The Rise of Big Content


This post arises from several thought streams that I’ve had over the last several months that coalesced the last week when thinking about the purpose of Big Data and how the Content industry has had a Big Data problem for years.

  • Big Data is a great term, but it doesn’t resonate when talking about pulling insight from Content.
  • Enterprise Content Management (ECM) has never caught-on beyond the industry that created the term.
  • Even without the need for Analytics, content is still growing exponentially and the number of formats isn’t getting any smaller.

So like every industry wonk wanting to make a name for themselves, I am going to try and push a new term out into the marketplace.

Why a Big Content?

imageThe answer is simple, it is a simple term to understand. Let’s face it, Enterprise Content Management is a complicated concept whose definition people still debate. Besides, we know how to manage Content these days. The bigger issue is that there is just so much of it and we want to do more than manage the Content.

Remember, IDC says that there will be 35 zettabytes (ZB) of information in 2020. In 2012 it is increasing by 48% from 1.8ZB to 2.7 ZB and 90% of it will be “unstructured”.

That is a lot of Content.

Does that make it “Big”? Not by itself. What makes it Big is the fact we want to get value from that Content. If it just sits there as a record, it isn’t providing business value. It is merely risk management.

If we can take the Content and extract the information and analyze it as I described last week, that would provide massive value. If we could correlate that data with the audit trails, content metadata, relationship information, and information stored in the integrated systems, that could turn the Content Management System (CMS) from a cost center to a profit center.

Of course, we could do all of this without a new term.

Explain the Problem

The problem with ECM, you still have to explain the actual problem to people. Part of the problem is that ECM is what, not why.

If you talk to people about Analytics, their eyes quickly start to glaze over. If you start to talk about Big Data, they are intrigued and want to know more.

Big Data is a great marketing term. It is simple and it conveys the essence of the problem it is trying to solve.

Big Content is the same. It starts by stating the problem. It is short. It means something. It is attempting to provide much of the same business value as Big Data, but in the Content arena.

Oh, let us not forget that just about every organization with 250 Knowledge Workers or more likely has a Big Content problem.

Remember all the times you’ve tried to tell a family member what you do for a living? Here is the new conversation…

Aunt Nancy: What do you do in your job?

Me: I help companies solve their Big Content problem.

Aunt Nancy: Big Content?

Me: Sure. You know all the pictures, tax returns, bills, and every other piece of paper in your house? That’s called Content and companies have a LOT more of it. They have to be able find any piece of Content quickly. They need to look at the vast collection and determine how best to serve their customers from the words in the Content.

Aunt Nancy: Oh? That sounds hard.

Me: It is, but since it used to be impossible, I feel pretty good about it. We can finally get the answers we need and keep-up with the exponentially increasing amount of Content coming into the system. It’s pretty exciting because we’ve gone from running-in-place to getting ahead of the problem. By the time Harrison grows-up, he won’t even have to worry about it. The answers will just be there for the asking.

Aunt Nancy: Like Google!

Me: Yes. Like Google, but better.

That is the conversation I want to have. What do you think? Easier than explaining what we do now?

We don’t we try it out and see how it feels?

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