Dealing with the document deluge

If organizations want to keep on top of the data and documents they’re generating they might want to think about adopting some form of enterprise content management (ECM) software, according to an industry analyst.

“These days, with legal issues and reporting and auditing issues, it would be virtually impossible for a large organization to function without some sort of ECM [product],” said Warren Shiau, lead analyst with The Strategic Counsel in Toronto.

ECM offers organizations a way to better manage both their structured and unstructured data, explained Shiau.

Unstructured data includes basic computing files like audio and video, or words in a document or PowerPoint presentation that have no real structure. Structured data, on the other hand, is defined as information in which some programming algorithms or metadata have been tied to it so that it can be easily accessible in a company’s database.

In the past, most organizations had to deal with their data and documents in silos developed over years of using legacy applications and architectures, the analyst said.

“It hasn’t been a case where ECM just suddenly appeared. ECM has grown from the very basic task of digitizing documents to becoming a [single repository] for data and documents,” said Shiau.

If organizations want to successfully implement ECM, the analyst recommended a thorough planning and architecting stage prior to implementation.

“If you’re looking at ECM and you’re not going to (start by mapping) out all the IT and business processes around capturing data and how to manage and store it, itwill be hard to successfully implement an ECM,” said Shiau.

Mapping out its ECM implementation was essential for the Canada Council for the Arts (CCA), according to Debbie Stenson, EMC/Documentum administrator for the organization.

The CCA has been using EMC Corp.’s Documentum Records Manager since 1999 and Stenson said if it wasn’t for prior planning, the organization wouldn’t have been able to get full value from the system.

In the past files were categorized in an in-house program as general files or policy files, which didn’t tell staff very much about file content. Now it goes into lengthy detail about the content.

Stenson added that the software also allowed them to barcode all their paper records so they would know where information is located at all times, making it easier and faster for staff to locate desired documents.

Lubor Ptacek, director of content management marketing for EMC Software, said compliance is another reason why companies are embracing ECM.

“In Canada, like the U.S., there are regulations that dictate to publicly traded companies what amount of information needs to be retained and for what amount of time,” he said.

Stenson added that the compliance factor was another reason why the CCA decided to implement an ECM system. The organization has to manage about 120,000 grant files that it is legally required to keep for eight years, and it also has to keep corporate files such as financial records and human resources records. Storing this much data, said Stenson, made having an ECM system important to the CCA.

The Strategic Counsel’s Shiau said the market will continue to grow in popularity with increasing levels of data and documents requiring management pushing companies to examine ECM.

In addition to EMC, other major ECM players include OpenText and IBM.

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