written by Chris Schassler

In my years working in the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) space there are precious few organizations that had a strategic ECM strategy in place. I have seen some organizations that have done some amazing things and was lucky enough to work with one that chose to build such a strategy and then rolled it out across the Enterprise very successfully. However, in my experience, such success has proven to be rare. ECM technologies and solutions can be a tremendous asset if used effectively, or very costly if not understood or used to their full potential. Based on the expected growth, ECM strategies are needed now more than ever.

How large and fast is the growth of content?

Worldwide information is doubling every 2 years and by 2020 it is expected that we will have 50 times the amount of information. The amount of digital information by 2020 is estimated to be around 40 Zetabytes (ZB) (1 ZB = 1 trillion GBs) with the vast majority of the information coming in the form of unstructured data (content).

Source: “Structured vs. Unstructured Data: The Rise of Data Anarchy”


How do I build a strategy and apply ECM technology to satisfy these challenges?

When we come in to either help an agency define and implement or enhance an existing ECM solution across the organization there are a regimented series of activities we follow using both Vega internal and ECM industry best practices. Based on the years of experience and lessons learned we have found that the process and tasks we use have proven to provide better results more quickly and generate the most positive Return on Investment (ROI) given the current state of the agency’s ECM offering.

The steps and activities will vary depending on the ECM maturity level that the agency is currently in but, in general, the following are key areas we focus on:

1. You need to understand your content – how it originates and where it resides, what policies and regulations apply, the data (metadata) that applies to it, what formats it takes and how it is used, how it is distributed, and how it is dispositioned (e.g. Records Management). By understanding your content you can organize it more effectively within your repositories and take a more content-centric approach so content with similar processes, functions, security, etc. can be stored together making it easier to control and support.

2. Construct an agency Content Model – Sometimes organizations create corporate taxonomies and they are certainly part of this idea but many of the ECM platforms used today are object oriented in nature which means a hierarchical model can be constructed to define the agency’s content. Creating such a model helps make it easier to manage content because object-oriented features such as inheritance can be leveraged and logic, security, etc. can be applied correctly based on the content class or object type.

3. Create a security model for content – This is an area that is often overlooked in the ECM domain and the one that causes many recurring issues. Content is an asset and has a lifecycle as we described above, an asset should be governed and secured appropriately. It is vital to understand your content and the laws and regulations your agency’s content solutions need to support.

4. Define or identify the ECM technology for the agency – Usually, when we work with clients they already have one, usually more than one, ECM platform. This may be necessary but more often than not it isn’t. The key is to have the requirements and processes define the architecture and the design, not vice versa.

5. Focus on Records Management throughout the content lifecycle – Records Management (RM) is often, mistakenly, an afterthought and not considered when defining ECM solutions. RM should be considered from content capture all the way to when it reaches final disposition and throughout the entire Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) process. By doing this, managing the agency’s records becomes easier and part the everyday process without creating inefficiencies within the organization.

6. Define Implementation Models – Once models are identified reusable components within each that can be created and shared across models to provide similar features such as create/add content, search, browse, records declaration, and publish just to name a few.

7. Take a unified approach – I have seen inefficiencies greater than 70% due to improper management of content. Redundant work, constantly correcting wrong versions, duplication causes time, cost, and risk to add up very quickly. Reusing the content itself as well as content assets (e.g. implementation models and functional components) creates tremendous cost and time savings, higher productivity, better quality, mitigates risk, and greater efficiencies.

All of this may seem a bit daunting and, while it does require effort, it is by no means impossible, quite the contrary. We have worked with many clients to help them define and implement ECM strategies and solutions that provide tremendous value. It is also important to note that defining an ECM strategy that provides a unified approach for managing content does not mean that the solutions do not allow any flexibility. Understanding the agency’s content requirements allows for flexible solutions that can adapt to different needs while still maintaining consistency and control over the organization’s content assets.