Compliance leaders struggle to change user habits

A panel discussion on enterprise content management for compliance at IBM’s Information on Demand conference this week showed that, while many businesses are still struggling to get their e-mail systems and document management systems under control, they are also making some decent headway into becoming compliance-ready.

Joe Dintino, a content management specialist with Philadelphia-based specialty materials company Rohm & Haas, recently began an enterprise content management (ECM) and retention program that would set up standards and best practices around business and legal retention requirements.

He said that he had several e-mail management goals to reach, including limiting redundant e-mail, and implementing a structure that would efficiently identify, store, retrieve, and protect important company records.

To get there, Dintino has implemented a three-part structure, utilizing IBM’s Records Manager, CommonStore, Content Manager, and Integro’s E-mail Manager. An auto-delete function gets rid of what he calls “transient information” that is over 60 days old and hasn’t been dealt with by the user. Each user is also allotted 100MB of “workspace” that allows them to keep “in-progress” e-mails that they might want to refer to at a later time. Finally, there are e-mails classified as company records, which are those with business value.

There was a reason why e-mail was chosen as the first piece of the compliance puzzle. Said Dintino: “E-mail tends to be a unique repository. It’s the most personal and unfocused, so there’s no discipline. But once they get the flavour (of compliance here), and learn together, it makes the next parts (around compliance) easier.”

However, the panelists also acknowledged the inherent challenges in making any sort of changes to a user’s e-mail habits. The “personal” feel of the application and people’s possessiveness over it add to the challenge of an ECM implementation.

Fred Heilbronner, a solution architect and forms director with the Coventry, Connecticut-based ECM company Document Access Systems, spoke about a cultural change taking place over at the Houston-based Transwestern Pipeline Company around document management—which, in their case, unfortunately, came in the wake of an audit.

A handful of IBM products were used to help implement the document management strategy, which included IBM FileNet, FileNet P8, Business Process Management, eForms, and Records Manager, and entailed several steps.

“First, they had to define the changes (and determine who has what data), and define the required approvals. Then, they needed to determine a route for the in-progress workflow,” he said, pointing out that they were able to convey the business value of the project quite easily by reminding users of the massive fines involved in compliance blunders.

Getting users on-board with a new (ECM) system can be a challenge, said the panelists, but so can marshalling the IT and records management forces together.

Dintino said, “IT doesn’t care about the value assigned to active versus inactive data. Records managers know it has values, and treat it differently. But records managers aren’t used to active records, either, so both sides are learning something new. It’s come to an IT/records managers head, and it’s taking years to get them thinking the same. It’s very painful.”

Scott Burt, president of the Englewood, Colorado-based ECM consultancy company Integro, said that it is important that the two factions learn how to speak the same language. “And,” he said, “work together on policies.”

Both sides are also struggling with the massive amounts of data streaming in every day, said Davor Razlog, an IT QA policy and standards manager, and corporate business information systems manager with power utility BC Hydro, which is in the process of choosing a new ECM system now.

“People have terabyte upon terabyte in their .pst files. We need to move to a system that knows how to manage these files and to destroy them when (necessary),” he said. “This will be difficult, as people store everything!”

When it seems like such an uphill battle, it can be easy to get discouraged, but, said Burt, when it comes to ECM and compliance, there’s always one compelling bottom line. Said Burt: “E-discovery suits cost an average of $250,000. Companies can very quickly see the ROI in that.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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