Pandora's box has been opened and there's no going back. Once upon a time, companies created content through desktop publishing. Content went through several reviews before seeing the light of day. From catalogs, press releases, and price lists, to contracts and business correspondence. Content was always under control through limitations related to the ability to create and share it.
Now that anyone can create content through a variety of easy-to-access software apps, publish the content without the hassle of reviews, and present the information to multiple applications and "channels" in real-time, organizations and businesses are caught in an unfortunate arms race of attempting to reclaim control, while their own staff find new and interesting ways around that control. Of course most of the problem has nothing to do with nefarious behavior. It's clearly a matter of people continually looking for ways to be more efficient and use the paths that have less "process friction". As soon as IT doesn't have the ability to support a department's needs, the department will source and satisfy the need themselves; often with a SaaS application outside the borders and controls of the organization.
To be fair, SaaS solutions providers haven't been standing on the sidelines watching this dilemma - rather they are attempting to make their software more "corporate friendly". Many are doing this through extensions that allow access control, using an organization's own user management, which potentially allows broader control over access and use of the many disparate applications and resulting silos of information.
But access control is only a part of the problem. Just as big a problem is how to enable organizations to control information once access to systems has been granted. It's not like access to an ECM system or file share prevents a user from taking information stored there and misusing it. Unless organizations go through the effort to understand the types of information inside their organization and the relative value of that information, either operationally or legally, they will always be in a risk position.
There is a great AIIM tutorial webinar (for AIIM members) that provides an overview of the challenges and guidance on the value of a good information governance program. In that tutorial (as well as in plenty of other helpful articles and research) is the requirement to understand what data is used by an organization and assigning a value to it; value in terms of risk, intellectual property, operational, or other types of value.
Another way to describe this process is to become "content aware". Put simply, being content aware is the process of understanding what information is created or managed by an organization, organizing it by how it is used, assigning value to it, and then managing it accordingly. Do a Web search for the phrase "content aware" and you'll only find this topic applied to information governance from the aspect of data loss prevention (DLP). While DLP is certainly one tool in the information governance arsenal, it is just one potential application that can make use of being "content aware". Capture, ECM, archiving, BPM, records management, and many other business applications can provide much greater value by becoming more content aware. In this manner, information created by, coming into, or traveling out of an organization can be known and dealt with in a uniform way.
The ability to use all the information of a document or image and to identify the type of information, its relevancy, and location is historically a manually-intensive activity and one that often requires different (and expensive) subject matter experts depending on the scope of an information inventory project. It is such a chore, that only the most valuable documents or information are typically curated - or the organization gives in and just saves everything. There are big costs associated with either strategy.
But with applications becoming more "content aware" as a result of new technologies being introduced and more computing horsepower becoming available for pennies, the ability to automate the classification and tagging of information turns a high-cost effort into a background-supporting process that enables an organization to understand what information it has, where it is, and how it is used in a more comprehensive manner.
Of course, content aware applications won't free you from the responsibility of developing an information taxonomy and information management policies, but they will allow you to automate the discovery of relevant information and to apply your taxonomy and policies in a way that is non-intrusive and comprehensive.
Greg Council is Vice President of Products & Services at Parascript at www.parascript.com. He can be reached at email@example.com
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