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Issue Date: August 2007

The CM game plan

1 August 2007
Abie Spies, managing director, NokusaEI

“Content management is like football – it is all about a balance between attack and defence.”
We are lucky in South Africa. Unlike our national team, our content and records managers do not have to be so pre-occupied with defence that they cannot think of attack. We are still free to explore the field, and to find creative ways to use content management as a competitive advantage to score against our opposition and deliver value to our stakeholders.
Our American content management counterparts are not so fortunate. They are trapped in such a mire of defensive patterns and fear of persecution that they cannot see the wood for the trees; and many fine opportunities to attack and score with content management are missed.
Let me explain. In the USA (and other excessively litigious countries) the regulators and courts have largely neutered the productivity and business process value of content management. Records and content managers in those countries are primarily focused on risk reduction - being able to quickly reproduce all required records and documents when commanded to do so by the almost inevitable discovery court order. While good corporate governance is obviously very important, the tactical and business productivity values of documents and records and the information they contain usually comes second - and a very distant second at that! Fortunately, we in South Africa are not in that position (yet), and can still concentrate on the business value of information contained in documents, rather than the risk they pose.
It is a sad fact that, because most modern content management systems originate in the USA and their development is primarily focused on governance and e-discovery; true business integration and information value takes a back seat in almost all the popular ECM systems. To get true business value from your ECM system, it must be fully integrated in your business processes, ERP systems and the like - a standalone ECM system may be the ultimate for content governance purposes, but it just does not cut it for business value; even if it is so-called best-of-breed. For business users to act decisively on information, it must be easy and intuitive for them to get hold of the right information associated with the actions they are performing - and to have confidence that it is everything available, up to date and correct 'one version of the truth'.
'Good governance', 'compliance' and 'risk management' are all good and essential parts of content management in a business or government department, but they do not actually produce the goods and services. If the tail of 'good governance' is allowed to wag the business dog, information starts becoming opaque and business value and productivity suffers. Never forget that the main purpose of managing content is to make productive use of the information it contains in improving your business - not to cover your backside!
The secret to good content management, like in a good football team, is balance! To defend really well, you have to sacrifice some attacking opportunities. To score from an attack, you have to take some defensive risks. Winning football teams do consistently well by being able to balance the two. Similarly, a business or government department that balances good governance and information usage in managing content are bound to be on the winning side more often than not.
Of course, to take full advantage of the information locked up in documents and records, you must value it and be able to use it - ie you must manage your content! You are not going to get any productivity or business benefit from content that is invisible, inaccurate or hard to find and access; and making accurate information visible and easily accessible is the crux of a content management system that allows you to extract information and constructively attack opportunities with it.
So, the simple secrets of a successful content management game-plan with real business benefits are:
* Firstly, structure your content management system to unlock the business value of information contained in the documents and records; ie make it easy for your business to extract correct information and gain a competitive advantage.

* Only then consider content regulatory and governance issues (important, as they are).

* ....and in that way ensure you achieve the most productive balance between attacking and defensive strategies for managing your content.

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