A colleague pointed me to a recent article from InformationWeek titled Content Chaos (Available here but registration is required). The article is based on a survey of 425 business technology professionals in July 2011. I found a couple of the survey results interesting.
The first area was in the question of "Does Your Company Have an ECM Strategy?" Over one-half of the respondents either said No (48%) or they don't know (16%). The definition of ECM strategy referred to in the article (which I assume was also in the question to those participating in the survey) was "a set of information strategies, document taxonomies and business processes that have significant buy-in from C-level managers to IT to the end users who create and consume data." If that definition was used in the survey, then the fact that almost one-half of the respondents say they do not have a strategy may not be that surprising. I agree with most of their definition, but too many people think an ECM strategy is we have SharePoint or some other ECM technology in place to help us manage our documents. I have previously written about What is ECM in this blog (see blog posting here.) As I said in that blog posting, ECM is not just about the software tools and technologies. It’s about enterprise-wide information policies and other governance structures to help you manage information throughout its lifecycle, whether it is structured or unstructured, electronic or physical. If the respondents to the survey were thinking about ECM holistically, then the high number that said no doesn't surprise me as much.
The article and survey also had some interesting findings around disposition of content. Disposition is what happens to content and records at the end of their lifecycle, or the end of their legal life and usefulness to the organization. For most organizations that means deleting the content, but for some government organizations, it may mean transferring it to an archive. Only 20% of the respondents delete files when they reach the end of their retention period. 29% said their organization has a disposition policy, but they still hold on to data that could be deleted because "they might need it." Almost one-half of the respondents said the possibility of needing data that had been disposed of was their greatest concern when it comes to getting rid of data. 26% said they don't have a policy and aren't in the process of developing one. 17% of those without a policy or plans for a policy dispose of data in an ad hoc manner and 9% keep everything. 5% of the respondents indicate their policy is to keep everything forever.
67% of the respondents said they need moderate or significant improvement in being able to identify when data has reached its end of life and can be disposed of in compliance with policies and regulations. This is where an ECM strategy (including tools) can help an organization be compliant in disposing of information when it has reached its end of life. Many people understand that not disposing of information when you can complicates or increases the cost for eDiscovery because you have more information to sift through. It also increases the risk that something that could have been disposed of earlier can be used against you. But there is also an end-user productivity component to keeping information longer than it should be - more information to look through when you need to find that one piece of information to help you in making a decision now. You might base that decision on outdated information because it came back in a search or you might miss the most current information because there was more data to review than was necessary and the more current information was overlooked.
Access Sciences has decades of experience in the area of ECM strategies and technologies, including the organizational change aspects of implementing new practices and tools. We can help guide your organization through the tough decisions and turn your content chaos into something more manageable and sustainable. Give us a call and let's talk about how we can help your organization.