When I dove into the debate on Content Services and ECM, my conclusion was fairly straightforward.
Look at your information flow. Follow it and find new ways to make it flow faster. If you can do that and know where your information is at anytime, you are done.
There is a lot of detail buried under that relatively straightforward statement. Content Services is part of a broader trend in the content management space and is here to stay. It has been here since CMIS (Content Management Interoperability Services) entered the picture almost a decade ago but now people are seeing it as more than a way to integrate systems.
The problem is that ECM (Enterprise Content Management) is still just part of the picture. Even if we use the latest tools without regard to the latest buzz words that define them. If we just focus on the content we are failing to solve what needs to be solved.
Here’s the deal. Content never stands alone. Yes it has metadata but there are entities that need to be managed that may not have content. Consider:
- Process Documents: Think of an invoice. It comes into the organization and follows a very defined process. This is the foundation for the entire industry. The process may start before any content is created.
- Case Documents: While the fervor has died down, case management still matters. Many things are a collection of documents and the information about the collection, and the ad-hoc nature of the work, still matters.
- Collaborative Content: Most of this content could be shoe-horned into case management but nobody doing the work thinks of it that way. Projects and teams use content in multiple ways to achieve an evolving goal. Having a place to go and work towards that goal, along with all the related information, is important.
- Digital Assets: Digital assets can be part of any of the previous three instances. The difference is that digital assets have a lot of special requirements around licensing, source, and usage (to name a few) that adds a layer of complexity.
A lot of this content crosses streams. A contract is part of a sale, collaboratively worked on by multiple parties, subject to process review, and needed in a workspace for the team delivering what was promised in the contract. Building one system to serve all of those needs is complex. Have a Contract Management System is useful to address the legal requirements but then the content needs to be served to the other locations.
You aren’t going to have only one solution to this unless you ignore the problems and force the technology. That will leave you with strong systems that serves the IT department, not the people who need a solution.
In each context, there is more information related to the piece of content. Sometimes it is a collection of documents. The result is that when it is time to manage the content, we need to manage the entire context. We need to manage the information.
We need Information Governance
ECM is one aspect of Information Governance. If you can’t manage content, you can’t manage the context that it lives within. You can’t apply different rules to the same information just because it lives in a database instead of a declared record.
When we manage items, we need to manage the entire context. We need to be able to reach into the database and the CMS (Content Management System) in order to manage things as a coherent whole.
Of course this is tricky. Databases aren’t designed to be managed like formal records. Data sets are managed. Content and data have evolved along parallel, yet different, paths to handling governance.
Of course, you can’t buy Information Governance anymore than we’ve been able to buy ECM. It is a strategy and an approach, just on a more comprehensive scale. You are still setting priorities. You are still making sure you know where everything lives.
And you are still creating an ECM strategy to handle content. ECM should just live within the larger context of Information Governance.
Giving the different paradigms behind how the underlying CMSs and databases tackle governance, there is going to be some assessing and planning required. Taking a bigger picture view, and implementing it, is going to take a lot of work.
Perhaps a transformation…