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Information Governance: Pivot Point #3 - My-Place vs. In-Place Management

ChrisSurdak ‎12-18-2013 10:29 AM - edited ‎12-18-2013 10:57 AM

In Pivot Points One and Two I discussed the “how” and the “when” of contemporary Enterprise Content Management (ECM). In this last installment of these three pivot points I will wrap up this discussion with the “where” of information governance.  I recommend that you review the prior two posts, so that this one makes sense in context.


Pivot point three is a discussion of where content must reside in order to be managed, and how best to achieve such management in an age of here-a-cloud, there-a-cloud, and everywhere-a-cloud-cloud.  As nearly every organization in the world now knows, consistently managing business information in a distributed, cloud-based and cloud-biased world is becoming increasingly challenging, particularly using legacy approaches and tools.  Today’s environment requires a different approach, which we will discuss presently.

Pivot Point Three: My-Place vs. In-Place Management


Historically, most enterprise content management systems were built upon a centralized database or file system.  All of the functionality of the system would execute against this internal storage, and in order to put information under management, it had to be physically moved into this centralized repository.  This could be considered to be “My-Place” management of data, in that I could perform all kinds of whiz-bang tasks against the data only after I put that information into this centralized repository.


In the early days of the desktop computing revolution this was a reasonable approach.  Data volumes weren’t too large, process velocity wasn’t too fast, and content variety wasn’t too heterogeneous.  Also, the workflow capabilities were fairly rudimentary, which meant that the processes deployed by records management people weren’t overly cumbersome; the technology wouldn’t support extreme complexity. 


However, once we entered the Web era, this monolithic management approach began to show its weaknesses. More and more content was created by distributed teams.  The material that these teams created was much more diverse, much more dynamic and was being updated at a much higher frequency than before.  And, the workflows and other control mechanisms built into ECM systems began to become much more sophisticated, which made the centralized repository model more onerous for end users to navigate.


From Web to SharePoint to Cloud


While certain critical business documents continued to live within these centralized systems, more and more content went anyplace BUT into centralized repositories. End users avoided centralized systems by any means possible, as adhering to Byzantine, prescriptive, pervasive governance structures tended to prevent work from being completed.  Users began to follow the path of least resistance for creating new content, initially embracing Microsoft’s SharePoint, and later moving on to cloud-based collaboration platforms which are all the rage these days.



The gulf between centralized, “My-Place” content repositories and “Any-Place” collaboration platforms continued to expand, and more and more critical business information fell out of the control and oversight of those tasked with protecting the business. 


Some organizations recoiled from this migration into the cloud, and as recently as this year may have attempted to define and implement “No Cloud Storage” policies within their organizations.  Please. The present migration of business information into cloud containers is an irresistible force, and surely any business who is attempting to stem the flow of data out of their internal systems will run out of fingers long before all of the holes in the dike are plugged.


From “My-Place” to “In-Place” Management


If you accept the premise that enforcing a “No clouds” policy is hogwash, and also accept that end users try to avoid overwrought control mechanisms, then it quickly becomes apparent that the best approach to information governance is to manage this stuff where end users choose to put it, rather than where they are forced to put it.  Such “In-Place” management means that users can still follow what they believe to be the path of least resistance in creating their information, yet that information does fall under formal control by records managers.


As organizations move into an era where petabytes of content, numbering billions or even trillions of data elements is commonplace, the idea of migrating all of this stuff into a centralized repository becomes folly.  It is too much data, residing in too many locations, created by too many people for too many consumers.  Centralized control is still possible, but only if all of that content can remain where it was created, and controlled remotely therein.  This is precisely the approach being followed by several of HP’s ECM solutions, such as Control Point.  These solutions allow organizations to make maximum use of tools such as cloud computing while still ensuring that information is properly managed throughout its lifecycle.



I don’t know what will replace cloud computing as the next great Content Management platform.  Maybe we’ll call it ocean computing, galaxy computing, or whachamajigger computing.  What I do know is that there will indeed be a next something.  And when it comes I expect a few things will happen.  At first it will be really easy to use and it will meet end users’ needs in ways that cloud computing does not.  Hence, end users will migrate their content into it en mass.

Then, when there are trillions or quadrillions of documents in the whachamajigger records managers will go apoplectic, complain that critical business information is out of control, and insist that it be placed back under control. 


In response, whachamajigger providers will start to provide taxonomy tools, metadata management and workflow engines.  The providers will tell you that they can help you manage whachamajigger as long as you put your stuff in THEIR whachamajigger, and they will provide rigorous mechanisms of control to help you lower the costs and risks of your whachamajigger.


And so it will continue unless we fundamentally change our thinking. What might that different thinking look like?  As I’ve tried to portray in these posts, recent advancements in information technology are allowing us to manage information with a more human approach.  That is to say, we are reaching the point where we can manage our information the way that each of us likes to manage ourselves; colloquially, transparently and in-place.



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About the Author


Chris Surdak is a Subject Matter Expert on Information Governance, analytics and eDiscovery for HP Autonomy. He has over 20 years of consulting and technology experience, and holds a Juris Doctor from Taft University, an MS from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, a CISSP Master's Certificate from Villanova and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Penn State. Chris is author of the Big Data strategy book, "Data Crush," which was recently nominated as International Book of the Year for 2014, by GetAbstract. Chris is also contributing editor and columnist for European Business Review magazine.

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