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Report on management of unstructured information

Datamonitor : 24 June, 2008  (New Product)
Documents and Records Management report from Butler Group provides managers with insight into the benefits of DRM beyond compliance
Many firms are failing to manage their unstructured information, which can comprise 80% of their total data, effectively. In a new report, "Document and Records Management (DRM)", Europe's leading IT research and advisory organisation, Butler Group, contends that if organisations are foresighted and look beyond compliance, to plan the implementation of DRM so that it provides business benefits - for example, by enabling users to save all unstructured information into a central repository from where it can be accessed and shared - they will also derive cost efficiencies.In these circumstances compliance will be free.

"Despite an increase in the number of regulations and legislation to which organisations must adhere, compliance is still low on the agenda for many and litigation risk continues to be a bigger driver in the UK and Europe", says Sue Clarke, Senior Research Analyst at Butler Group and the report's co-Author. "Better manageability of unstructured information is also a determining factor in the decision to implement DRM. It is our belief that return on investment can be achieved and therefore DRM justified on the savings that can be made through the better management of information alone, although it is often difficult for business managers to justify the required budget on these grounds."

We are now in the second wave of Document and Records Management, with many organisations that implemented DRM systems a few years ago looking to replace or roll out their systems to a wider audience. The provision of solutions built on top of DRM systems has greatly extended the capabilities of DRM so that organisations can bring together information from multiple sources - structured data as well as unstructured information - to complete tasks initiated by the DRM system.

The major technology issue for organisations is how DRM can address their particular needs, and which type of solution will provide the closest fit. For organisations that are document-centric, creating most of their documents internally with little requirement for integration with other repositories, an Electronic Document and Records Management (EDRM) system may be sufficient. This generally provides workflows that support the lifecycle of a document including its declaration as a record, but does not provide extensive integrations with other applications. These products are geared towards serving organisations in document-centric, regulated industries.

However, an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) platform with DRM capabilities will generally be better suited for organisations that import rather than create a high percentage of their documents, have a need to integrate with structured data as well as unstructured information sources, and require complex document-centric processes,.

Organisations therefore need to carefully consider what type of product to deploy, and must take into account future requirements rather than simply current needs. In terms of DRM functionality, there is little to choose between the leading ECM vendors. The areas in which they differentiate themselves are in broader ECM fields such as Business Process Management (BPM), digital rights management, scanning and imaging, digital asset management, e-mail archiving, and output management. These additional capabilities of the ECM vendors are reflected in the price of the platforms, although some of the additional capabilities are offered as optional modules.

Regardless of the type of DRM system that organisations implement, a potential issue they all face is that of the long-term retention of information. Whilst most organisations now recognise the need to carry out a hardware refresh periodically, they are also faced with the problems of file format obsolescence, and there are currently a number of new file formats being developed for long-term retention.

One of the more contentious areas of Record Management (RM) currently is the debate between integrated RM and in-place or federated RM. Whilst Butler Group regards an integrated approach to be more secure, it recognises that there are circumstances when this is not appropriate and federated RM is the only feasible option. In these circumstances organisations need to pay particular attention to the security of the records that are maintained in their native repositories.

As organisations look to replace existing DRM systems it is of the utmost importance that they get the implementation right. The cost of failure can be high with the system not addressing the pain points of the organisation, or take up by employees low because it provides them with few benefits and is cumbersome to use. The way to avoid failure is to plan the implementation in detail with the objectives fully defined and understood, and by following best practices.

Clarke concludes: "Organisations continue struggling to manage growing volumes of information, having little idea or control over content employees create or retain. They are exposing themselves to risk, particularly as the fines for non-disclosure grow in size as the courts and regulators become tougher on organisations unable to fulfil disclosure requests. In addition they typically suffer brand damage. Senior executives must understand their responsibilities for the management of information - claiming ignorance of poor practices is no defence."
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