The Oracle Australia and New Zealand Middleware and Technology Blog.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Unstructured Information Management a Problem? There is an Answer!

A recent Varonis Systems funded survey of 870 IT professionals found that only 23% believed unstructured data stored by their companies is properly secured and protected.


Unstructured information has ALWAYS been difficult to store and protect when so many organisations still rely on antiquated and outdated solutions that include simple file-system and PST environments. ECM solutions, and let's face the truth here, have existed for almost 20 years as mainstream-solutions to this very problem. Today's technologies allow for the automated categorisation and classification of unstructured information in an efficient and controlled manner and there is really no excuse for this result other that apathy and complacency in existence across these organisations.

Let's look at where unstructured information comes from...

1. Desktop document/presentation/spreadsheet tools and I'll use Microsoft Office as an example here. These solutions allow users to store their unstructured information, as a choice, on their local or network drives.
2. Email systems allowing users to create and store their unstructured information in, for example, a PST file on their local or network drives.
3. Workgroup tools, and I will include SharePoint in this, that allow users to store information more effectively that on their local or network drives - but still within a Silo.

Organisations are being taken down the path of ensuring that unstructured information is discoverable - this drive is coming predominately through legislative changes but also through knowledge management initiatives. To enable an organisation to respond to these drivers, an Enterprise-Class Content Management solution MUST be enabled that encompasses the management of office, email and 'siloed' information environments.

This is a blog that is contributed to by Oracle employees so it should come as no surprise to read that I will say, here and now, we have a solution to your unstructured information management problems - and we are far from being alone in the market. The issue, and this comes from 9 years of experience in this space, is that it is the business units that need to drive IT into providing a solution and not the other way around. Traditional solutions driven by IT address very specific requirements - I have lots of employees to manage therefore I need an HRMS, I have lots of customers to manage therefore I need a CRMS. The answer to the question of 'I have lots of documents to manage, how do I do so' is unfortunately answered on the whole with 'we already have a solution, it's called Windows Explorer and you can store your information on the network'.

The problem here is that once stored, either locally or 'on the network' - it is pretty difficult to provide access to anybody else - unless you've configured an enterprise indexing/search tool and this happens to be configured to look at all drives across the corporate systems. A centralised repository, that maybe deployed across multiple geographies and business units, really does help here. The Oracle solution for eDiscovery for example, is called Universal Online Archive and will eventually have the capability to store any corporate unstructured or semi-structured information.

The survey goes on to say, and I quote here, '61% of respondents say they cannot keep track of which users access specific unstructured data, and 91% say their organisations lack the ability to determine data ownership because of faulty governance policies and a lack of available storage tools that can remedy the problem'. Of course, the problem cannot be simply addressed through the implementation of technology. If it could, we would have every IT manager around the world knocking on our (collective) doors demanding that we sell them our latest and greatest solution right now as it represents the answer to all their prayers!

Organisations do have to develop maturity around unstructured information management if they are to succeed in solving their core issues that will eventuate into a successful ECM implementation. Policies and procedures is a good place to start for managing important corporate information. Educating their personnel is another place to go to - developing a message that storing emails in a PST file is a really bad this for the organisation as a whole and taking this out to every employee is another important message. Developing a taxonomy against which unstructured information is classified is equally as relevant for a large organisations.

The survey closes by stating the obvious - it is not a question of money, IT departments always have funding for projects that reduce costs and risks to the organisation - it is a question of the organisation simply not knowing where to start resolving the issue because of the complexities involved in managing unstructured information.

Here again, companies like Oracle have consultancy practices that really, truly and definitely CAN help!


1 comment:

Ben Wright said...

Paul: As businesses create ever-growing mountains of electronic records (structured and otherwise), lawsuits erupt over the records in e-discovery and record retention disputes. Knowing that litigation is inevitable, businesses can use technology proactively to render the records potentially more benign. --Ben