Aaron Lepperd, GVP of Enterprise Architecture, BMT
As an Enterprise Architect, your role is to marry the business' strategic initiatives with IT goals for a secure yet scalable infrastructure. Our role has become increasingly in demand over the recent years as companies strive to reduce costs, standardize environments and still be agile enough to pivot like a startup company. The problem of file storage usually falls to IT because of the lack of governance in place for the enterprise. Although you may feel as though adding more disks to your SAN is the easy solution, your underlying problem is enterprise content management.
Tackling a project involving enterprise content management can be difficult because by the time you realize you have a problem, you're already well behind. Many of the responsibilities that an Enterprise Architect holds are similar to the rules you'll need to adhere to in order to successfully introduce this new idea.
• Decisions are to be made consistently across the enterprise-define exactly what your enterprise content management platform is for and how it should be used by every department.
• Design a governance and compliance policy-identify business sponsors for each department and define their roles and responsibilities, usage policies and best practices to help define success metrics that can prove adoption of the product.
• Create auditable and transparent results-change management is crucial to recording decisions that are auditable and have business approvals, not IT opinions.
• Build a repeatable process users will take the path of least resistance, use their input to build a system that they feel they helped design while guiding them toward best practices.
• Architect a scalable solution the last thing management wants to hear is that they spent money on a new application that interfaces with nothing else the business already owns.
If your company doubles in size tomorrow, is your infrastructure capable of handling it? What about the business processes for storing and accessing data? Without a clear vision, users can and will create their own policies for storing personal and business data wherever they have the access to do so. With new technologies built into server operating systems now allowing for file deduplication without IT intervention, finding somewhere to store all that data has become easier. However, it does not solve the problem of users storing the same files in multiple places with each individual thinking they are the sole owner.
“An enterprise content management system helps solve the problem of data continually growing out of control and helps companies reduce costs and standardize data storage processes”
An enterprise content management system can help you solve these problems as well as keep your data from continually growing out of control. With users having clear instructions from inception, knowing where to store data or how to access existing data is exponentially easier than learning where files are stored on the network shares. A newly hired employee will have access to only the data he or she should see, and will only have the ability to store data where his or her role has been allowed. Forcing the use of metadata, indexes or keywords on every document eases searching across the entire organization. Many enterprise content management systems allow for data sets, which users may choose from to enforce continuity across like documents. This helps eliminate future guesswork in searching when users can choose from a prebuilt list.
Now that you've made it so easy for users to store and access data, how do you keep it clean? There are several options that a good enterprise content management system should have. None will guarantee that you never have duplicate data, but they will definitely alleviate many of the headaches. One option for reducing duplicate files is revisioning. While this is keeping duplicate copies of the documents, you're only storing changes which are usually minor, and you can control how many revisions the business is allowed to store. With a repeatable storage process in place, users will be saving documents and typing or choosing metadata or keywords that may already exist on another document. This results in a document revision. Most enterprise content management systems allow you to have control over whether or not certain individuals can create revisions and if they have access to older revisions.
Other options for reducing storage are retention policies and records management. These options help to keep your data from growing exponentially, and may even reduce your storage needs over time. Retention policies can be used to delete large sets of data at once, either due to the files being a certain age or not being accessed after a set period of time. Records management can also be a powerful tool for removing data based off events or data values. For example, if you have many customers with closed accounts, you might want to keep that data for a set period of time that is different from your retention policy. Records management can be used to start a different timer for a deletion date that is set via the event of the account being closed in the system. Records management can be used to override your retention policy for legal holds as well. Both of these options are very powerful, however, you must use caution since you are automating file deletion.
There are many other areas of enterprise content management that could be covered here, but hopefully these subjects will help you to build your own plan for moving forward if you struggled with where to begin. Make sure you have a well thought out design for your enterprise content management system because not planning for scale and growth will leave you in the same predicament as you started, but with many more fingers pointing at you for your “great idea”. Motivate your business' management team, gather your business requirements, communicate extensively-you'll be just fine.