The Business-Technology Weave

Nov 28 2012   12:56PM GMT

Content: Getting it; using it; re-using it; and getting rid of it

David Scott David Scott Profile: David Scott

Beyond mere accountability, the modern and evolving discipline of managed content is more sophisticated and powerful than anything previously established.  We make content searchable and relevant to people in powerful new ways, in support of projects and disciplines within the organization.  We find supporting and illuminating relationships between existing content that were previously hidden because there was no way to find or readily expose these relationships.  We see new clues regarding markets, customers, products, services, trends, activities, and risks.  As importantly, when new content is developed, we automate the assignment of key information fields to it so as to make this new content a part of our leveraged information assets.  Instead of being buried under an explosion of content, we explode content to splay its purpose, relevancy and value.  We then snap content together with other content to form a completed picture.

Imagine this: a scrambled jigsaw puzzle where the pieces reside in various departments, in various physical locations – perhaps all around the world – with individuals and groups working the various pieces in some measure of ignorance for the efforts and work of others.  We now connect all the pieces with an interwoven thread.  The thread guards against loss, and identifies puzzle pieces as relating to each other, among other things.  On demand, an authority pulls a master thread, and all the pieces come together to form as complete a picture as the moment allows: not part of a picture, not a picture with missing pieces, not a picture that requires recreation of missing parts that had already been created – but a 100% collection of parts with corresponding context and fit to the other parts. 

That is a large part of what content management delivers to business.  It can be the assembly of information regarding something in process, such as status that reflects the true moment of progress.  Or, it could be the review of completed project materials and all related effort.  It can be a search for relevant supporting content when mounting a new initiative.  Or, it can just be general research within your assets. 

What’s important to recognize is that you get the complete, best, picture of the situation according to all assets, according to the moment.  When we achieve this system of confidence and control, we gain enormous efficiency and leverage by reusing, re-purposing, and assembling content by optimizing its formerly hidden business value.

Reducing Exposure – Minimizing Liability:  We’re also talking about a comprehensive process that can give a central authority a ready report, at any time, on all content in your organization, according to any criteria by which they query:  What is its subject matter?  Who created it; who has it; who’s been using it?  What is its useful life?  How does it relate to and support other content?  Which members, customers, staff, projects, products, services, regulations, agencies, etc. does this content pertains to?  Where are versions of similar content residing?  Which version is current? 

Accumulation of content contributes to inefficiency.  Multiple versions and drafts of documents can exist in all sorts of locations.  As things get passed around within the organization, and saved in various user and departmental folders, you build all sorts of redundant, near-redundant, and ultimately erroneous data.  There may be content that was created by persons who have left the organization – there may be no one who can readily answer whether the content is correct.  Outdated content, or content whose value is murky, should be weighed against some standard in order to determine its disposability. 

Content management goes beyond eliminating “glut,” and yields the possible exposures (liabilities) that certain content may represent.  For example, your organization may have all manner of outdated business policies, stored in various departments, which may be based on expired outside law and regulation.  You wouldn’t want anyone taking action within such policy that no longer applies.  How can you be sure that everyone is operating on the most recent issue of organizational policies?  Another example may be emerging client relationships:  relationships to you, and their relationships to other agencies.  How do you best disseminate breaking information throughout the organization?  How do you ensure it’s received?  How do you ensure it supplants the old?  How do you remove the old?

Policy:  Content Management vs. Acceptable Use:  Sooner or later, every organization is going to have some measure of policy for content’s  management, and that measure will likely increase as time goes by.  It is important to note here what a Content Management policy is, and what it is not. 

It is for leveraging content, exposing and reducing specific liabilities, and for taking action on content in an administrative sense – reporting on, archiving, and destroying.  It is not the central policy regarding expectations of appropriate use, and regarding actions taken in circumstances of willful abuse of content.  Content management measures certainly do help to identify and expose abuse; however, the definitions of abuse, and measures regarding them, will be contained in the organization’s Acceptable Use Policy. 

Jumping ahead slightly, this Acceptable Use Policy details appropriate use of all business resources, tools, and assets – including information.  Your content management policy can point to the Acceptable Use Policy (or contain extracts from it) regarding things such as the improper access, accumulation, dissemination, removal, and destruction of information.  But again, content management helps us to identify and leverage content toward a positive purpose; helps to limit liability and exposure; and to take administrative action on content.  [We will discuss the Acceptable Use Policy later on this blog – if your organization is lacking such a policy, or needs a better one, stay tuned…]. 

Pairing Process and Policy:  Any policy simply formalizes and documents the understanding of needs, shows the value to be had, and details the mandatory course and standards of actions – the process – in satisfying those needs and requirements.  However, many processes find their way into practice without a formal policy.  Either they don’t require much formal documentation and standards, or they stagger along without them.  But, that cannot be the case with content management.  There really is no middle ground with content:  you either know what you have, or you don’t.  You’re either actively managing your data environment – culling bad and leveraging good – or you’re not. 

More to come…

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