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Content Management In Focus: Q&A With AIIM's John Mancini

Vendor consolidation, new federal rules on e-discovery and moves by giants including Microsoft are changing the enterprise content management market. Preparing for this week's AIIM Conference & Expo in Boston, AIIM International president John Mancini explores what's driving deployment and whether ECM is being subsumed by information management.

John Mancini

What's driving enterprise content management (ECM) deployments these days?

Most people I talk to are trying to do one or more of four things: They're trying to improve key business processes, they're trying to increase employee productivity, they're trying to address multiple, sometimes conflicting, compliance concerns, and they're trying to somehow rationalize technology deployments and get greater IT operating efficiency.

Is there one issue that's particularly dominant?

On the compliance side there's a lot of hype about the new federal rules of civil procedure and e-discovery requirements. I think that's going to be far more sweeping in its implications, looking out two, three, four years from now, than people realize right now. It's really pretty fundamental when you start thinking about creating a credible process for managing electronically stored information that has demonstrated integrity.

When the Sarbanes-Oxley Act went through, a lot of executives could say, "well, sure that's a big impact, but we're not a public company, and we don't have any intention of becoming a public company." When HIPAA came out, people would say, well, I don't do health care. But these [e-discovery requirements] are going to affect everybody at some stage.

Records management mandates have been around for ages, yet many firms have either done nothing or have opted for quick-and-dirty approaches such as storing everything. Is this new requirement really going to change things?

Cohasset and Associates did research on the topic and they found that for every billion dollars of revenue that a company has, you can reasonably expect to incur $2 million to $4 million worth of discovery costs each year. That really starts to add up, and one of the only ways to reduce that cost is to change the information management regime.

Executives are starting to realize that there's an ROI equation for document management, content management and records management. It's not just the fear of becoming the company that gets caught and that becomes the poster child for e-mail mismanagement on the front page of The Wall Street Journal. There's a lot of day-to-day, recurring cost that larger organizations in particular are dealing with from a discovery perspective.

So just what do the new rules address?

It's basically any electronically stored information. It establishes an expectation that [these records] will be addressable during the early stages of discovery; that's the first thing. The second thing it does is establish somewhat of a safe harbor for people who might routinely destroy information in the course of the normal operation of their business, and also a safe harbor relative to information that's not reasonably accessible. Third, it establishes requirements to reproduce the information in its native format -- not some paper-based analog of that format.

When you start thinking through these requirements, it's really driving people to think about the process and being able to demonstrate that the process has some integrity and some rationale for the form it takes. That sounds pretty simple, but most organizations are just not there right now (see related AIIM 2007 "State of the ECM Industry" survey results on Electronic Information Management see chart).

Have you seen many technologies that really meet the need, or does this really demand well-thought-out policies, disciplined training and well-designed controls built into business processes?

It's more the latter. The temptation is to think that you can just buy a great product that will solve all the problems, but it requires both technology and process. Unfortunately, it's not a matter of a simple fix.

Shifting gears to adoption, despite the label "ECM," very few companies actually use content management enterprisewide. Can you talk about the ECM myth versus the reality?

The myth is that you buy something called enterprise content management, stick it on a few servers and voila, you have it. The reality is that there are organizations that are embarking on a strategy that is relevant at the enterprise level for managing content, document and records. That doesn't mean that they have a single solution, that they have to rip out everything they have already or that they won't be doing high-value departmental projects. They'll continue to tackle focused problems, but they'll do so conscious of the fact that it's part of a strategy as opposed to just tactics.

In some ways the e-mail challenge tends to get back to enterprise infrastructure, so people solving that problem are beginning to think of content technologies as infrastructure.

Microsoft is leading the way in offering low-cost content management infrastructure, and it's clearly going after midsized companies that perhaps can't afford conventional ECM. How will that change the market?

Gartner talks about the divergence of the content management market into basic content services on the one hand and content-enabled vertical applications on the other. There's an enormous opportunity for basic content services in the mid market, and as those companies start to "Save As" into SharePoint repositories, it's going to start to open lots of eyes as to what content management is all about.

Midsized organizations in particular have suffered from shared drive-itis in which they create all these network drives and post everything willy-nilly. There's no structure, there are multiple copies of information, and nobody knows which version is the right one. That presents an enormous opportunity because whether it's due to compliance concerns or legal exposure concerns or just efficiency concerns, people are realizing that it's costing them more and more to store information, that they can't find anything and that their business processes are suffering.

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