It was only two or three years ago that clients would ask about storing their content in the cloud in purely theoretical terms. There was no interest in actually doing anything about it, but it was a sexy conversation to have.
Now the conversation is no longer about "if clients could move their content to the cloud" but "when will they move content to the cloud." And if our clients are really honest, the conversation is about how they get control over all of the content they currently have in the cloud regardless of if the platform is official or not.
By 2020 every enterprise organization will be running cloud content management for a portion of their application needs. So the question becomes, where do you start? How do you begin building a strategy when we don't know exactly what things will look like when we get to the end?
Building An Agile Content Strategy
Your strategy for moving content to the cloud will take on five distinct stages represented in the image below:
The most important part of this process is to focus on taking just one step at a time. If you try to create a solution that is going to solve more than one use case at a time, or if you bite off on a use case that is too complicated, you've failed before you started.
The OTHER most important thing is that your process is iterative. The sooner you can provide your pilot group a prototype and incorporate their feedback into the application, the better. In many cases you can block out half a day or a day and sit down with both the business users and the technical team in your pilot group and design the application in short deliberate sessions. Everything you produce in these sessions will be mock-ups. We've found the interaction between internal customers and IT during these sessions produces a better product more quickly than if the customer is kept in the dark until IT thinks they've got the application nailed.
What Type of Solution Should You Build?
We won't know exactly where our cloud strategy will be in three years much less five or 10, but we still need to decide what kind of application to deliver to the business. Soliciting feedback from your customers is an ideal way to go, but understand the different buckets these solutions can fit into first. The chart below offers one way to split up your possible applications types:
Most organizations are fighting the use of what I call "Non-ECM" cloud solutions -- simple file sharing tools inappropriate for the enterprise because they lack the security needed by most organizations. Look at delivering capabilities that fit into the second or third bucket first and then move onto the more complicated capabilities offered in full cloud-based ECM suites.
Best Practice: Supplement the Cloud
One thing we've learned from the way organizations manage content in SharePoint is that users don't help with records management. Even when you provide guidance on using SharePoint for works in progress and storing all final copies in the system of record, users forget, get confused or just ignore the guidance. Best class organizations are now setting up applications in SharePoint and in cloud applications that automate the records keeping by integrating the front end system to the old ECM system in the background.
Maybe in the next three to five years cloud vendors will be able to comply with the common Fortune 1000 records keeping requirements. But in the meantime, it would be wise to build a system that can be managed appropriately and can continue to provide that functionality should the cloud community fail to comply.