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Cloud-based platforms like Box, Dropbox Google Drive and Microsoft Office 365 have ushered in an era of unprecedented workplace sharing and collaboration.

But while these solutions provide organizations the ability to store, edit and share documents and digital assets easier and faster than ever before, they raise significant questions of governance, risk and security.

So Much Sharing

A single company or organizational group within an enterprise may use multiple cloud-based file sharing platforms. That can make it challenging for IT departments to build effective solutions that address issues like version control, security, traceability and workflow.

These were just some of the realities addressed in a recent CMS webinar, The New Collaboration Model and the Future of Workflow. "If you're in an enterprise situation, whether you have a policy permitting them or not, odds are employees are using cloud-based file sharing technologies," said Bob Canaway, Chief Marketing Officer at Nuxeo, an open source content management platform that enables developers to build, deploy and run content-centric business applications.

Canaway and Nuxeo Senior Solutions Architect Josh Fletcher presented the webinar, which you can view in its entirety at the end of this article.

File sharing options have evolved from partitions on local hard drives accessible from a single computer or network to cloud-based applications that offer ubiquitous access across multiple devices, such as smartphones, tablets and PCs.

Cloud-based Enterprise File Sync and Share (EFSS) platforms take the concept further by addressing issues such as security and collaboration support. They offer back-end server integration with SharePoint and other corporate platforms through connectors based on the Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS) standard and APIs.

Virtual Clutter and Confusion

But Canaway noted that one of the biggest strengths of cloud-based EFSS is also its biggest weakness. When we're when finished with a document, we don’t try to go back and put it through an approval process. "There's no structure," he explained.

The result: organizations are creating tremendous amounts of virtual clutter, which is only growing along with the volume, complexity and sizes of those files. “That’s a trade-off that they’ve made for usability for ubiquity and the ability to scale,” Canaway said.

In effect, he noted, we have transferred the same document management problems from the old days of physical files to the cloud.

EFSS Queens

A quick poll of attendees at the webinar found most people are using Microsoft Office 365 (40 percent) and Google Apps like Drive, Docs and Sheets (37 percent). About 33 percent use Dropbox and 20 percent use Box.

"For anyone at Nuxeo, it's probably all of the above," Fletcher quipped.

Officially, Canaway added, "We at Nuxeo use Google Apps. And it's created some really productive use cases for us, but also some big issues."

The Evolution of Content

Content Management Maturity Chart
Canaway pointed to a content management maturity cycle that showed not only the increase in volume and types of content but also a redefinition of content itself.

“What we’re going to find is that it’s actually the information about our information and our documents and our content -- the metadata -- that’s going to give us the biggest dividends from a business value perspective,” said Canaway.

Metadata is transforming content into a highly structured package of information that can be read both by humans and machines. Canaway refers to this evolution of content as “deep content,” which provides an opportunity for Enterprise Content Management (ECM) to provide business value beyond what EFSS currently offers. Deep content could be a game changer for the ECM, he added.

Addressing the Issue

Nuxeo cloud collaboration webinar

So how does a business stay faithful to the process and governance of ECM while giving business users the collaboration they want in EFSS? 

One solution Nuxeo has developed is Live Connect, which enables business users to manage workflow, approvals and other processes in an ECM platform and apply them to document in EFSS applications. The result is more collaborative and organized view of the information, Canaway said

“What we really need to be able to do is natively connect these platforms -- not synchronize, not migrate, not convert, not move content around, until we need to,” said Canaway.

The bottom line? It's possible to have the best of two worlds: the ease of accessing and sharing files as well as the power of business processes.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image  by ifindkarma.

Simpler Media Group, 2015