‘Content is king’, the old mantra says, and for years government agencies have followed its guidance to install enterprise content management (ECM) systems built entirely around the efficient management of their information. Yet as agencies double down on digital transformation and cloud-based services facilitate access to new capabilities, ECM is rapidly spawning a new paradigm whose flexibility adds new value to a range of use cases, for example content driven applications that streamline the political processes of government enabling agencies to better align with the overall goals of transformation.This new model has dramatic implications for digital transformation.
Gartner analyst Michael Woodbridge has taken a fresh perspective on the concept of ECM — built around archiving and access to content — highlighting the value of content-driven compliance platforms that improve the utilisation of content. Platforms that extend the utilisation of content but respect the requirement around regulatory compliance and risk management; retention and dissemination of business knowledge; cost and process efficiencies; and innovation and new ways of working.
Building from a new base
A content-services approach offers a more unified view to the problem of information management platforms by positioning them not as a monolithic enterprise platform, but as a unified repository with content at its core and business processes managed using relevant services, organisational policies and procedures.
Realised in practice, an example is how EFSS (Enterprise file synchronization and sharing) offerings such as Objective Connect have become more aligned with the regulatory requirements managed within core ECM systems such as HPE Content Manager. A steadily expanding range of functionality around EFSS applications has not only made them a vital component to ECM systems but enables organisations to collaborate with other agencies with the confidence that the actual content being shared is stored in a tightly access-controlled repository that is wrapped with layer upon layer of additional functionality as necessary.
This new model has dramatic implications for digital transformation: innovation comes not from designing new ways to store content, but in delivering new ways to use it. Such content services – which Woodbridge separates into government specific content services applications, platforms, and components – take ECM’s legacy to the next level by freeing business processes from the constraints of a single platform.
Reforming content-based use cases
This offers significant promise for content-based business processes such as regulated industries that stand to benefit from the intrinsic flexibility and collaboration of a cloud-based solution yet require strict discipline around access, versioning, and publication of information.
As highlighted within a recent Transforming Government Business Executive Brief government processes — for example ministerial correspondence, cabinet submissions and parliamentary briefs — are perfect examples of how content-driven processes can be transformed by cloud-based content service applications.
Consider New South Wales government’s circular C2015-13 – which addresses performance and accountability for ministerial correspondence. It encourages ministers to adopt a web-based contact form and commit to a maximum 30-day turnaround time on enquiries, with ongoing compliance monitoring. State agencies found themselves requiring a collaborative content engine that was managed by services for authoring, reviewing, editing, approval and dispatch.
Each of these stages may have tightly mandated requirements: approval, for example, must come from the relevant minister’s office and is often tied to specific policy announcements or programs. A conventional ECM platform might be able to enforce these functions within a small group of organisationally unified users, but often fall short in involving stakeholders whose departments use different ECM platforms.
By contrast, a content-services approach would extend the existing information management repository and provide cloud based access using common controls that function the same for all stakeholders. In this model, the emphasis is on enabling good governance to deliver better business through the robust functionality of well-orchestrated content driven services solutions.
The result: increased efficiency, quality, transparency and collaboration as highlighted in the following executive brief Transforming Government Business for streamlining political processes rather than the status of their users as members of a particular access group.
A shot in the arm for transformation
The opportunities for transforming the handling of enterprise content pose great promise for government agencies that have struggled to deliver on the letter of digital transformation, if not the spirit. This includes moving away from legacy paper-based processes to truly online, content-based interactions – and that means a whole lot more than just publishing forms as PDFs and getting citizens to email them to the agency offices.
Transformation inertia is quite common: recent Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) research, for example, found that just 14 percent of public-sector respondents said they were moving quickly to convert key processes to paper-free. Fully 48 percent of respondents said progress was slowing, while 15 percent said their efforts had stalled after transforming the first few processes.
AIIM has coined its own name for the process of content-focused transformation – intelligent information management (IIM) but regardless of nomenclature, it carries the same promise and goals. “Content is still real, and it is an important element of the digital transformation equation,” AIIM has noted. “But, it does not exist in isolation and there isn’t a different set of rules for content versus data.”
This, then, is the challenge of contemporary information management driven providers: breaking down the technological and functional walls that separate enterprise content from the rest of the organisation’s information and processes
That’s not to say that content is no longer king – indeed, in today’s online world its primacy has extended – but, rather, that organisations seeking true digital transformation must shift to a new model in which content lies at the heart of a cloud-enabled ecosystem of services, such as solutions for streamlining political processes that transform government business.