Creating and Managing Trusted Content

I remember when I was in elementary school (don’t laugh), that my best friend Danny tried to change one of the grades on his quarterly report card.   We used to walk home from school together and on this day we stopped at the corner drug store where he bought some office supplies and went about “altering” his report card.  Ahhh … the things you think you can get away with in 5th grade … so foolish.  It was a great plan for Danny right up until the point his Mom spotted the obvious change.  Needless to say, Danny’s report cards could no longer be trusted as an accurate representation of his school performance.  It completely backfired and his report cards got more scrutiny then he could have ever wanted, all the way through high school.  I think he makes fake passports today (kidding).  He actually works for a large financial institution (not kidding).

This one incident made Danny’s parent’s suspicious of the entire school grade reporting process and they never trusted report cards again.  He ruined it for his younger sister too.  It’s the same with documents.  We need a better process (and technology) to ensure our documents and records can be trusted for business decision making.  The implications in business are far more catastrophic.

Consider the large distributor who has multiple versions of contracts and supplier agreements.  The business fails to reference the correct version of a contract addendum that materially changes key terms and conditions between the parties.  This results in a dispute and has trickle down implications of disrupting shipments which customer complaints and cancelled orders … all because someone used the wrong content.  In short, it’s paramount to have trust in out content.

Here are three strategies you can take to bring trust to your content:

Clean-up the backlog … assess and separate trusted content from suspect content.  Decommission and dispose of what is not necessary to keep.  Preserve and exploit your trusted content from your trusted content repositories (discussed in a previous posting).

Instrument ad-hoc and controlled document creation and approval processes … establish event and process based steps (or KPIs) to measure, trigger, review and monitor the accuracy of content that is designated as trusted.

Enhance meta data and leverage master data … to clean up dirty document meta data and reference trusted data sources within the enterprise.  Ensure an accurate 360-degree view all information assets and meta data.

Obviously there are a number of ways to make content quality better and improve document based decision making.  The trick is … how to do it without burdening the business users.  Manual methods are thought to be easy but always fail as human beings are inconsistent, sometimes inaccurate and can refuse to cooperate.  In some rare cases … humans take matters into their own hands.  Don’t take a “Danny” approach to trusting your content. 

Choose one or more of the above paths and increase the accuracy of content based decisions in your organization.  If you don’t, I may have to send Danny’s Mom out to have a talk with you.

Learning How To Trust …

Before my digression last posting into a perspective on ECM systems integrators … I was describing the characteristics of trusted ECM repositories (see Step 1 – Can You Trust Your Repository?).  Picking up from there …

Since choosing the right repository or content storage location is so important, how can we objectively evaluate the repositories we have?  Use this scoring model to assess and designate your content storage options (including ECM repositories) as Trusted Content Repositories (TCRs)


Level 0 – is missing key capabilities like security, basic content services and APIs.  This category represents file shares, CDs and other relatively unsecure locations.  These environments are flexible and useful but the missing capabilities cause us to lose confidence (or trust) in the content we keep there.  Imagine building an application that delivers critical documents only to have an end-user delete the underlying files.

Level 1 – Missing key capabilities like repository governance and lineage.  This category represents SharePoint, wikis and blogs and other environments with user controlled governance.  These environments are fantastic for collaboration and are easy to deploy but are missing essential capabilities when the environment itself can’t be properly governed and secured in accordance with IT standards (including the ability to meet SLAs).  Imagine building an application that depends on critical documents only to have an end-user retire the SharePoint site that used to content the needed documents or records.

Level 2 – Missing a few key capabilities to instrument and automate workflows like event management and content federation.  This category represents most ECM repositories from major vendors like IBM, EMC, OpenText and selected others.  The missing capabilities enable us to have confidence the right documents are designed as “trusted” so they can be found, automated and consumed with confidence.

Level 3 – Has all of the key capabilities.  This is the optimal level for trusted content applications.  Only IBM FileNet P8 has all of these characteristics today.

Remember … if you can’t trust your repository you can’t trust what is in it, can you?  Critical content must be stored in Trusted Content Repositories … it’s that simple.  Next time we’ll explore what it takes to create and maintain trusted content.  In the mean time, leave me your feedback on the model.