There is no single answer to solving the challenge of information management agility. That's not to say that things like mobile accessibility should not be in our sights, but that we need to establish a strong foundation first. 

The Focus Can't Be on One Thing Alone

For the last 3 months I've been spending time with a Fortune 100 client specifically looking at how a wide variety of factors and technologies are converging -- faster and deeper than I've ever seen before. Like many companies, particularly of this size, the market is moving much faster than they have been able to keep up with (which is inevitable given the consumer-driven computing world that drives innovation outside of the enterprise). So how can they catch up?

Focusing on ONE piece of modernizing their world is not going to cut it -- they're too big, and have too much going on to take things one at a time. I have to say it's a suckers game if you only follow one of the threads suggested in the current CMSWire poll (see Poll Results: The Next Big Thing for Enterprise Information Management). We, you, us, anyone needs ACTION, on many fronts, not just one. 

Think Parallel Projects

My current client, as a result of where they are and where they want to be, are putting parallel projects in place on several fronts: 

  • Addressing the ECM Foundation (to make sure content is managed at all) 
  • Creating ECM Extensions (to take advantage of "smart" content, above and beyond "typical" Level 1- 2 Maturity in this area)
  • Operationalizing ECM (to mashup data and content along with process management, to sink the DNA of ECM so deep into the organization that to NOT manage content, data, knowledge and process would be unthinkable)

The Vision vs The Reality of Going Mobile

Yes, the vision is to head towards the "mobile workforce" -- really, to device independent content (which SGML was built for over 20 years ago, but that's another story) -- that's the clear direction that we're all heading towards.

But do I expect any of my clients, big or small to rush out and make sure their employees can use smartphones to access any content they want, at any time? Absolutely not. It's a great vision, but: 

  1. No medium to large organization that I know of today pays for all of its employees to have smartphones/mobile devices, which means that supporting employee-owned equipment and the wide variety of devices is going to kill them -- even consumer-driven commercial suppliers have a tough time supporting multiple mobile platforms, and there is DIRECT MONEY in it for them, 
  2. Most enterprises have a bewildering slew of applications/UIs to access their systems, which means that connecting mobile devices is going to be a painful experience, period. You don't really want a separate "app" to access each of the many apps in an enterprise -- that's the same productivity killer it is if it's not on a mobile, only worse, because you're now limited to smaller screens, limited speeds, limited features (lack of Flash, or poor performance compared to desktops/laptops, etc.).
  3. There is simply a lot more work, valuable work, to be done in maturing ECM, or Information Management, to a level where it's all a very smooth, daily, operational area of the business. Chasing mobile access first is only going to divert them from shoring up the foundation that is probably all too shaky to begin with.

Start at the Core of ECM and Move Forward

Is support for mobile or any other place where people can access systems in a convenient form factor where they should be headed, at some point in next 3-5 years? Absolutely. Changing work habits is a lot of what I, and others, have talked about with the impact of Web 2.0 as Enterprise 2.0. We're used to some awfully slick, engaging and useful interfaces out in the wide world -- and when you look at the "cutting edge" in consumer-land, it certainly is starting to irritate people that their enterprise systems pale by comparison.

Learning Opportunities

Is that enough to force time, money and effort to change enterprise systems to be similarly modern? If it's going to help retain or bring on new talent to the organization, make people more effective and efficient, cut out costs, etc., then of course. But does that zoom to the top of the list when most organizations still have not even heard let alone mastered ECM or any variation of the term?

You'd think with nearly $2 Billion USD in SharePoint sold at this point, ECM would be a well understood space by the masses. But it isn't, and my belief is that we all need to work the entire spectrum, from the core and perhaps boring side of ECM on up to the cutting edge, if we really want to demonstrate what any of this can REALLY DO, on a constant basis, for any organization that wants to be successful or even survive, in 2010 and beyond.

So yes, keep pushing for the vision of access anytime, anywhere, from any device, and start making progress towards that direction, but in the meantime, let's get the fundamentals nailed down and not get obsessed with chasing marketing buzz of the day. 

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