Thursday, June 5, 2014

What is Enterprise Information Management

To understand what Enterprise Information Management is and why we need it, first let’s see where a typical business user saves his content.

There are several commonly used tools that a typical business user will use to save his content.

1. My Documents - This is probably the first option that an average user will use to save his content. Even if they are supposed to use a file share, there is a high probability that they will save a copy in their “My documents” folder.

2. Desktop - Many of the users will first save their content in the desktop with the aim of moving them to another folder later, which may or may not happen.

3.Attachments - Most of the files we receive as well as sent on email, will be kept as attachments throughout their lifecycle. This is why most of us first search through our emails when we need to find such a file rather than searching in the file share or the ECM system.

4. Cloud storage - With so many options to choose from, cloud storage services are becoming more and more popular. Most users now tend to save their files in a cloud storage service such as DropBox, as they support anywhere access with mobile devices.

5. USB drives - Also many users will have some of their files stored in a pen drive or external hard drives.

6. File Share - Any organization when trying to bring some discipline in to how their files are stored, will start with a file share, arranged according to their departments / team structure.

7.ECM systems - Apart from all these options, there are many ECM systems also being used.

As the next step of identifying why we need Enterprise Information Management systems, lets look at how a user will share their content with others.

1. Email - The first and most preferred option to share a file with others (with internal colleagues as well as external parties) is to send them on email. Sharing files as email attachments continues to grow, and it is becoming even more popular with ever increasing mail box sizes and attachment sizes.

2. Pen Drives - The second most popular file exchanging method is to use a pen-drive. Nowadays pen drive has become an essential tool for business users.

3. File Share - File servers are the next option. A user can save a file in the relevant folder, or most probably in a common shared folder so that others can get a copy of the file. If a user knows how to copy the file path, they will share that with the intended recipient on email. Otherwise they will have to call the other party and guide them on how to find that file.

4. Cloud - Due to the popularity of cloud storage services in the recent times, users tend to share their files directly from cloud. Especially when the file size is bigger and is not possible to send on email. Since these cloud storage services are easily accessible from any device using apps, this option is becoming more and more popular.

5. ECM systems - Matured organizations use ECM systems to encourage collaboration and information sharing. However due to the complexity and the information overload, in most of the cases it is not possible to manage all organizational content using a singe ECM system.

Having several such options to save and share files with others, now lets look at what happens when we do not use a proper information management system.

One of the main issues that many organizations as well as individuals are facing today is information overload. Even with the ever-growing technological advances, still we find it difficult to access the relevant information when we need it. If the users store their files in a personal storage location such as the desktop or my documents folder then other users will not be able to access these as and when they need. So finding and accessing information has become a costly exercise. A typical knowledge worker spends a significant amount of his time looking for the required information rather than actually processing it.

Irrespective of the way we share our files with others, there is a high probability that we end up in having multiple copies of the same file. Especially when multiple users are working on the same file, it becomes difficult to track and manage all changes. This obviously makes it difficult to find the latest file or the original file. This is why we need to have a proper file versioning mechanism irrespective of the ECM system being used.

Another disadvantage of not having a proper information management system is poor knowledge sharing. For obvious reasons organizations encourage collaboration and knowledge sharing. Unfortunately In an environment where there is no controlled information management practice, a significant amount of its knowledge is not being shared. Think of a situation where a knowledge worker is leaving an organization. There is a high probability that a part of the organizational knowledge also leaves with that individual.

Lack of a proper ECM system will also result in other issues such as information theft, legal and compliance issues etc… These have increasingly become concerns for CIOs around the world.


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