Dawn of a new age of content services

Content is one of the most valuable commodities that any business owns today. Yet, increasingly it presents as much a challenge as an opportunity to the enterprise. Document volumes are growing exponentially; regulations are becoming more complex and yet users are demanding simplicity and ease of use.  Unfortunately, the volume and complexity of problems businesses face are compounded rather than allayed by the unwieldy legacy approaches they employ. 

A recent ASG-commissioned technology adoption profile study, “Today’s Enterprise Content Demands a Modern Approach” conducted by Forrester Consulting polled 220 IT managers, enterprise architects and operations decision makers involved with content management at their organisations. It found 95% were using more than one system to manage enterprise content, including 31% that were using five or more systems. These duplicitous systems lead to disjointed information with hard-to-access retrieval and use. Lack of flexibility is therefore one clear shortcoming of existing approaches to Enterprise Content Management (ECM). Organisations want to invest in systems and technology that allow them to grow and adapt to changing market but traditional ECM often hinders them from doing so.   

Further, the amount of data these organisations are tasked with storing has increased significantly over the past two years, with 82% of respondents reporting an increase in unstructured data in the form of business content, like office documents, presentations, spreadsheets, and rich media.    They are also having to manage a great deal of transactional content originating from outside the organisation, like applications, claims, contracts, and forms.  Not surprisingly, storage figures reflect the increased growth with the majority of organisations (60%) storing 100 terabytes (TBs) or more of unstructured data.  Traditional ECM systems typically struggle to cope with this level of growth due to another key shortcoming – their inability to scale.   

Most traditional ECM solutions also struggle to manage growing regulatory and security requirements.  As the Forrester Consulting study highlights: “Sharing content with external parties is becoming the norm. But with that comes expanding regulatory and compliance demands and an increased urgency to protect both customer and enterprise data.” In line with this, the top two content management challenges for organisations identified in the study are ‘providing secure content access to our extended enterprise,’ and ‘meeting expanding regulatory and compliance demands.’ 

Enterprises today are clearly challenged by the need to manage large volumes of content in multiple formats in a compliant and secure manner, especially as manually-executed tactics used in traditional approaches to doing this are generally expensive, inconsistent and time-consuming.   Equally, with traditional ECM, it can be difficult to put in place, monitor and maintain a fully enforceable security policy which still enables fast access by authorised individuals. 

So how can organisations effectively address the multiple challenges outlined above? First, it’s important to note that the process does not have to be resource intensive. While solutions of the past required an enterprise to spend months consolidating content across siloed repositories into one location, that's not necessary today.   

Instead, modern enterprises can leverage content services to manage assets across multiple content repositories, whether in the cloud or on-premise, and keep that information in its native form while still making it easily accessible. By providing controlled access and integrating content from any device, anywhere, these solutions, can effectively scale to accommodate growing data volumes, while at the same time breaking down the repository walls created by proprietary systems and allowing content to be stored in public and private clouds, on-premise and hybrid environments for greater flexibility and savings.

At the same time, however, they need to be aware that the regulatory environment is becoming more complex, and its dynamic nature means processes must be put in place to effectively ensure compliance and business success. 

To survive and thrive in the future, businesses must learn how to balance the scales of mobility and workflow with regulations and multiple environments. Flexible deployment of content services can support legacy systems. With a flexible content solution, modern enterprises can get accurate information on every device, while still complying with regulations.   

Practical Answers   

The above outlines the theory of what businesses can do to move beyond the pain points and constraints inherent in using traditional ECM systems and establish a new standard.  At ASG, we suggest following these four strategies:

1. Recognise that technologies alone do not solve the problem of getting content into the right hands when organisations are making business decisions. ECM software is fading. Today’s content solutions connect people with the business and content they need to make decisions, disseminate knowledge and collaborate with customers and colleagues. This modern approach will make your business far more agile and responsive to customer demand. 

2. Look for purpose-built, decoupled content services architectures, such as ASG’s own Mobius solution, to manage content.  Build your content services infrastructure for a mobile-first workforce and look for platforms that expose specific ECM capabilities as services. Doing this will ensure greater flexibility and scalability.  

3. Seek vendors that deliver transparent, contextual access to the content, eliminating the need for the user to know where the asset is stored. Content should be delivered to the users’ workflow through an intuitive process offering the user options through a policy controlled “learning” process. Once again this will provide flexibility across the business.  

4. Understand and utilise granular policy management for content assets.  When reviewing content services architectures, look for those that have granular policy management services to provide content with contextual meaning as well as how it should be governed. This typically will include details of when the content is supposed to be deleted, when it is meant to be archived, and other information that is often critical to businesses needing to govern content effectively for compliance purposes.

Today, the cumbersome ECM suites of the past are increasingly giving way to flexible content services platforms.  This new services approach enables users to attain access to content across on-premise, cloud-based and hybrid environments at any time and from anywhere and also obtain enhanced visibility across their disparate systems. In the modern business world, it will be those enterprises that take the plunge and adopt the latest modern content management approaches that will derive the most value from the content and use it most successfully to achieve improved decision-making capabilities; enhance customer relationships and drive competitive edge.    

Brendan English, VP, Line of Business, Content Solutions, ASG Technologies 

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