A New Approach To Collaboration And Enterprise Content Management

Oceans of unmanaged content are swamping companies. It's time to rethink ECM and collaboration to keep your head above water.

Andrew Conry Murray, Director of Content & Community, Interop

December 12, 2008

2 Min Read

ECM products like Documentum have come a long way from their origins moving certain content through specific business processes, such as loan origination or check processing. This is still their primary role, but ECM vendors are broadening their scope to help companies manage new content types and encourage collaboration.

Where does that leave your choices? Companies will always have a mishmash of content repositories to deal with, so it makes sense to build a software layer that can reach into all them to apply uniform policies.

But before picking the technology to manage content, focus on the rules. Companies need sensible retention and disposition policies that account for the changing business value of content, compliance and legal requirements, and user expectations about how long information should be retained. This last point is vital since employees would happily save every e-mail and Office file for 100 years, just in case. Companies must balance this compunction with reasonable disposition.

Next comes workflow. The application of content management policies must have a workflow that reconciles robust classification with user productivity. Force employees to click through a 15-step file plan just to post a suggestion to the holiday party planning wiki, and they'll be outside your office with torches and pitchforks.

First Energy's Hawkins found reasonable middle ground between workflow extremes with his company's IBM FileNet ECM platform. He requires every employee to classify e-mail messages before they're sent, but he made the process as easy as possible. "We put a menu toolbar in the UI," Hawkins says. "We give them four buckets to put mail in. If they classify it for retention, it gets picked up by our content management system and managed for its retention period."

Hawkins isn't stopping at e-mail. He has plans to get all the company's content under stricter management, from Office documents to CAD files to audio and video. "We can do a better job of grouping our information for the most efficient access and use," he says.

Finally, demand that vendors provide more and better integration among third-party content repositories. Companies should support new initiatives such as the Content Management Interoperability Services specification, to ensure that ECM platforms provide the balance of availability, interoperability, and management required to ride the information wave instead of drown.

Photo illustration by Sek Leung

Continue to the sidebars:
Standard Interface Will Open New Options For ECM,
Open Source And SaaS Shake Up ECM
Wikis That Work In The Real World

About the Author(s)

Andrew Conry Murray

Director of Content & Community, Interop

Drew is formerly editor of Network Computing and currently director of content and community for Interop.

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