Recently I was on an assignment to come up with a customer centric document and records management strategy for a leading financial institution. The scope was pretty much well defined for my assignment. We had a series of meetings with various stakeholders of the organization as well as IT and business users. The mandate from the top management as well as the enterprise architects was clear. They needed a customer centric view of their documents and records.
Everything went hunky-dory till the realization came and hit everybody right on the face. There is absolutely no easy way for anybody to figure out how a customer is uniquely identified across the various business groups! Each business group used systems that use their own ways of identifying a customer. Some used a customer id, some others used account numbers, and other systems had their own ways of identification including names and addresses. Simply, there was no single customer identifier across the bank! If there was no unique customer identifier, how can an enterprise-wide customer-centric content management would work?
Another recent assignment with a different bank threw similar questions. This customer had an enterprise-wide customer identifier, but the problem was with other data. Each core system used their own master data and the biggest problem we faced was with the customer addresses. Some systems were flexible with how addresses were stored but other had strict 40 characters per line limitation. The case management system we were implementing interacted with multiple of these systems at various points. So data had to be massaged to fit the restrictions of the respective systems throughout the workflow.
In my experience, ECM implementations were never about documents and document enabled workflows alone. We often had to step onto other toes like structured data management. Sadly most of the enterprises do not see the value in looking at information management in totality. They realize such issues as and when one of the smaller initiatives bump into hurdles like the ones mentioned above.
It is heartening to see that Enterprise Information Management (EIM) is evolving as a discipline. Even though it resonates well with only a few of the progressive enterprises out there currently, sooner than later such initiatives will have to be embarked on by the majority of organizations. EIM is currently looked at by analysts and technology gurus as this huge container of business practice domains including Enterprise Content Management (ECM), Business Process management (BPM), Customer Engagement Management (CEM), Business Intelligence (BI), Metadata Management, Data Quality and Data Governance.
EIM has to deal with all structured and unstructured data management within an enterprise. There are very clear technology distinctions between structured and unstructured data management practices. However an organization should ideally weigh them together and understand the interdependencies between the two before embarking on one or the other. I would say Metadata Management, Data Quality, and Data Governance should get the maximum priority as clean and lean metadata is a prerequisite for all other initiatives. Especially in this era of too many mergers and acquisitions that would result in disparate systems and practices, it is important for any organization to have an enterprise information strategy.