Social versus Document Management: Flipping the Coin or Taking the Best of Both?
Colleen Burns 120000C4RP firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  content_sharing social femke_goedhart document_management
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With ‘social’ and social file and content sharing being the buzzwords nowadays I sometimes get asked why I’m still this heavily invested in working with customers on document management solutions, and if this isn’t actually conflicting with my interest in social content sharing. After all, why would you need old fashioned structured content storage if you can have community sharing, tagging and context driven search capabilities to leverage your content? The underlying question being: “Do we really still need structured data storage in this ‘social’ era?”
Well, where to start…
Structured versus unstructured
Where social business tools offer a platform that is particularly strong in sharing and distributing unstructured data, document management is all about handling the structured data. Structured data requires centralized, controlled and predictable accessibility and is often core to the functioning of the business process. Examples of structured data include things like legal documentation, contracts, HR records, invoices and technical documentation.
It’s not just about storing
But it is much more than just storing it in a controlled environment. It’s also about controlling the information during its life cycle to ensure processing, updates, reviews and archiving are taking place and about making sure the documents adhere to regulatory and compliance requirements.
It’s not about numbers
“But isn’t that more something for large environments?” No it isn’t. Every company has data that requires certain procedures and structure. All too often these are maintained by individuals who keep lists of actions to be taken or have certain ways of keeping track. But how do you ensure that when those people leave or fall sick, those same procedures are maintained, and how do you keep control? These are questions relevant to companies of any size, but perhaps especially to those smaller ones where processes often reverberate around a single employee ‘that knows where to find it’. Dependency on a single individual’s knowledge and diligence can be a major threat to the stability of any business process.
"Document management is about controlling the data process, not just the data itself."
So what makes document management what it is?
Document management & social file sharing
So where does document management stand in this social revolution we are facing? Well to me, document management and social file sharing platforms stand firmly next to each other. Social platforms are a fantastic way to capture content and to collaborate on it but at the same time it is not about predictable structure. Document management is, but because of that has trouble handling unstructured (social) content. So to really leverage the full power of your data it is important to address both facets of the data spectrum.
As is recognized by IBM who is offering various forms of integration and bridges between their social platform IBM Connections and document management/ECM solutions like Filenet, Alfresco and even Sharepoint. Taking it a step further, they also offer the “Connections Content Edition” license pack leveraging IBM’s social platform IBM Connections for social content integrated with Filenet /CM (limited license) to tackle specific document management needs like check in – check out.
So coming back to that question on why both still have relevance; it’s because they complement each other and allow content to be processed on both ends of the data spectrum. Building controlled and strict process driven document management environments or functionalities to capture that structured data, while on the other hand utilizing social platforms to effectively capture the loose, elusive unstructured data out there is key. The biggest win being the possibility of integrating both ends into one easy to use searchable interface where social content and structured data becomes one big entity of information for users to use, work with and collaborate on.
Social tools therefore aren’t replacing my love or specialty for document management, they are expanding it. So, No. They don’t offer a conflict of interests when talking about data management. Only opportunities to capture even more of its vast array of appearances and I feel lucky that I have a job where I get to work with both.
Femke Goedhart is a Business Consultant for Silverside, an IBM Premier Business Partner from The Netherlands. She specializes in document management, collaboration and social business; she is an avid blogger, and a speaker at several events including NLLUG, LCTY, and Lotusphere. Femke is actively involved in the online community and was recently honored as an IBM Champion. She is also a published IBM Redbooks author and is a contagious enthusiast about all things social.
Femke is an IBM Redbooks Thought Leader