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EMC content archiving group still talks about possibility, not reality

Two weeks ago EMC (NYSE:EMC) released what could be construed as clear and poignant evidence that the record compliance and archiving industry is hurting.  The evidence was made possible by a survey conducted by AIIM and EMCAIIM is self identified as The Enterprise Content Management (ECM) Association.  The survey was well constructed and contained meaningful questions, or at least those that were shared were meaningful.  By well constructed I mean the respondents were from multiple industries and companies of varying sizes.  The questions were clearly targeted at addressing tactical issues in ECM, record compliance and archiving.

Carl Frappaolo, AIIM Vice President, Market Intelligence says “Unstructured information drives numerous business processes…”  The logical option here would be to deploy a business process management suite (BPMS) of tools.  Step one is to identify what departments, project groups and individuals are involved in the business processes.  Step two; identify the information that results from those individuals, groups and departments.  Step three, once the business process is mapped to the information you simply associate it with a retention management product and policies.

When I presented this simple approach to Steve Robins, Director, Industry and Solutions Marketing, EMC Corporation, he responded saying “There are several ways to look at ECM… “, which expands the scope of the conversation and issue.  Expanding the scope of management for records compliance, archiving and ECM is not a solution, it is paralysis.  In my opinion there are several critical business processes that use unstructured information, i.e. email, documents, file servers etc.  Using a BPMS companies can gain an understanding of critical business processes, not all business processes.  When I probed Robins further about this possibility he said “content management gives you a way to look at the who, what, when and why of data.”  In the end, I was not clear on EMCs answer to the issue of unstructured data in business processes.

Robins strategic points were not new or challenging, the issue of “who, what and why” related to data was being evaluated in 2004 within Storage Network Industry Association – Data Management Forum (SNIA-DMF), where I was a director.  For example, we started to identify and build relationships with ECM and Security groups like ISACA.  In 2004 and today it is clear that identifying the key intersections between people, information, data and physical storage will yield better management of unstructured information.  Simply put, none of what Robins said was new; it was more of the same problem trying to find an answer in “ECM systems”.

ECM systems are not the answer to all content problems.  Many business processes don’t lend themselves to the structured rigidity of an ECM system, like Documentum or FileNet.  In fact, some processes require a large amount of freedom and creativity not offered by ECM systems.  A testament to that fact is the broad use of email and traditional file systems as a platform to address business operations.  ECM systems make sense in a regulated business process. For example, if you are trying to bring a drug to market, you need a lot of evidence to support your claim and it must be structured.  The bottom-line, for a business process to be tracked and converted to an ECM application or an ECM retention-disposition policy it must support the revenue generating or loss aspects of a companies core competency.

Mark Lewis , President, Content Management and Archiving Division at EMC, says “At EMC, we are committed to investing in and providing solutions that directly address these customer challenges — in a way not addressed by any other vendor in the market today.”  The challenge he refers to “content management offerings require too much effort to implement.”  Lewis has committed EMC to solve these problems, because IBM, OpenText, Autonomy, Microsoft, etc are not.  We’ve heard this rhetoric before, so let’s see if Lewis’ and his teams correctly identify BPMS as an answer to his comment “[customers want solutions to] incorporate unstructured data into critical business processes.”  Frankly, we just need to figure out which unstructured data is related to the critical business processes.

Read the follow up to this article here


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