, and secure” issues of today could possibly have been avoided if the legacy ECM vendors of the past had focused on one simple issue—user adoption.  Instead, we saw an almost myopic focus by users on ECM avoidance, looking for any way to avoid logging into complex and time-consuming ECM systems.  Across virtually every industry, surveys show less than 50% of content is being managed in ECM systems, with utilization numbers of 10% (or less) being not uncommon.

From our own experience, when we started working with one of the world’s largest corporate legal departments, they had nearly all of their content stored in either emails or shared drives. This was because users simply wouldn’t utilize the legal DMS systems that were delivered to them by IT.

Ironically, perhaps the best description of this ECM Avoidance issue comes from in a corporate datasheet way from back in 2011:

Connecting to the ECM system, however, is not all that employees need.  Workers want to easily find, access, and leverage current, relevant content.  They don’t want to work on a sales proposal, marketing collateral, or contract, only to discover a more up-to-date version is out there in email.  And if a system isn’t easy to use and intuitive, email is exactly the place people go first to share their information updates.

Shouldn’t the ECM system have been the exact place that people go to find, access, and leverage current, relevant content?  Of course—but only if it’s intuitive and easy to use.

The Dropbox Problem

Dropbox, and, are obviously another key element of the content chaos seen today in the incredible technology investments and advancements made around simplifying the way that documents are shared—particularly collaboration outside of your organization.

Reviewing the story that is told around the founding of Dropbox, it’s said that the founder developed it while a student at MIT after repeatedly forgetting to bring his USB drive to class.  He tried existing file sharing services but they were too slow, complex or error-prone.  He then formally founded Dropbox in 2007—the same pivotal year noted at the outset when managing compliance/risk started to decline in importance and simplified collaboration began its march.

While these technologies are indeed incredibly easy to use and certainly address the need for simple collaboration, particularly outside the organization, unfortunately this ease of use makes it simple to share virtually anything outside the organization.  Hence, the Dropbox problem became part of the ECM lexicon.  A recent report showed over 35 billion Office documents are stored on Dropbox.  Where did they come from, who are they shared with?

According to Dropbox support documentation: “other users can’t see your files in Dropbox unless you deliberately share links to files or share folders”.  As we’ve seen and heard from many organizations, “deliberately” can also mean “accidentally”.  And whether deliberate or accidental, this simple ability to share large amounts of corporate data (including entire folders or drives), via Dropbox,, or other similar technologies contributes to the content chaos issues of how to find, manage, or secure content.  Or, put another way from a leading security researcher, “the problem is not a security flaw as such, but instead an unexpected consequence of user behavior.”


SharePoint Sprawl

During a recent AIIM Survey, only 7% of organizations responding stated that they did not use SharePoint in some way.  Even assuming some bias in the response rates, it’s clear from this survey and virtually every other metric available that SharePoint has achieved a level of pervasiveness that few would have predicted back in 2007.  And, as with Dropbox, the SharePoint sprawl problem is not so much a technology issue, as much as a user behavior issue—and an issue of organizations attempting to use a technology for something which is was not designed to do.  When companies describe scenarios where they have an average of two SharePoint sites per employee, clearly there is a problem.

From the same AIIM survey, now published as an AIIM Industry Watch paper titled Connecting and Optimizing SharePoint, some interesting themes emerge:

  • Only 11% of respondents see their SharePoint deployment as a success

  • Most organizations use SharePoint primarily for collaboration—with only 30% using it widely for document management and only 11% using it widely for records management

  • Only 13% say SharePoint aligns with their information governance policies

  • Only 6% have true federated search—the ability to search across both SharePoint and other document repositories and silos

  • At the same time, the commitment to SharePoint remains strong—and so there is a clear need to co-exist in the future, while still addressing those areas described above given that:

  • Over 60% of respondents are already using or planning to use SharePoint as the search/access portal to multiple ECM repositories

  • Over 75% still have a “strong commitment” to SharePoint

Now that we’ve outlined how content chaos was created—and the steady trend towards simplifying the sharing of content—how can you solve it? By recognizing that SharePoint isn’t going away, and realizing that you need to deliver content security that addresses the Dropbox problem. You must to provide ECM systems that promote adoption with user-friendly interfaces, automated business processes, and also integration with email, office, and other tools.

It was exactly this question that led us to create Adhere—our solution to the content chaos that exists today.  The Adhere offering is built on Alfresco’s core document and records management platform, with enterprise-class components from collaboration to global information governance.  Available on-premise, cloud-only, or as the only true hybrid-cloud ECM model, our Adhere solution uniquely provides for both the wants of users and the needs of the enterprise.

With Adhere as the glue that binds together and secures content both in and outside of your organization, throughout your ECM systems and content silos, we can deliver to users what an ECM solution should have always meant to them.  Our Adhere solution today provides:

  • SharePoint Integration and Synchronization

  • Federated Search

  • Automated Workflow/BPM

  • Embedded “In-Process” Classification and Extraction

  • Simplified Information Governance

  • Universal Content Security (UCS)

  • Enterprise Mobile ECM


Solving SharePoint

Across both the public and private sector, companies have made an investment in SharePoint and it is clear that it isn’t going to simply disappear from their daily operations.  As noted in part one of this blog, over 75% of organizations still have a “strong commitment” to SharePoint, according to a recent survey.  However, only 11% say their SharePoint deployment is a success.

Our Adhere solution focuses on solving SharePoint by identifying and classifying critical content within your sites. It then integrates and synchronizes SharePoint + Alfresco, streamlines business processes, and then delivers content security, information governance, and federated search.

In addition, while most organizations are looking to manage, rather than replace, their SharePoint sites, our Adhere Solution can also migrate your content from SharePoint to Alfresco when required.  These migrations leverage ActiveMigrate methodology from Zia and can be either a full migration or simply a migration of active content (a “lazy” migration).

Solving Dropbox

For many CIOs, the single largest area of concern right now is making sure they don’t end up as the next Sony Pictures or Anthem, with their corporate data shared around the world by hackers.  This is not just a public relations concern, with the recent news that Sony is facing a multi-million dollar class-action lawsuit by employees. They allege the company “failed to secure its computer systems, servers and databases, despite weaknesses that it has known about for years.”

So how do you protect critical corporate content, while recognizing a world where Dropbox and are pervasive, and that employees can very simply accidentally or intentionally share information inside or ourside the organization.  With our Adhere solution, we introduce the concept of Universal Content Security (UCS)—which secures data based on policy, not platform.

Whether you are sharing content via Dropbox, USBs, email, SharePoint, Alfresco Cloud Sync, or any other technology platform, our UCS solution will protect the data—even through a cut and paste scenario.  From employee records to sales data or board documents—across internal and external collaboration—the ability to remove users from responsibility for content security provides the solution to the Dropbox problem.

Solving Information Governance

The legacy of records management (RM) systems is one where solutions have often been designed for dedicated compliance officers rather than content creators. These are deployed in a standalone environment that is disconnected from corporate collaboration and ECM systems.  This situation has only become worse with the rise of SharePoint—where in a recent study only 13% said SharePoint aligns with their information governance policies.  And of course, the paper problem still exists with many large organizations storing the majority of their records as paper files.

Zia provides Easy RM solutions that work the way you do, connecting those who are creating content with the compliance process. As we like to say, “Everyone’s a Records Manager, and Nobody Knows It!”  Easy RM incorporates the tools you use on a daily basis, from SharePoint to Office to email, reducing barriers to implementation and widespread usage.  Additionally, Easy RM solutions are built on a single DoD5015.02 certified content hub for document and records management, reducing duplication and wrong version usage.

Principles of Easy RM solutions include:

  • Automated Declaration of Records

  • Intelligent Rule-Based File Plan

  • SharePoint Integration and Synchronization

  • Consolidated Paper/Electronic File Plans

  • Digitization with Intelligent Capture

  • Office and Outlook Integration

When your records management tools fit into the daily work habits of employees, you can reduce barriers to adoption, reduce duplication of efforts and errors with one central repository, increase productivity with automated processes, and keep control of your data by reducing use of external tools.


In 2015 we have reached a tipping point where once again the need to find, manage, and secure content has become as important as the need to simplify the sharing of information.  For the first time since 2007, we would expect more respondents to list compliance/risk as the primary driver for new ECM related investments, rather than collaboration.  The Zia Adhere solution was designed for the world of 2015, the world of Sony and Anthem, and the world where most organizations are committed to SharePoint and yet still deem it a failure.

If you would like more information on Adhere, please feel free to contact me personally at  or visit our website at

Phil Robinson, SVP at Zia Consulting

#SharePoint #EnterpriseContentManagement