ECM: preparing for the future
In a solution related to health inspection, for example, data on a water supply problem is much more useful if it is presented on a map. “It is easier to recognize certain types of patterns in data when they are presented visually,” Gibson says. Similarly, in an application on higher education, geographic distributions of applicants can be used to ensure that diversity goals are being attained and that the schools are serving the appropriate catchment areas.
“A lot of information is available in ECM systems to help users in different environments,” Gibson says. “One is a process-intensive worker who benefits from content that supports their work within an ECM system. The next layer is a group of people who work in other systems who also need access to content from an ERP or HR application. The third type is one who is responsible for oversight and approval, who might work from a mobile device and just needs a dashboard.” The key point of all those is making the connection between documents and insights. “Being able to access just the right information to support a decision is at the heart of continuing to make ECM progressive,” Gibson adds.
Managing content in data lakes
For many companies, preparing for the future with enterprise content means addressing the requirements for managing big data. Data lakes have gained popularity as a way to store heterogeneous data in native format for later analysis. On the plus side, storage costs are low and time is saved by not processing the data prior to storage. However, the processing costs are only deferred, not eliminated. Sooner or later the data will need to be cleansed and normalized. Moreover, the undifferentiated mix of information can lead to later confusion about ownership, source and contents.
“The information in data lakes is not self-describing, meaning that it often lacks metadata and context about how it relates to other data sets,” says Jans Aasman, CEO of Franz. “In addition, the lack of structure means that governance is difficult or impossible.” Franz has developed a graph database called AllegroGraph that integrates with Hadoop to create a semantic data lake. The graph database provides context for the data in terms of its relationship with other data and, therefore, provides a means of exploring and analyzing content. It offers one path to the future of managing a large and diversified corpus of information.
ECM is a mature technology, but one that is still experiencing growth and change. As new use cases emerge and data sources expand, innovative use and reuse of content offers the potential for new capabilities and insights.