GCN Insider | Welcome your new data overlords

TRENDS & TECHNOLOGIES that affect the way government does IT

Categorically defining data as structured, semistructured and unstructured will increasingly become irrelevant, predicts Robert Markham, principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc. The National Capitol Chapter of AIIM invited Markham to talk about what he thought was the future of enterprise content management at a recent conference.

Looking into his crystal ball, Markham saw radical changes afoot, changes involving aggregation of all data in the enterprise, in order to ease searching and sharing.
We consider data to be structured if it resides in clearly defined fields in uniform fashion, allowing it to be queried in a consistent manner. Database data is structured. Unstructured data is all the other stuff we store electronically'photos, e-mail, instant messaging logs'that is not consistently marked or annotated. Web pages and word processing documents might carry some information on the context of their data (making it semistructured), though not consistently enough to be useful.

In the years to come, organizations will want to more tightly control all the documents their workers generate, Markham predicted. Gone will be the days when employee documents get passed around the organization like so much flotsam. Such control will be surprisingly easy to achieve. Content now residing on local hard drives could be moved to network drives, where it could then be shared (with strict rights management), annotated, searched and subjected to records management.

This is happening now, and we'll see more of this in the future. Eventually, enterprise content management software will mutate into something broader, along the lines of 'universal content repositories,' Markham predicted. The major players in this new field will agree on a set of standards to interchange data across these repositories, giving us a universal content format.

About the Authors


Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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