Thursday, May 1, 2014

New World of Information Governance

The people won.

For many years, we used to talk about the information balancing dilemma.  On one side, organizations would like to assure themselves of complete risk elimination as it relates to how their employees handle information. Nothing good can come from employees having the ability to write something in public, right? It could easily result in a lawsuit, a damaging audit, or a security leak. The less people can share and communicate with the outside world, the better. If they have to post something on the outside, let’s make sure our Legal department checks it first!

The employees, on the other hand, want to use any tool that helps them get their job done. They are under constant pressure to do more with less and they are usually measured by objectives that rarely consider the constraints of information governance. They need to produce, perform, and deliver - and anything that prevents them from doing that is counter-productive. Not being able to freely share and communicate stands in the way of getting the job done. Filing records, assigning access privileges, classifying content assets - that’s all just a waste of time!

For years, one of the main value propositions of enterprise content management (ECM) has been helping organizations deal with this dilemma. ECM would offer productivity benefits in the form of search, well organized libraries, workflows, and collaboration while also ensuring a sufficient level of information governance with capabilities such as access control, records retention, authenticity and non-repudiation.

The success rate wasn’t that great, actually. Users typically had to be forced to use the information governance features and hence their compliance reliability was often dismal. Have you added metadata to any documents lately? Do you like filing records? Do you enjoy organizing your email into folders? Yeah, me neither…

At the same time, the restrictions imposed by security and governance requirements are usually seen as a software adoption hurdle. What do you mean I can’t invite my partners to this workspace? Why do I have to classify documents when saving them? What’s metadata, by the way? It was this constant tension between the people and the companies that left ECM in the middle.

Not anymore. Because, the people won.

It’s true. The groundswell of consumerization has swept across the enterprise and the scales have been tipped towards the users. They have clearly shown which tools they want to use - by flocking to the consumer tools and eventually bringing them into the enterprise, often while knowingly violating corporate policies and ignoring the rules of information governance. Yet denial is no longer an option for the organizations. You can’t hide behind corporate policies if nobody adheres to them. The users have won and organizations have had to change. And so does ECM.

As a result, enterprise content management is going through some profound changes. ECM depends on metadata and so far, the users were the primary source of that. Or at least they were supposed to be. But let’s face it, they won’t do it. Like it or not, that ship has sailed. In the new world of ECM, we can no longer rely on users. From now on, look to content analytics as the source of metadata.

Similarly, most information governance policies used to rely on users properly filing and classifying content assets. Yet again, they won’t do it. If you want the content classified - and you do want to have it classified, trust me - check out auto-classification technologies.

The same thing is true for security. The users will ignore it, not matter how much fear you instill in them. Sure, they will use strong passwords if you force them but when you think that they will be diligently managing access privileges for each document, forget it. If you want security,you need a system that will do it for them.

So, get ready for the new world of information governance. What you need is a content management system that to users looks just like the popular consumer tools such as Dropbox, Evernote or Google. Yet, it needs to be an ECM system that inherently and automatically takes care of user permissions, metadata generation, classification, and even workflows and business policies. That can only be accomplished by heavily leaning on content analytics, process analytics, auto-classification and other smart technologies. The race is on.

Chances are, you have an ECM system today that still relies on users doing the hard work. Or, your employees are using consumer tools without any notion of information governance, corporate data ownership, or data sovereignty. Or perhaps you don’t have an ECM system at all? Either way, you need to re-assess your requirements. If you are lucky, you already have a content management platform that allows you to add the “user-independent functionality”. If not, look for a system that will be able to evolve as the technologies mature. Because, guess what?

The people won.

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