Wanted: ECM the easy way

Enterprise content management systems remain too difficult for most office workers to use, which is hampering full use of their data, according to a recent report issued by the information technology analysis firm Forrester Research.

'There is an overemphasis on structured systems and an underemphasis on helping knowledge workers,' said Craig Le Clair, one of the authors of the report, 'Enterprise Content Management's Next Step Forward.'

'ECM vendors ' including EMC, IBM, Microsoft, Open Text and Oracle ' invest great resources into building and maintaining repositories that can manage any kind of content,' the report states. 'Yet they don't seem to match their core content management and repository investments with equal investment in helping enterprises measure and improve content's usage and adoption by businesspeople.'

In particular, the report noted that tools from the major vendors aren't set up to make them easy for non-information technology professionals to use.

'In short, for many businesspeople, the hassle of using the ECM system exceeds the system's value,' the report concludes.

One example Le Clair gave is how many systems still require users to manually enter keywords for each document they create, a mundane and dull practice that we'd surmise just would not get done most of the time. Yet keywords are vital for finding the documents later. Why not develop software to analyze documents and generate keywords relevant to the context of the organization? Le Clair said IBM took a step in that direction with its recent release of the IBM Classification Module for the WebSphere Content Discovery Server. The software generates keywords automatically.

What else should ECM vendors do? Look for ways to present the repositories to customers in a way that makes sense from the perspective of their jobs. The complexities of managing large collections of data should be hidden from users. Such systems should also come fully assembled rather than requiring an expensive service contract to set up.

'Content management should be invisible to the user,' he said.

About the Author

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

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