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Managing the Web 2.0 life cycle

Once a document is saved to a repository, it becomes a rich source of information from numerous perspectives. "Many vendors are realizing that document repositories can connect people to people, enabling them to comment on a document, see who made changes or discover all the documents an individual has worked on," Conley says.

Adding Web 2.0 content to the ECM mix

Providers of enterprise content management (ECM) are addressing those needs in their evolving software products. "We have given a lot of thought to the issue of how best to handle Web 2.0 content," says Lynn Post, manager of product marketing for compliance products at EMC. "Information is being created informally and at a high rate, and some of it will need to be treated as records with a managed life cycle."

CenterStage, which is built on top of EMC Documentum 6.5, is a new collaboration tool that includes blogs, wikis and other Web 2.0 features. CenterStage objects—such as blogs, wikis or entire workspaces—can be saved into Documentum’s records management system. "Policies can be created to manage any information created in CenterStage," Post explains, "so that a workspace could be locked down at the end of a project, for example."

Companies in fields like life sciences and pharmaceuticals have managed their regulated content, such as FDA submissions, very carefully, but that is less true for their collaborative content, according to Post. "You don’t want to stifle innovation by requiring every exchange to be saved as a record," she says, "but some of the content is high value or the corporation might need to have it available for e-discovery."

Post continues, "On an operational level, it can be just as important to track dead ends in research, so researchers don’t have to explore the same area again. You want to be able to track information in the informal collaborative environment as well as formal reports."

Comments made by a CEO in a blog are another example of Web 2.0 content that should be considered for incorporation into a formal records management system because of the authoritative nature of the source.

Enterprise Web 2.0 content such as blog or wiki entries and discussions can also be left in the original application rather than moved into a records management system. "Sooner or later, organizations will use a journaling medium such as blogs as part of their everyday business communications," says Jordan Frank, VP of marketing and business development at Traction Software. "It’s a way of capturing all the ongoing issues and discussions. Furthermore, tagging can provide valuable information such as whether an issue is still active or resolved."

Traction Software’s collaboration product, TeamPage, is a social software platform that includes blog, wiki, discussion and tagging capabilities. It allows the use of metadata to dictate process steps including tracking requirements, and, where needed, can systematically delete items, so it can serve as a means for managing the blog or wiki entry’s life cycle.

Capturing daily information can provide explicit documentation of decisions and the rationale for them, thus offering an important component of knowledge retention. In addition, it can supply an audit trail for accountability.

"If a certain issue was tagged as low priority and deferred," Frank says, "it’s possible to go back and look at what else was going on at a given time—what the high-priority tasks were—and verify that decisions made sense in the context of the overall business environment."

What’s lost in moving a given piece of information out of this context and into a formal records management system, he explains, is that context—the relationship with and connection to other information. Whether to retain data in the collaboration application, migrate it to a records management system or both is an issue that should be carefully examined to make sure the organization’s objectives are achieved.

Information access will become more critical as the volume of records increases, whether they are records maintained for legal or operational purposes.

"When you are faced with the prospect of billions of records and terabytes or more of data," explains Baron, "some very sophisticated artificial intelligence techniques will be needed in order to categorize and search the stored data." That is an area where Baron expects tremendous progress on the technology side over the next few years.

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