The Essentiality of Knowledge Management Systems and Demise of DMS
When I was approached to write this article, the request came with the standard set of questions about Document Management Systems (DMS) commonly asked to CIOs of large enterprises. I quickly put together an outline to address these questions and started writing. Within a few paragraphs, however, I realized that DMS as we know it now falls squarely into the outdated “legacy” category and will soon cease to exist.
Most DMS vendors are acutely aware of what I am about to say and some are already responding to what’s happening by shifting their efforts in the right direction.
Very few people in a company still search for “documents,” and even fewer people care about taxonomy, retention, and document lifecycles. When someone in my organization says they need to look for a document, I understand they actually want to gain “knowledge” of what is inside a particular document. This is why any DMS system that still considers documents as files, folders, and tags is already an outdated “legacy” system.
The last time my team analyzed what types of documents we are managing, we quickly discovered that we have absolutely no control over the file type, quality, and index-ability of the documents stored by our users. This discovery quickly led to the conclusion that our DMS system should be able to index and structure all types of files and content and, as mentioned above, provide insights into the content of each document.
Metadata is a buzzword that only IT folks care about. I would bet that very few users know or care what metadata is or how it can benefit them.DMS systems that are unable to derive key metadata from the manner in which a file is being presented are also in the legacy category.
As mentioned above, users are looking for information and not documents, and with just-in-time information services so critical now, such information has to be delivered to where the users ‒ not their desktops ‒ are located. Mobility of information is a significant area of innovation as well as the biggest area of concern when it comes to document protection. One could argue that cloud-based solutions effectively deliver information to users wherever they are, but we have to consider users’ abilities to provide data protection and enforce the same their organizations. In short, it’s important to scrutinize cloud offerings for integration with your directory services, retention practices, and availability in order to fully understand the depth of their offerings.
Very few DMS vendors are currently exploring the frontiers of document content analytics. It will surprise you what you can learn from your DMS system, however, if you approach the repository from a Big Data perspective. Within a few hours, analysis packages from big names like IBM or even open source frameworks such as Weka and Hadoop can give you very interesting and mind-provoking business insights. For example, you can look at past contracts that have not performed and quickly zoom in on “deal points” that may impact customer churn or reveal contract breaches. You can even gauge the relevance of certain documents to your overall business strategy. It’s unfortunate that very few organizations apply this kind of analysis to the documents in their “filing cabinets” or DMS systems.
If you are just starting your venture into the world of digital document management, consider all of the above as you develop your overall document strategy. Organizations create thousands of documents to support their day-to-day operations. As a CIO, you should be engaged early with business processes to ensure that when “documents” are created they are filed as entries in CRM, ERP, or other Decision Support Systems as often as possible. Individual documents filed outside such systems represent the most challenging business process components to track and manage.
At Transwestern, a commercial real estate company, we manage hundreds of thousands of documents on a monthly basis for our business, our tenants, and our clients. We approach this process with a simple rule: a document that cannot be located is a document that does not exist. If someone in your organization is looking for information that is contained in a document that you are unable to find in less than one minute, it is time to re-examine your document management practices.