Mobility, social disrupting ECM paradigm

Greater fragmentation and volume of data calls for a more holistic approach beyond enterprise content management to manage and secure the information.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

SINGAPORE--The proliferation of mobile devices and corporate social platforms to access information is causing organizations to recognize that to secure and strategically manage such information will take more than simply enterprise content management (ECM).

Customers increasingly realize managing all their enterprise information--structured and unstructured--that is generated and consumed in and outside their organization is a problem bigger than ECM, said Graham Pullen, senior vice president and general manager, Asia-Pacific and Japan at OpenText.

They understand that an ECM solution on its own will not be enough to answer the question 'how can I get my staff to find and use information more easily', he added during an interview with ZDNet Asia on Thursday. OpenText is Canada's largest software maker which focuses on enterprise information management technologies.

"Just when companies think they're on top of the [volume] problem, it just doubled and became harder. The bucket is so big now and companies today never just have one repository [for all their information]."

-- Graham Pullen, senior vice president and general manager, Asia-Pacific and Japan, OpenText

The "perfect nirvana" of ECM has all along been about "the right information, in the right place, at the right time". But companies today are still nowhere closer to reaching that because the problem has not stayed the same, and in fact, grew, Pullen said.

A major reason is that the volume of information required, generated and consumed for work purposes in recent years has exploded, coming in from places outside the organization such as social media feedback, he said. "Just when companies think they're on top of the [volume] problem, it just doubled and became harder. The bucket is so big now and companies today never just have one repository [for all their information]."

Disruption of ECM paradigm
The ECM paradigm has been disrupted by other factors as well. One disrupter is the growing use of mobile phones and tablets outside the workplace or even when they are within office premises, he noted.

For the end users, it is all about convenience, but for the IT department, "it's hard stuff". More remote endpoints of information access and transfer popping up, and sometimes these are against the company's IT regulations, Pullen explained. Furthermore, this mobility disruption on enterprise information happened "in a heartbeat", so IT is struggling against time in trying to maintain control and secure confidential information.

At the same time, companies are also pushing employees to use various social media tools for internal and external communication, Pullen said. So the key is what and how any content goes onto the social platform has to be done securely, otherwise "you could get a WikiLeaks situation", he cautioned.

Holistic, broad approach needed
Pullen said the culminate impact of these trends on enterprises represents an information "iceberg", that is a "mindblowing" volume of information, whereby most of it is actually underneath and not easily discoverable or known to companies.

Being unable to deal with the depth of information eventually impedes companies in other areas such as regulatory compliance, customer knowledge and service, and time-to-market for products or campaigns.

Hence, while ECM remains important, it is part of a wider jigsaw puzzle that is enterprise information management (EIM), Pullen emphasized. EIM is a concept that allows companies to consolidate and manage all their information from various systems, and in doing so, fulfill their business obligations and objectives.

EIM consists of five interrelated pillars, which correspond to the challenges and demands of today's CIOs when it comes to handling information that is spread out and fragmented, the OpenText executive said. "CIOs pay an awful lot of money for bespoke applications and systems and now want to consolidate them because they don't talk to each other.

ECM is naturally one of the five pillars, which Pullen described as more of a backend process to keep all the data orderly and also maintains compliance. That way, at the frontend, the customer or user experience--the second pillar--is a simplified, single view of information regardless of what device they use to access. This customer experience pillar is "huge" because it accommodates people's preferences on consuming information, Pullen said.

The third pillar is business process management (BPM) because process and information are intertwined, and less organizations today regard BPM and ECM as mutually exclusive, he noted. For instance, when motor insurance company receives a claim from a customer, various pieces of information, such as police statements and photo evidence, should be easily available as well as accessed only by respective authorized persons. This way, the entire process moves along smoothly and quickly, and the customer case is resolved in a matter of weeks as opposed to months, he said.

The fourth and fifth pillars are discovery and information exchange. When information is well-maintained and organized with ECM, the plethora of information is not only easily searchable, but easily and securely transferred between users, Pullen pointed out. He noted that companies today are transferring files that are massive in size and "could easily bring a data center down".

Pullen added that these five EIM tenets and challenges are not specific to Asian organizations, but global ones as well.

He noted the Asia-Pacific region was an important growth market for OpenText. The vendor has been increasing its attention to Asia-Pacific since the start of this year. As the Asian economy remains strong in comparison to North America and Europe, companies here are expanding both within the region and overseas, creating a demand for EIM in order to support their expansion plans, he noted.

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