The Business-Technology Weave

Nov 26 2012   11:03AM GMT

Content Management, Part II – A growing divide



Posted by: David Scott
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1 year plan

Please see Part I below, or here

Management of content is already well underway in some organizations – with varying degrees of success.  But for most others it is a looming imperative.  If you do not have a method for determining and using your information effectively throughout the organization, you will grow an ever-widening divide between your needs and your reality.  That is, between the sheer necessity for effective use/leverage of business information – and the conditions of inefficiency and diminished returns that accrue with the accumulated glut of unmanaged information.  You must avoid or close that divide now.  Here’s why:

Business is faced with an explosion: it is the exponential growth of content.  What exactly is “content”?  It is any information that your business holds, whether known or unknown, and whether asset or liability.  Whatever electronic information resides in your business systems, on your network, on workstations, in your e-mail system, on backup tapes, on all those scattered discs – is content.  It also includes whatever information exists in the form of hardcopy – printed reports output, written notes, mail you’ve accumulated, etc. – things existing in filing cabinets, bookshelves, and piled on desks.  Whether electronic or hardcopy, content can exist as text, artwork, photos, presentations, etc.  Really anything in your enterprise containing information of any sort, business and non-business related – is content.  That menu from the corner deli is content, and if it’s in someone’s desk drawer, it is part of your organization’s content:  your organization contains it.  The importance of that realization will be made evident, but for now it is imperative that we understand that the organization is liable for all content it harbors.  This is whether it’s harbored by design, or by accident.  This understanding will be necessary as we talk about specific liabilities imposed by certain content.

Content:  A Basic Understanding of Need

Content management can be illuminated further in very practical terms.  Remember the old WYSIWYG (Wiz-ee-wig) acronym?  What You See Is What You Get.  WYSIWYG came about around the time of Windows-based applications, as they replaced DOS-based applications.  At that time, a graphical user interface replaced a text interface.  Software applications delivered to the screen the exact font, formatting, colors, and images that would be produced when you printed your work.  Before WYSIWYG, what you saw on the screen was an approximation of your output – the screen showed, primarily, same-sized text.  Fonts, sizes, graphics, and colors were represented by codes and symbols – you couldn’t confirm what you were getting until you printed, and often what you got was wrong. 

Obviously ‘getting what is wrong’ is inefficient, counterproductive, and frustrating.  This is no less true in the realm of content.  Today’s challenge isn’t aesthetic correctness; it’s content correctness.  Getting what you need.  Content management can be thought of as WYNIWYG (Win-ee-wig): What You Need Is What You Get.  And just as importantly, what you don’t need is what you get rid of

The growth in content is paired with an increasingly important requirement.  Whereas data management, or information management, was once viewed primarily as a concern regarding simple access, delivery, storage, and space – this data is now understood to have value beyond its face and local residency.  It often has continued value beyond any immediate need, and becomes a leveraged asset across the organization as we develop, share, combine and repurpose content.  Data’s content can also pose a potential liability – to the organization and to those with whom we do business.  Content’s liability depends on its nature and, further, its exposure.  

For these reasons there is a whole new realm of standards, within an already established (yet evolving) discipline, in basing the management of information according to content.  This isn’t something that’s never been done before: electronic information on any computer network is managed to some degree according to content.  Things are filed in specific folders, according to subject matter.  Permissions are granted to users based on their need and the data’s nature and sensitivity, and so on.  Hardcopy information too is filed, often locked in filing cabinets; access granted according to the content and who is authorized to access it.  Your HR department’s hardcopy files, for example. 

A Missing Accountability:  But until fairly recently, most organizations had no comprehensive view of their content – those paper and electronic files that comprised the whole of their information.  It’s true that IT had a certain handle on information – regarding disk space utilization, allocation of storage to users, and administering of electronic security.  Too, departments, various bridging teams, and ad hoc groups would have some measure of knowledge regarding their specific content’s information.  But no central authority knew, indeed no one could know, what exactly was on the organization’s computers or in its files in any comprehensive manner. 

There was simply no practice, discipline and allied system for the central control of, knowledge of, and reporting for, content.  An absence of accountability.

Next:  Getting it; Using it; Re-using it; and Getting Rid of It

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