Succeeding with Content Management
Nomenclature can be tricky, particularly when considered in the context of enterprise content management (ECM). You’re probably familiar with homonyms, words that are spelled the same but have different meanings. Examples are bark (think dogs and trees), icing (think hockey rules and cake frostings), or book (think reading and making travel arrangements). Most taxonomies take homonyms into account to make ECM work well within that setting (yes, setting is another homonym).
But what about when it comes to specialized vocabularies? Consider snow. To someone born and raised in a tropical climate, snow is white. That’s all they know, having no personal experience with snow. It’s rumored, fairly accurately, it turns out, that there are about 50 words for snow in Eskimo languages (Inuit and Yupik) and roughly the same in Icelandic (part of the Germanic language family). But even in English, variant words to describe snow are part of the specialized vocabulary of winter sports aficionados.
Some you may have heard of. Powder snow is what makes a downhill skier’s day. Blizzards are when you stay home. New snow is what fell overnight. Here’s a few you may not know—corn snow, lake-effect snow, and rimed snow. Crust, crud, and slushy snow are self-explanatory. A few are geographically specific. Sierra cement, anyone?
As you might be able to tell from this sudden obsession with snow, I’ve been following the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. But what, you might ask, does that have to do with ECM? It reminded me, among other things, that language differences occur even here. The USA has a bobsled team but the event is bobsleigh.
Content Volume and Velocity
Acronyms are another tricky piece of nomenclature. ECM, in addition to its enterprise content management meaning, can also be used for Engine Control Module, Error Correction Mode, Enterprise Change Management, and Earliest Childhood Memory. Susan Emery, SVP of Product Strategy, Viewpointe, thinks that ECM can evade the acronym when it’s referred to as content services.
Content can be as slippery as a snowboard course. Viewpointe’s Emery notes that the definition of content has expanded beyond documents to encompass “evolving sources such as social media streams.” Thus, a management plan, coupled with a clear vision about how to deal with the escalating volume of content, is necessary to maximize the value of the content. Given the volume of content to be managed, it’s important to recognize how spread out your content may be—and that equates to challenges surrounding security and keeping information up to date. Outsourcing can help.
Moving From Simpler Times
Sean Allen, VP, Marketing, Reveille, agrees that the volume and diversity of content has exploded. ECM used to be so much simpler, he sighs. We’re not going back—if anything, content will grow in volume and appear in even more formats. Allen sees multiple content management solutions from a varied group of vendors as contributing to chaos in overall content management. The chaos stems from attempts to “manage workflow, visibility, security, and control across numerous repositories and approaches,” which is extremely difficult, but it can be done. To balance accessibility with security, look for transactional cues from your user base.
He invokes the metaphor of chess (which is not yet an Olympic sport), advising a view of the entire chess board rather than simply regarding each square individually. This keeps you from getting too focused merely on one silo, metric, or activity. He doesn’t stop there. Next, shift course and look at ECM from the top down. From this perspective, ask questions about usage and try to spot anomalies and deviations. I wouldn’t call Allen a fan of chaos, but he does point out how to surface insights from the chaos and thinks that user activity can help companies simplify the process.
What Do We Call That?
Nomenclature confusion exists in ECM—and it’s not about snow. David Jones, Director of Product Marketing, Nuxeo, notes that technology tools can be called not only ECM but also records management and knowledge management. He is another advocate for the term content services. He sees approaches to ECM that are more modern, regardless of what we choose to call it. The future lies in integrating “previously disconnected information systems” to extract value from stored information.
Jones views these disconnected sys-tems not only as encompassing internal information but also incorporating some external information as well. With the increasing number of available information formats, including videos and images, the native management of them along with a flexible technical architecture, becomes increasingly important. Having a holistic view of the enterprise and not restricting content services to automating back office operations or removing paper leads to a successful implementation.
Jones cautions against “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” In other words, work with what you already have in place. If you liberate your information, you can turn it into actionable data. His view of content services is that it brings pieces of information management puzzles together to unite previously disconnected silos in a cloud-based environment where artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities lead to expanded value extraction.
As you consider ECM—or if you prefer the content services nomenclature—take care not to get snowed under in your management efforts. Don’t drift off course, but take control. Slide with the best of them. Medal often. Embrace the varied approaches to managing your content so that you can maximize the value of your information. And enjoy the ride.
Companies and Suppliers Mentioned