Sink Or Swim

Most companies don't have a strategy to deal with rising tides of digital information. Enterprise content management can help, but first you need a plan.

Kurt Marko, Contributing Editor

September 21, 2011

3 Min Read

InformationWeek Green - September 26, 2011

InformationWeek Green - September 26, 2011

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Sink or Swim

Sink or Swim

The enterprise is awash in data. Information has never been easier to store, copy, and distribute, particularly semistructured and unstructured information such as documents, email, and PowerPoint slides. But as anyone who's trolled through an overstuffed inbox or rifled through nested folders for a crucial bit of content knows, there is such a thing as too much information.

Even more of a problem is that most companies don't seem to know what to do about it--and aren't even trying all that hard. According to our InformationWeek Content Management in the Enterprise Survey, 48% of respondents don't have a strategy for managing content, and another 16% don't know if they do.

Managing content basically means two things: saving the data the business needs for the appropriate amount of time, and getting rid of everything else. But our survey shows that organizations are capitulating to content chaos rather than managing it. For example, only 1 in 5 respondents makes a habit of deleting files at the end of their retention periods. Everyone else muddles through by either storing things forever or randomly deleting data. That's not a strategy--at least, it's not a good one.

The lack of a strategy can have repercussions beyond cluttered hard drives. For one, all this information eats up storage space, and simply throwing more disk at the problem won't scale. For another, reams of unordered content make it hard for business users and IT to meet regulatory and compliance requirements for specific kinds of data and lead to costly searches in the event of an e-discovery exercise.

Enter enterprise content management (ECM) software, which seeks to structure, order, and apply rules to inherently unstructured information. While originally designed for massive documentation projects like the manufacturing specifications for a Boeing 747, ECM can also be used to help companies bring order to the chaos of documents, emails, PowerPoint slides and other quotidian files that occupy the typical employee's workday.

However, ECM is more than just a product category. It's a set of information strategies, document taxonomies and business processes that must have significant buy-in from C-level managers to IT to the end users who create and consume data.

We'll examine the state of ECM in today's enterprise, drawing upon our survey of 425 technology professionals to understand the content management problems companies are facing, and suggest ways they can be solved. We'll also offer six recommendations for those who don't yet have an ECM strategy on how to bootstrap an effective ECM program that won't turn into another dead-end project.

To read the rest of the article,
Download the September InformationWeek supplement on ECM.
ECM Solving the Problem of Unstructured Data
Download our full report on enterprise content management free with registration.

This report includes 44 pages of action-oriented analysis packed with 33 charts. What you'll find:

  • Survey results from 425 IT pros

  • Recommendations for a successful ECM deployment

  • Detailed analysis of two years' worth of survey data on ECM

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About the Author(s)

Kurt Marko

Contributing Editor

Kurt Marko is an InformationWeek and Network Computing contributor and IT industry veteran, pursuing his passion for communications after a varied career that has spanned virtually the entire high-tech food chain from chips to systems. Upon graduating from Stanford University with a BS and MS in Electrical Engineering, Kurt spent several years as a semiconductor device physicist, doing process design, modeling and testing. He then joined AT&T Bell Laboratories as a memory chip designer and CAD and simulation developer.Moving to Hewlett-Packard, Kurt started in the laser printer R&D lab doing electrophotography development, for which he earned a patent, but his love of computers eventually led him to join HP’s nascent technical IT group. He spent 15 years as an IT engineer and was a lead architect for several enterprisewide infrastructure projects at HP, including the Windows domain infrastructure, remote access service, Exchange e-mail infrastructure and managed Web services.

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