Thoughts about Federated Records Management and E-Discovery

A colleague recently sent me the link to this article: http://www.cmswire.com/cms/enterprise-cms/the-converging-paths-of-search-ediscovery-and-enterprise-cms-004083.php

I am currently involved in several EDRM projects.  This is a hot area right now, and all large companies are actively thinking about E-Discovery.  I would not call myself an expert at E-Discovery, but I have spent quite a bit of time speaking to the leading experts in this area, and developing my own views.  I have come to the conclusion that most companies are not taking the right approach to solve the problem.  Throwing a bunch of technology will just end up costing a lot of money, and lead to failed projects.  I have seen this before time and time again in other areas.  The first things to think about are change management, setting up the right internal processes, and addressing the simple question end users always have ‘What’s in it for me?’.  Individuals can’t be made wholly responsible for corporate compliance when it comes to Records Management, for example, because you just can’t have the ‘compliance police’ checking up on everyone to make sure they apply the right classification to email and documents (although there are some really good tools on the market today, which are tightly integrated with Outlook and Office, such as Titus Labs).  I tend to believe that the right approach to address the issue of E-Discovery. in the larger space of Information Governance (new term, not in WikiPedia yet….) is to have the right approach to ECM to begin with.  When it comes to E-Discovery, certainly you need all the the right technology tools to support the process, and I am also particularly bullish about combining our FAST Enterprise Search technology with Concept Searching to support the E-Discovery process.  However, what I am finding is that most companies are also looking to implement Federated Records Management tools as part of the EDRM project.  And this is an area I have been thinking about a lot lately.  Does Federated Records Management really work?  I actually don’t think so.  The main problem is that every single large legacy ECM vendor sees this as an opportunity as a Trojan Horse approach to putting their own repository underneath.  I do not believe in this approach at all.  Here is where I like to bring up one of my favorite quotes: “It is not about the repository, it is about the metadata”.  This why I am such a huge fan of the promise of MetaPoint.  Why would enterprises need yet another repository, just to be able to do Records Management across the enterprise?  All this adds is unnecessary cost and complexity, which is downplayed at the beginning, until it is too late.   I believe the NextPage Information Tracking Platform gives companies a much better alternative.  This innovative technology can track documents across the enterprise (and soon even embedded within email), no matter where they are located!  Not only can it be used to clean up all the redundant content (I already wrote in a previous posting that according to Cohasset Associates, each content artifact has up to 18 identical copies scattered all over the place), but also enables companies to track down the authoritative original of the document which is subject to records retention policies, and also to move it to an ECM system that supports Electronic Records Management, and to get rid of the 17 other redundant copies which, when unmanaged, also expose the company to liability and risk.  This approach is far more pragmatic, and simpler from an architectural perspective than the complicated and expensive ‘dual repository’ approaches proposed by the legacy ECM vendors.  And, since SharePoint is the fastest-growing ECM platform within enterprises, and it has a pretty robust Electronic Records Management module included for free, why not just use it?  I am not claiming that it is the most advanced Electronic Records Management system there is, and that it meets every single customer’s needs (even though I also know of some really powerful enhancements that some of our partners like Applied Information Sciences and OmniRIM have built), but I do think that in combination with the NextPage Information Tracking Platform, it can present an elegant alternative to address the requirements of many Records Management scenarios.  And as I stated earlier, it is more about people, processes and change management, than about technology!

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