Changing the Rules of the Game

The foundation of any business is its people. They are directly responsible for performing functions that increase the value of the business. How do they do this? They do it by communicating with customers - sending emails, creating proposals, analyzing and processing data. As they do so, they build a knowledge base of their customers, competition, industry, employees, product information, business processes and the like. Eighty percent of this knowledge is comprised of presentations, office documents, emails, or what is otherwise referred to as unstructured data.

With each employee creating unstructured data every day, the organization quickly begins to amass a mountain of potential intelligence. But in creating that mountain of data comes the problems of managing the ever-growing volume, backing it up and protecting it, complying with regulatory data requirements, and simply just recalling this information when you need it. Most organizations spend a considerable portion of their budget and energy simply working on the problems of managing data growth without retaining the ability to fully utilize all the information being created in order to improve their operations and competitive advantage.

But what if you changed the way you thought about and dealt with information? Take yourself out of the data management paradigm and put yourself into a new world of thinking about how you leverage all the content that is created within your organization. Make content a strategic advantage by being able to put it into context for analysis and action. You can do this if you structure unstructured data objects into manageable workflows, actionable context, and governance and policy driven activities as part of a virtual corporate library of organizational intelligence that is accessible at your fingertips.

What does that really mean? Here are two real-world examples. Suppose you are head of sales working with a current customer (Company X) on a new business opportunity and are in heated competition with two of your fiercest competitors. You would want to know as much information about your organization's current relationship with Company X as you could during this negotiation. There are two other sales reps from your company working the account. You have existing orders being filling in the warehouse, you have accounts receivable personnel dealing with Company X's people, and you've initiated executive contact to help position and influence your bid. Information about Company X is being generated every day somewhere within your organization.

Wouldn't it be helpful if you knew that a particular order for Company X was never properly fulfilled? How about the invoice issue between your company and Company X that stands unresolved? Are you sure that communication between all members of your sales team is synchronized and coordinated? One way to properly leverage all content about Company X is to have it automatically routed to a centralized folder and have it notify you that it is available for review. That is putting content into context and gives your company the competitive advantage.

In the second example, suppose you are part of a financial management company and are responsible for corporate compliance by auditing emails and other documentation going out to customers to ensure your financial planners are not guaranteeing any returns on customer investment. You have a full-time person screening emails and documents for specific words that might be problematic. What if you could automatically identify keywords as a document is being created and either alert the creator citing the keyword issue or route it to a compliance folder? Your financial planners are happier because now their privacy is not being intruded upon, and you protect them from making an honest mistake that could become a compliance issue, as well as a potential litigation issue. That is putting content into context for efficiency and a myriad of other benefits.

So, given the current approach, processes, architectures and technologies, how do you go about rethinking your IT strategy? How do you transform your approach and mentality toward the concept of creating information content that can be put into context for organizational efficiency and competitive advantage? A storage-only strategy does not suffice. One must start with business objectives centered on use of data for knowledge. Ask yourself this:

1. How do I make better strategic and tactical business decisions?

2. How do I enable my employees to report on, analyze and optimize business operations to reduce costs but increase revenue?

3. How do I react faster to business needs and anticipate business opportunities in advance, rather than reacting to problems?

4. How do I protect my organization from unknown risks?

5. How do I meet information compliance regulations?

6. How long do I need to retain the data? Does it depend on who creates the data?

7. What type of controls do I need to have on the data?

  • Can users search and retrieve their own content or do you need to enable collaboration?
  • Is it necessary to monitor and control content users create?
8. How do I control the cost of data management yet get value from archived information?

The Solution:

In our professional lives, aided by technology to facilitate business at light speed, we have become collectors of information. It is no wonder organizational data is growing 60 to 120 percent per year (IDC). Our hard drives and email inboxes are like that junk drawer everybody has in their house - we just keep filling it up until we can't stuff anymore into it. We put it there thinking that we can find it just in case we need it. But sooner or later you can't even open the drawer to find what you are looking for.

Rather than maintaining or expanding an increasingly complex storage infrastructure that fails to reign in the costs of information growth, wouldn't it make sense to provide a single, integrated solution that automatically turns unstructured data into content, organizes the content, controls proliferation, enables access to it, and puts it into context to be used for analysis and decision-making regardless of where this data resides? Building such a system that is simple to use and enables centralized control from point of origin to final disposition is the best way for organizations to gain command and control over the content and information assets an organization creates daily.

In implementing a dynamic storage management system built upon an operational business intelligence foundation and utilizing a centralized information policy engine to identify, capture, secure, store and archive information assets, companies now have a cost-effective, simple-to-administer tool for managing and protecting, not data, but information assets. Organizations can have the ability to easily consolidate disparate sources (documents, emails, spreadsheets, etc.) of common information, no matter where they reside, for analysis, business intelligence and action. End users will be able to access files and emails regardless of where they reside. Sales heads and compliance officers will be able to tap the intelligence of all the content a company is paying to store and protect through a centralized information policy control and management, from the point of origin of files and email through their final disposition.

By changing the rules of the game, organizations can create content that can be easily accessed and put into context for efficiency and competitive advantage. The wealth of business information created, stored and updated every day by your employees is the foundation of your business and is an asset to be leveraged rather than an expense to be managed. It's not about the storage technology; it's about information as an asset - being able to easily put created content into context for strategic advantage. Take care to protect, secure and organize your content so you can attain optimal operational efficiencies in your day-to-day operations and in your strategic planning. At the end of day, it's all about your competitive edge and maximizing profit.

About the Author

Mr. Ken Peters brings over twenty years of sales and marketing expertise in the Security, Configuration Management, Business Intelligence, and Storage Management markets. Previously, Mr. Peters has held executive positions with New Boundary Technologies, Centerfield Technology, Software Moguls(EMC) and ShowCase Corporation(SPSS). Mr. Peters has an exceptional track record of success building worldwide sales/marketing organizations and channels for high-growth and profitability. Mr. Peters holds a degree in Organizational Communications and Public Relations from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

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