Information management is going mainstream – at last!

Some assumptions have been held by IT pros for so long that they have almost become articles of faith. One of these is the idea that content management, particularly for files, semi-structured and unstructured content, is so difficult that only the foolhardy attempt to tackle it for anything other than information that regulators say has to be ‘actively managed’.

It’s fair to say that, until very recently, this assumption may even have underestimated the challenges involved getting an effective content management system in place, even for relatively small sets of data and files. But things are changing.

An important development has been recent work to make some of the core elements of content management simpler and more effective. These tasks all begin with data discovery: “What do I have in my storage systems?” Even data protection vendors suppliers such as Veritas, Arcserve and Commvault, amongst others, have started to produce tools that make data discovery something that can be contemplated without fear.

However data discovery is just step one. To move towards managing content and information across the board, not just confining it to those files you are legally forced to look after, requires technology to automate the classification of the files in line with the organisation’s business needs. Traditionally this has relied on where the files live in the file system and folder structure in order for users to be able to search and surface them. And users often “misplace” or move files around, making finding them later something of a challenge.

An era of genuinely-usable data discovery is dawning

But this too is now being addressed, as vendors like Veritas and M-Files bring tools to market that, while not perfect by any means, can at least pass the 80:20 rule of dealing with the majority of files. We are at the start of an era when finding data, and using human insight to turn it into valuable information on demand, should become routine.

Of course, technology developments alone are unlikely to trigger an avalanche of user-adoption without business triggers to fire that process. That said, many organisations today have visible challenges bearing down upon them.

Some have been around for a long time, such as pressure to use storage cost-effectively or ensure data is protected appropriately, but have been placed in the ‘too hard to look at now’ folder. Others, such as various regulatory drivers around data privacy, are charging forwards at high speed with GDPR a major consideration in the boardroom.

I hope that drivers such as GDPR, combined with better technology solutions, will see organisations look more deeply at managing information, and especially at following often-valuable user-generated content throughout its lengthening, but now bounded, lifespan.

There is an additional upside if you do Information management well for all the files in the organisation, if you can generate new business value by exploiting data that was previously hard to locate when needed. And with tools like M-Files and Veritas making it possible to do so without having to move everything into yet another silo, the age of enterprise-wide information management may finally be dawning.

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