Creating order from content chaos

Productivity has stalled in the 21st century. According to the Office for National Statistics, productivity hasn’t increased at all in the UK since 2007, while in Europe as a whole we’re facing the worrying thought of a decline in productivity.

This fact is difficult to understand, especially considering the recent study from tax and consulting firm EY, which notes that nearly half of all managers work more than 40 hours a week, and 39 per cent of those report their hours have increased in the past five years.

Take into account the explosion of “productivity” tools – mobile devices, wearable tech, YouTube videos on “life hacks” and self-help books on “how to be a more productive person” – and you’re left with the question: “How are people working more hours and learning to accomplish tasks more efficiently less productive?”

The unfortunate reality is that these individuals are working more in order to keep up with the exponential growth in information, activity, and connections, all spurred on by the new digital enterprise. Organisations are fatter and slower than they were in the past, regardless of the new tools they have at their disposal. Consider this fact from the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM): £15 billion is wasted searching for “lost documents” at work – digging through the trenches of data and information to find an answer.

So instead of making planning and searching easier, mobile devices, gadgets, videos and “helpful” articles are slowing down worker productivity and growth – the opposite of what they were intended for.

Getting Lost in the Infrastructure

Additionally, the movement towards new trends in IT infrastructure has slowed down productivity. No longer is the firewall the boundary to an organisation’s network: data and information is accessed from a plethora of touch points, both within and outside of the traditional firewall. Remote access, VPN, mobile devices and more extend the network of the digital enterprise, and current organisational models are unable to scale to meet the growth of the activity and connections running inside and out.

In addition to the rapid fire connections inside and out of the network, there is also the exponential growth in data and information to consider. Research firm IDC predicts an overwhelming 50x growth in digital content from 2010 to 2020, and attribute 90 per cent as “unstructured information”, such as e-mails, documents, and video.

Additionally, the rise of social media and collaboration tools has created a new set of information and content – all of which slows down the ability to find and utilise information in a streamlined and productive manner.

Technology - Used Correctly - Can Help

Technology is a double-edged sword: while contributing to the fat, it can also help people work smarter by helping them understand the context of their content. Content chaos can be stopped once people and process work more efficiently and effectively.

This is the primary goal of modern Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solutions – to take a new approach to content management. This allows people to work where and how they want, but also enables information and process to flow across the extended enterprise, develop a system to handle digital content management, and make deployment an easy process for IT teams across their infrastructure.

Many ECM projects fail due to poor user adoption - employees don’t like how some technologies are cumbersome, non-intuitive, or lack support for sharing and remote access. The modern ECM approach embraces the applications and devices people use every day, taking cues from consumer apps so that the experience is engaging and intuitive.

Key features you should consider when turning to a modern ECM solution include:

1) Open technology: Open standards allows for adaptability in case of unforeseen changes in the digital enterprise. The ability to be nimble with changes, as well as easy integration into existing IT environments, is important and less disruptive to the organisation.

2) Hybrid: Whilst workers migrate in and out of the firewall, they should not be deciders of what information permeates through. A hybrid model gives your organisation the ability to enable your workers preferences on information access while ensuring this content is secure and managed in accordance with any compliance policies.

3) Simplicity: Again, many ECM projects fail because the migration is not instinctive or is laborious. A solution should enable content access from the applications and devices your workers use daily – those devices and apps that are driving the surge in data – and not force a new system on them.

4) Maximising Content Value: Content is the currency that moves businesses – your organisation should not be slowed down trying to find what is valuable information, and what is not. The right technology is at the intersection of content, process and collaboration –seamlessly connecting people with the information and workflows they need to make better decisions and ensuring that content is the backbone to any extended enterprise.

Winning the Battle

Not all technology contributes into the content chaos, but migrating to the appropriate solution requires dedication and acceptance in the way people access, use and share content, and an understanding that the workplace is undergoing a complete transformation.

The extended enterprise is changing: how we store, share and manage our content both inside and outside the corporate network continues to evolve as technology improves.

Organisations must address how people want to work, where they want to work and when they want to work to adopt the data, information and process improvements across the entire digital enterprise.

John Newton is CTO, Founder and Chairman of Alfresco.