In this blog I will aim to list current issues with enterprise content management implementations across organisations and the functional components they would need to pull together in order to come up with future roadmap.
An Enterprise Content Management Strategy includes a collection of applications and tools that enable an organisation to create, edit, manage, review, publish, find and use information, regardless of the primary repository or format.
While working with number of organisations, I notice a similar picture. The information required to make business decisions is presently scattered across multiple locations and devices. Smart phones containing photos, text, videos, instant messages and contacts are combined with documents on home computers and emails on work laptops to create an overall view. Even while working on the same computer, business information may be scattered across multiple locations – i.e. on the desktop and in cloud based storage.
An enterprise approach to content management will help organisations achieve goals like streamlining access, eliminating bottlenecks and minimizing overhead.
The following components make up a holistic enterprise content management strategy
1. Content and Document Management
Unstructured content enters the Organisation’s IT infrastructure from a variety of sources. Regardless of how a piece of content enters, it has a lifecycle that must be managed appropriately and consistently. An organised Content and Document Management regime will help the Organisation to better manage the creation, revision, approval, and consumption of digital information.
Currently, information islands are created both within a single system and as a result of prolific number of storage locations that including enterprise doc management platforms, continued use of network drives and user initiated adoption of personal cloud storage locations. This presents problems for Organisation in number of ways including:
- Absence of consistency with regards to applying retention and disposition schedules.
- Issues in searching for information when required.
- Absence of processes for re-usability of information assets.
- Inability to find the latest version.
- Compliance issues with both retention of important content and security of information.
- Inability to share information both internally and externally in a consistent way.
Filling the gaps in content and document management capability requires rationalisation of processes and tools to enable better management of content lifecycle. The ECM capability needs to include resilience to manage growth in number of documents and allow for adaptability to utilise emerging trends in technology. In particular, the following functionality will need to be incorporated:
- Classification of documents including automated document profiling where possible.
- Version control, retention of version history and ability to manage check-in/check-out.
- Enterprise search capability to bring search results for documents in multiple repositories.
- Content security and auditing.
- Processes and governance around publication and distribution of content.
- Ability to route documents for approval or feedback.
2. Records Management
Information that has business value is deemed to be a record and must be managed according to a retention schedule that determines how long a record is kept based on either outside regulations or internal business practices.
Currently, limited number of organisations have formal recordkeeping practices and a large percent of those have only implemented Record Management for limited portion of information assets within the Organisation. Adding to the issue is that most of these record-keeping activities concentrate on the last stages of information lifecycle and mostly on the paper based information assets.
A comprehensive record management capability needs to be incorporated within Organisation system and processes. There is a need for a holistic approach to capturing records at various relevant stages within information lifecycle independent of their format and location. This approach will need to incorporate following principles:
- Automation of recordkeeping where possible to eliminate the need for relying on user actions (invisible recordkeeping).
- All information systems to have recordkeeping capability inbuilt or governance to ensure all records are captured at a pre-defined stage within a process (for example at the end of a project).
- Capability to capture of record at different points within information lifecycle, if required.
- Rules defining information lifecycle activities depending on information classification.
3. Master Data Management
Data Management includes activities such as file naming conventions to creating metadata. Data Management will help to ensure that the data that underlies the Organisation’s content and documents is available, accurate, complete, and secure. This includes Master Data Management, which is required to consistently define and manage critical data of the Organisation to provide a single point of reference.
Most organisations don’t have centrally defined data dictionary which results in inconsistency in classification schemes and metadata definitions used by different departments and systems within the Organisation. These inconsistencies can result in issues with system integration or a unified system architecture. In addition to technical issues, lack of unified master data strategy also results in confusion for end users.
Data management strategy needs to be developed to provide tools, processes and governance around master data management, metadata management, data integration and data warehouse. As a starting point master data management capability would need to be developed while considering following principles:
- Data quality needs to be maintained by putting in place processes to manage data through its lifecycle.
- A central business classification scheme needs to consider different functions within the Organisation.
- Master data management capability to be built within the Organisation to ensure ongoing sustainability and continuous improvement of master data.
- Governance to ensure prevention of replication of data by building a central data hub.
4. Email Management
Email is the de facto standard for business communication across Organisations. Just as any other type of information and record, email must be included as part of, and adhere to, the Organisation content/information management standards.
Currently, some common issues with regards to information management and recordkeeping in context of email are:
- Inability to integrate email platform with corporate document and record management systems to archive or store business critical emails.
- There are limitations with capturing critical audit trail details about email if it needs to be stored.Future Considerations
- There is a need to uplift the email management capability allowing Organisations to capture, manage, retain and search email related information consistent with other content within the organisation. In addition to allowing users ability to store email and classify them within document or record management systems, there needs to be a capability to audit email trails and apply retention schedule to prevent against compliance breach. Organisation will need to ensure it meets legal preservation requirements in the event of litigation or government investigation.
5. Web Content Management
Web content management addresses the content creation, review, approval and publishing processes of web-based content. Key features include creation and authoring tools or integrations, input and presentation template design and management, content re-use management, and dynamic publishing capabilities.
The content in both intranet and external website is currently static and lacks ownership within the relevant areas within the Organisations. This results in majority of burden falling on support staff. Personalisation of content is missing which results in loss of context and relevance for majority of viewers. Furthermore, there is inconsistency in navigation, page layouts and search experience for consumers of web content. Processes and tools are lacking to capture analytics on user actions or usage of the content.
Web content management will need to mature allowing organisations to increase transparency and encourage clarity of communication both within organisation and with external stakeholders. This can be achieved by uplifting capabilities in the following areas:
- Remove the burden from support staff by making the relevant departments accountable for managing their own content (content ownership).
- Integration with other content management system using workflow tools for publishing.
- Intuitive content surfacing based on personas will increase relevancy of content for each user.
- Support mobility by introducing responsive design.
- Capture analytics on both intranet and website giving content owners insight into what is relevant to users. Improved analytics on external website can help in engaging potential customers better.
6. Digital Asset Management
Similar to document management functionality, DAM is focused on the storage, tracking, and use of rich media documents (video, logos, photographs, etc.). Digital assets typically have high intellectual property value and hefty storage requirements.
There are inconsistencies in systems used within organisations for managing digital assets. For example, corporate marketing and communications team may currently be using externally hosted cloud based solution while others may be using external hard drives, network drives and personal servers to share point to point information.
Implement a central digital asset management solution which incorporates current requirements while considering scalability in future. There needs to be a solution to manage marketing collateral in a single repository which will allow re-use and better retention alongside building capability to search for information when required. Digital asset management solution will need to cater for both internal and external sharing requirements.
7. Physical Information Management
A holistic content management strategy needs to incorporate physical as well as electronic information and record.
Physical recordkeeping services are still prevalent within some organisations. The problem is created by the difference in retention and disposition rules within each area. Furthermore, electronic and physical records are managed using different rules.
In order to manage electronic and physical records consistently with overarching content lifecycle rules applied, the capability and capacity of the information management staff will need to be increased to cover vital records across the whole organisation. This will result in information management team providing leadership across the organisation and building a hybrid approach for managing physical as well as electronic records better. Processes and solutions will need to be introduced to reduce paper based information and pushing towards the concept of ‘born digital, stay digital’. This will be enabled using tools to introduce eSignature, eApproval and electronic workflows.
8. Business Process Engineering and Automation
Business Process Engineering refers to identifying opportunities for re-defining, optimising and automation. Business Process Automation relates to the activities associated with transitioning manual, paper based processes into digitally managed processes through the implementation of electronic forms and configurable workflow.
Currently human to human business processes like approvals and review rely on either paper based forms or through emails. This has resulted in inefficiencies in process and delays in turnaround time. Furthermore, traceability and auditability of steps within the process are missing.
There is a need to transition towards electronic forms and workflows which will enable automation of business process and increased process efficiency. Better tools and capability (in BPM function) are needed to:
- introduce agility in automating paper based business processes;
- incorporate ability to build eforms easily;
- manage digital signatures;
- integrate workflows with existing content management systems; and
- introduce ability to audit and trace steps within the workflow.
9. Scanning and Digitisation
Paper based documents enters the Organisation’s digital information systems through a scanner. Increasingly, electronic document images have the same legal status as a paper document, therefore it is important that scan quality is at a level that is compliant with retention and discovery requirements.
There are number of gaps currently within the organisations to manage scanning, storage and management of scanned documents.
There is a need to move towards reducing paper and better devices so that scanning/digitisation responsibility can be devolved and smaller volumes of documents being captured closer to their point of creation.
Improvement is need in scanning tools and natural language processing capability within scanners. Additionally introduction of eforms combined with OCR capability can result in increased efficiency and decrease in headcount required for manual entry.
Classification is the process of organising information into categories for its most effective and efficient use.
- A taxonomy provides a formal classification structure for information, based on the pre-defined needs of a business activity.
- A folksonomy is an informal, user defined way of classifying information. Users create their own set of tags to categorise their content. In addition to issue with master data management (MDM) identified earlier in this blog, there is lack of consistency with regards to minimum metadata or classification requirements within each department of an organisation. This results in inefficiency in sharing information and duplication of content. In line with master data management (MDM) capability implementation, organisations needs to implement data hub to re-use data sets across multiple systems. There is a need to align business classification scheme (BCS) and record and disposal schedule (RDS). Additionally, introduction of concepts like folksonomy and natural language processing tools will result in ability to apply user centric context around content.
In addition to issue with master data management (MDM) identified earlier in this blog, there is lack of consistency with regards to minimum metadata or classification requirements within each department of an organisation. This results in inefficiency in sharing information and duplication of content.
In line with master data management (MDM) capability implementation, organisations needs to implement data hub to re-use data sets across multiple systems. There is a need to align business classification scheme (BCS) and record and disposal schedule (RDS). Additionally, introduction of concepts like folksonomy and natural language processing tools will result in ability to apply user centric context around content.
11. Discovery and Sharing
An essential part of content management is to have a search engine that will collect, analyse and store content to facilitate fast and accurate information retrieval, regardless of its system of record. Indexing capabilities are very powerful within modern search engines and can be based on keywords or full-text.
One of the greatest benefits of a strong ECM system is the ability to easily retrieve what you put in. By having strong indexing, taxonomy, and repository services, locating the information in the Organisation’s information systems should be simple.
Currently enterprise search capability is missing in most organisations resulting in lack of capability to search content across different systems. Disparate information repositories make it impossible to search and surface information when required.
An overarching search capability will unlock hidden information in various content sources and make them available for re-use and collaboration. The search capability will need to include emerging trends in enterprise search surfacing such as:
- Intuitive ranking based on usage and the ability for administrator to tweak search query rules based on business requirements.
- Capability to bring federated search results from other content sources.
- Full text search making content of documents and scanned document using OCR technology available for indexing.
- Natural language processing.
- Capability to surface content relevant to user based on their content usage.
12. Knowledge Management and Enterprise Social Networking
Enterprise social networking focuses on the use of online social networks among people who share business interests and/or activities. It can encompasses modifications to corporate intranets and other information management systems to facilitate social collaboration opportunities.
Enterprise social networking also includes the use of external social networking services to generate visibility for the Organisation as a formal communication channel.
Currently use of social network is limited to facebook or twitter being used as a platform for external communications. There is a gap in an overarching social strategy which includes social platforms being used internally for collaboration among staff members as well as engagement with customers.
An enterprise social strategy needs to be incorporated to include the following elements:
- An internal staff communication solution will include capability to allow inter and intra departmental discussions.
- Encourage staff to blog on their areas of expertise to capture tacit knowledge as well as building a knowledge sharing culture.
- Incorporate social, tagging and rating capability within document and content management solution to encourage capturing conversations around content (creating knowledge by adding experience to information).
- Build external communication strategy by engaging prospective customer, partners and community stakeholders using variety of social media tools.
- Capability to capture external social media communications as records.
Collaboration tools enable individual users, such as employees or business partners to easily create and maintain project teams, regardless of geographic location. These technologies facilitate collaborative, team-based content creation and decision-making.
In most organisations, collaboration, both internally and externally is not consistent and lacks governance or transparency. This issue is further complicated by the diverse usage of variety of technologies (both enterprise systems and personal drives in the cloud). Collaboration issues and inconsistencies with external parties can especially lead to loss of reputation. In most cases this can also result in lack of transparency and auditability of information leaving the organisation with potential impact on loss of IP.
Organisations needs to build solution to cater for external collaboration. This solution will need to incorporate following principles:
- Build digital rights management capability in order to control information leaving the organisation.
- Audit capability will need to be built in for information exchange externally.
- A policy for sharing information externally will include processes and tools endorsed for collaboration with partners.
14. Long-Term Archiving and Digital Continuity
Content that must be preserved over decades must be saved to or stored in an appropriate medium, such as tape storage, fit for purpose storage facilities, cloud based archive etc. with longevity to match.
A long term management of digital records is missing. This results in current and increasing issues with backwards and cross-system compatibility when it comes to tools used for archiving across various systems. Lack of migration planning or consideration during system implementation, has also been noticed, which results in issues like corruption or inaccessibility of information especially in system integration scenarios.
Organisations need to develop an approach for long term management of digital records or an organisation archive. The considerations that need to go into this approach are:
- Ensuring continued accessibility of organisation digital records in long term.
- Cater for exponential growth in digital information.
- Cost of storage.
- Sustainability and flexibility of approach may need to consider emerging digital archiving trends like cloud storage.
- Develop a consistent approach to consider various disparate system requirements across the organisation.
- A policy or process mandating review of archiving or migration requirements during the planning phase of system implementation needs to be created.
- Rule based archiving dependent on legal liabilities and compliance needs.
15. Information System Integration
An enterprise content management landscape is made up of an aggregation of sub-systems cooperating to deliver their overarching functionality. Bringing together the various elements of an ECMS and ensuring that the subsystems function together has proven to be a challenge.
Information system integration involves integrating existing, often disparate systems. Information system integration is also about adding value to each individual system, by enabling additional capabilities that are possible because of interactions between sub-systems.
With numbers of systems increasing over the last few years, a holistic strategy hasn’t been formulated with an approach for system integration within most organisations. This has resulted in number of systems working in isolation and preventing information flow between systems. Adding to the problem further are certain cases of point to point system integration which is not sustainable in long term from supportability perspective.
There is a need to rationalise the number of isolated systems used within the ECMS domain. Having said that, there will always be a need for custom point solutions, cloud based solution and commercial off the shelf solutions (COT) and bespoke applications that will need to be added to meet Organisation’s changing requirements in digital age. As such, there is an urgent need for a holistic information systems integration strategy that will enable seamless information flow and flexibility. Following considerations need to be made in order to define a sustainable system integration approach:
- A master data management approach (as defined earlier).
- Seamless identity management both for partners, staff and external users.
- Reduction of data replication across systems.
- Rationalisation of systems that provide similar functionality and a policy that encourages utilisation of functionality within existing systems before considering additional applications.
- Service oriented architecture (SOA) to encourage re-use of integration logic.
- De-coupling of systems or discouraging tight system to system integration. For example an enterprise service bus (ESB) can act as middle layer between systems.
Information portals are moving away from static content to context awareness and personalisation. Personalisation relies on two factors – users persona and learning from usage. User persona as a concept relies on surfacing information to users based on their role within the organisation whereas information can also be surfaced, nowadays, to users based on their activities within the ECM systems.
Personalisation, both within internal systems and external portals, can lead to increased efficiency, improved customer and staff engagement, increase in users relying on self-help and furthering collaboration within the organisation.
Currently content within most information portals is static. Personalisation of information is not implemented within ECM systems resulting in lack of user engagement and less than average user experience. Users end up resorting to create their own repositories like personal cloud storage in order to meet their need for personalisation. This eventually leads to information islands and critical information and knowledge assets being lost.
The functionality of existing information portals can be extended to include personalised content in order to meet the requirements of users as an individual and their roles. For instance, search tools can be used to surface relevant information on portal based on logged in user’s activities around the existing ECM systems. Furthermore personas need to be created for users to map content surfacing requirements to their roles. This can lead to surfacing of tools, links, content and communication based on logged in user’s role as well as their individual requirements.
17. Content Access and Security
Content access and security relates to the ability to protect information from unauthorised access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, perusal, inspection, recording or destruction. It is a general term that can be used regardless of the form the data may take (e.g. electronic, physical).
Because of lack of content security classification and consistent content security governance across organisations, users don’t have confidence in storing information on organisation’s endorsed systems. They end up storing critical business information on local drives, private cloud storage and drives leading to information being either over-secured or compromised. Additionally users may tend to not share information leading to lack of re-usability or replication.
Where security is implemented within the ECM systems, they tend to be individual based rather than role-based. This leads to access not being managed through the information lifecycle or certain individuals continuing to have access even though it may not be required in future. In certain cases, ‘Information Island’ is created as it is difficult to view broken security inheritance. There is also lack of consistency between systems when it comes to granting access, resulting in access being given based on system rather than information classification.
Information security classification scheme needs to be developed. Furthermore a governance model needs to encourage devolved access management so that content owners have control over security rather than having to rely on IT. Digital rights management will ensure better control over critical information which is shared externally. Additionally, there is a need to introduce digital signatures and approval process in order to ensure information integrity through its lifecycle. Organisations need to introduce role based security especially for external collaboration in order to ensure access can be managed and taken away when needed.