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The Junk Drawers and Bank Vaults of Enterprise Content Management.

I opened a drawer in my kitchen the other day expecting to find the measuring spoons. It was the wrong drawer. It had loads of things in it--the phrase "everything but the kitchen sink" comes to mind--but no measuring spoons. As you've no doubt gathered, I opened the junk drawer.

I suspect that everyone has a junk drawer. For some reason, these drawers are often found in the kitchen, although I've known tool drawers in workrooms to show ominous similarities to kitchen junk drawers. When I see a house with cars parked in the driveway and the garage door always closed, I assume that the family's junk drawer has outgrown the kitchen and taken over the entire garage, leaving no room to park the cars there.

Every time we move, I am convinced that, this time, we will be sufficiently organized to avoid creating a junk drawer. Somehow, we'll actually live by that old maxim, "A place for everything and everything in its place." OK, as you've probably guessed, it hasn't happened yet. Like death and taxes, junk drawers are inevitable.

Digital Junk Drawers

The increase in storage space on most computers has migrated the concept of the kitchen junk drawer to people's personal computers. All those files can now be stored in multiple places on your hard drive without negatively impacting the machine's performance. Painful personal experience has likely taught you that having no incentive to clean up your hard drive can lead to chaos, as you frantically search multiple files to find the one that has the digital measuring spoons.

It's not so different in the enterprise. Wes Yee, Sr. Director of Growth at Guru, calls this phenomenon a silent productivity killer. You want to be doing effective enterprise content management (ECM), but you find that you're confronting Content Mismanagement instead. I visualize Content Mismanagement as a small green gremlin who gleefully creates havoc and probably lives in a junk drawer.

Yee identifies five tactics that Content Mismanagement uses to cut into productivity. First, browser tabs have proliferated, each taking people to an app where siloed content exists. Without consolidation, it's easy to miss relevant content. Second, people keep creating new content without refreshing older content. The result is outdated, incorrect information that is just as readily discoverable as the current, valid information. In turn, when they stumble over the former and can't find the latter, people lose faith in the system and simply stop looking.

Third, there's the "out of sight, out of mind" problem. As Yee says, this asks the question, "If someone is looking for a piece of content but they can't find it, does it really exist?" If you can't find what you're looking for, even when you turn your junk drawer upside down, it could mean you no longer own that item or that gremlins moved it out of the junk drawer into a different drawer.

Interruptions are a powerful productivity killer, as Yee acknowledges in his fourth tactic. Finally, there's the question of who's actually using the content that's been created. If there's a disconnect between the content in a repository and what's actually being consumed, there's a productivity gap. It makes little sense to spend time creating content that doesn't match up with what others need. Thus, knowing what is being used, by whom, and how often could optimize the entire content creation process and guard against having content consigned to a virtual enterprise junk drawer.

From Junk Drawer to Bank Vault

The exact opposite of the junk drawer is the bank vault. Into your safe deposit box goes important papers and other essential items, things that need to be secured and readily available, not what you would spend time hunting through random drawers to locate. Using this analogy, Dave Jones, VP of Product Marketing for Nuxeo, describes a success story for ECM. By modernizing an aging information management architecture, a global financial services institution both strengthened its regulatory compliance and enhanced its competitive advantage.

The bank did this by taking the idea of a safe deposit box and applying it to the digital world, creating a "digital data vault." In the vault, customers could access every bit of their bank-related information. They could upload, store, and view personal documentation. Plus, it gave the bank the ability to comply with legal regulations.

The entire process was in line with business goals. No technology for the sake of technology, just a total concentration on why this was necessary from a business perspective. The technology perspective came from connecting content and data. This didn't mean migrating every piece of data from the legacy system, just that they were accessible from the new system. A third important piece of putting together a successful project was the implementation of common metadata. As Jones puts it, metadata is the marriage between content and data.

Digital transformation can only bring value if it supports what the business is trying to achieve. Viewing information as a single entity, connected through technology, is crucial to positioning modern organizations to cope with the challenges they face in a rapidly changing business environment.

Jones calls 2019 the "year of modernization" while Yee asks if this will be the year we "rise up" and conquer Content Mismanagement. Sounds like exciting times ahead! I'll be happy if I can locate the measuring spoons that are supposed to be in the junk drawer.

By Marydee Ojala, Conference Program Director, Information Today, Inc.

Marydee Ojala is conference program director for Information Today, Inc. She works on conferences such as Enterprise Search & Discovery, which is co-located with KMWorld, and WebSearch University, among others. She is a frequent speaker at U.S. and international information professional events. In addition, she moderates the popular KMWorld webinar series.

Ojala is based in Indianapolis, Indiana and can be reached at
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Author:Ojala, Marydee
Date:Mar 1, 2019
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