Just imagine what you could gain if you cut that unstructured data mountain down to size.

Suppose you could provide workers with up-to-the-minute business intelligence blending data on customer activity with pertinent internal documents. Or link together the long chain of insurance documents associated with a complicated claim. Or deliver reference manuals to technicians around the world, no matter how poor their Internet connections.

Enter content management. Companies automating business processes ranging from resume management and contracts analysis to patents claims and litigation tracking turn to content management software to ease the creation and coordination of large amounts of unstructured data. U.K. researcher Butler Group makes the persuasive argument that "in an information economy, content, and the processing of that content, must be carefully managed in the same way that physical assets and production processes have been managed in an industrial economy."

According to META Group Inc. Senior Vice President Andy Warzecha, three major business incentives are pushing companies to explore content management:

Getting a handle on all the information the company is producing. If you have the nagging feeling that you're not making the most of the information employees are creating, you're not alone. According to META Group, 60 percent of the Global 2000 have some type of content-handling software in place, ranging from simple document and image storage to complex information creation and dissemination processes.

Reducing cycle times. CEOs are seeing that having the right information at the right time can speed critical business processes. Having access to data that helps workers make better decisions faster is critical for designing new products and solving customer problems.

Getting ahead of compliance issues. Depending on your business, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), new SEC disclosure regulations and the Food and Drug Administration's 21 CFR Part 11, which mandates electronic records and signature management standards for industries like biopharmaceuticals and medical equipment, will affect how you coordinate your company's content. If, for example, your e-mail records are subpoenaed due to suspicions about violations of "Reg FD" fair-disclosure laws, do you have the technology in place to adequately thread together discussions to prove your company's executives didn't overstep any boundaries?

Add the increasing pressure on companies to maximize their information capital and human resources, and content management begins looking critical for companies trying to provide decision-makers with usable data. "That's the crux of the content dilemma organizations are facing: 'How do I get to the right information that allows us to make better decisions?' " says META's Warzecha.

Ask Your CTO:

What kinds of content-related technology tools do we have today?

Review Your Company's Strategic Goals:

How clearly do our goals define the kinds of information employees need to be successful?

Ask Your Legal Department:

Just how exposed are we if we can't prove who has accessed specific unstructured data within the company?How Content Management Works

This article was originally published on 05-01-2003
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