Avoiding Content Sprawl: How CIOs Can Keep up With Digitalisation

Today organisations invariably use around 5-10 content management platforms

However, in some extreme cases this number can be well over 50. That’s over 50 places in one company where a document could be created, saved, edited, updated and shared – this is content management chaos. Content management nirvana, on the other hand, is a single company-wide content management system where everything is stored.

Most companies sit somewhere between nirvana and chaos. It’s easy for content to get shared across multiple platforms, such as Google Drive, DropBox, Skype, email or Microsoft SharePoint. The number of content tools can rise as a result of acquisitions or simply due to departments or employees going rogue and using their own tools to satisfy their “unique needs”. These can have dangerous consequences, especially when sensitive corporate information is stored in non-secure locations.

Security, Risk and Compliance Issues

The problem with using multiple content management platforms is that there’s no single source of truth. If an end-user needs to find a file, where is the most recent version of the document stored? Perhaps it was shared with a partner on DropBox, so people end up working off the non-master version of the document, meaning that out-of-date documents such as terms and conditions, price lists and contracts could still be in use.

Mistakes can then arise from multiple people working on different versions of a document, which could mean that important updates are missed. How many times have you seen “version 7” or “final version” added to a file name? But can you really trust this? When there is a need to cross reference information in multiple areas then the organisation becomes inefficient – time is wasted searching, decisions are made using outdated information and there’s extra work in consolidating various versions of content.

There are also regulatory and legal restrictions that require companies to centralise content. Litigation can become a nightmare. If an organisation finds itself being taken to court, documents will become vital and it will be difficult to locate them if they are spread across umpteen different systems. All systems would have to be audited to find everything about a specific case, whether it be an IP infringement, a HR disciplinary incident or some such matter.

This can be a time consuming and cumbersome process, meaning it is often outsourced, which in turn costs a company even more money. This is just one example of the security, risk and compliance issues surrounding content management; let’s not even dive into the GDPR rabbit hole.

Content Management – declutter and storage solutions

So, how do organisations move towards content management nirvana? First, there needs to be a regular audit. Checking existing business systems and understanding why they are being used. Is there a real need for them or have they been adopted by an individual or department to get around IT or use a feature they don’t think was available? Look for things like ROT, which is to mean redundant, outdated or trivial content – things you can just get rid of, that are costing too much to manage and store, and those that you don’t need to maintain.  Finally, check network traffic and see what’s being accessed so that any applications going under the radar can be identified. Remember, it is not always the most obvious places like email, how many people have put documents on a USB stick and lost them? Think about all the sorts of ways information is leaked, lost or placed in other areas.

Data hoarding is also a big problem. Introducing retention schedules as part of information governance capability can enable identification of what needs to be kept, why and for how long. There are also information lifecycle procedures to move data from one storage area to another. Data may need to be retained past the time when it is actively being used for compliance reasons. Rather than keeping data on expensive hard drives, it can be migrated to cheaper and cheaper storage – cold storage, so that it can still be accessed if necessary.

Embracing the digital age

The messy patchwork of legacy systems exacts a high price. It’s costly to maintain and a drag on operational efficiency, user productivity and IT resources. It’s also a huge barrier to innovation. IT organisations wrestling with siloes of information stored in closed systems based on decades-old technology can’t easily deliver great customer experiences, maximise efficiency, benefit from the agility and cost savings of the cloud and can’t respond fast enough to new business requirements. Lagging behind in digitalisation is an emerging fear for businesses. In a recent survey of 300 digital transformation decision makers, the majority (87%) say their business results would be impacted by a technically innovative competitor.

When business and IT join together in harmony, then the benefits reaped are massive. The aforementioned survey yielded some interesting results regarding technology valuation: expected business benefits from digital transformation include improved employee productivity (74%), decreased costs (71%), increased customer satisfaction (62%). Decision makers forecast that there’s long-term advantages in eliminating the technological cacophony caused by different outdated systems. In ushering in a replacement unified system, a business may encounter some teething issues, but the consequential economic and productivity boost generated by migration is an example of why we should embrace the digital age and its modern solutions – especially when managing content. Don’t let the sprawl take over.

About the Author

Paul Hampton is Senior Director of Product Marketing at Alfresco. Alfresco customers rely on our open, modern platform to digitize critical business processes and connect people with the information they need, quickly and effortlessly.

Featured image: sp4764