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Executive Insight

I was recently asked to submit a byline to Government Computer News, one of the top government technology trade publications, on how agencies need to think about ECM in light of the many new challenges they are facing. The experience of the federal worker is undergoing a dramatic transformation, as older employees are retiring and are being replaced with a younger demographic that is on the forefront of the rise of mobile, social and cloud technologies. The younger work force expects to be productive anytime, anywhere, using any device or application. This requires that agencies develop systems that deliver easier access to content, or employees may resort to consumer-grade applications that fail to meet compliance and records management mandates.

At the same time, many legacy Enterprise Content Management (ECM) systems have been in place for a decade or more, requiring major upgrades or replacement. They have been architected for a different era, and therefore these outdated applications have been left behind by current working and computing environments.

This has intensified the pressure on federal IT teams to update their ECM strategy or face the control, security and compliance issues that are created by user-established technologies, but are unacceptable in the public sector environment. Devising a new approach to ECM will help agencies overcome shadow IT and adhere to required standards. IT teams looking to update their ECMs while meeting the needs of both federal workers and federal mandates should take note of these four content management necessities. Here are some of the observations I shared in my GCN byline:

Support New Ways of Working
Today’s federal workforce has been shaped by the use of apps like Instagram, Snapchat and Uber. Modern ECM needs to embrace the applications and devices people use every day, taking cues from consumer apps so that the user experience is fresh, engaging and intuitive. Thirty-seven percent of the world’s workforce is predicted to be mobile in 2015 – and this reality is felt in the federal market as well. This highly mobile, very connected employee wants IT solutions that allow them to work regardless of location, network, or device.

Prepare for the Emergence of the Extended Enterprise
Agencies are no longer stand-alone entities. Instead, they are often an inter-connected web of employees, contractors, suppliers and constituents, extending far beyond the traditional boundaries of the agency, and certainly beyond their network firewalls. This makes the ability to share content and process across the extended enterprise an imperative for modern ECM. Legacy ECM systems were architected at a time when users and content stayed behind the firewall on servers and PCs, but that simply isn’t feasible to support today’s federal worker. Modern ECM needs to support the easy, controlled sharing of content and process both inside and outside of the agency.

Plan for the Explosion in Digital Content
With so much content being created on an ongoing basis, it can be harder than ever for government users to find the information they need quickly. If content is not adequately managed, governed, or secured because it is “in the wild” – spread across network drives, mobile devices, laptops, email, USB sticks and consumer file sharing sites – then it raises security, compliance, operational and other risks. Modern ECM needs to use contextual data – comments, preferences, geo-location data – to drive business processes that move content to the right person at the right time within the right application. This will enable content to be put into context so that people and processes work more efficiently and effectively.

Embrace Today’s IT Infrastructure
Agencies must adopt a strategic platform for meeting the often conflicting needs of users – who want to work remotely and with people outside of the agency – and IT that must ensure that content is secure and managed in accordance with governance and compliance policies. Unfortunately, Legacy ECM platforms are generally not built for cloud scale and offer only limited mobile support. Federal agencies have shifted to a hybrid storage approach, storing content both on premises and in the cloud. This requires seamless syncing between the two locations. An agency’s ECM approach needs to recognize the need for control and compliance and must be able to support traditional on-premises deployments, virtualized environments, private cloud deployments, full-fledged public-cloud SaaS deployments and everything in between. Agencies will need to figure out which content is appropriate for sharing in the cloud and which should remain on premises behind the firewall.

ECM plays a vital role in storing, managing and controlling the content that keeps the federal government moving. Agencies must address the need to allow people to work where and how they want, enable information and process to flow across the extended enterprise, develop a system to handle digital content management and make deployment an easy process for IT teams across the IT infrastructure. Keeping the current workplace in mind when crafting an updated ECM strategy will empower federal employees to do and share great work.

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