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Document management still a riddle to users

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Data classification and information management are essential to storage operations such as archiving, tiering and electronic discovery. Yet many of the tools for performing these tasks are overly complex, turning off many users.

Recent M&A activity in the records management and email archiving markets suggests the onerous task of training users on records management tools and policies could get simpler as search, archiving and data classification tools merge. For example, Iron Mountain has acquired records management vendor Accutrac Software; Autonomy, which focuses on document classification and retrieval, picked up email archiving service provider Zantaz; and Google bought Postini, another email service provider. Analysts say this is good news for users.

"It will be easier to execute on policies when integration between all these tools is better," says Noemi Greyzdorf, research manager, storage software at Framingham, MA-based IDC.

Today, email archiving and document retrieval tools are disconnected, complex point products. Two of the biggest headaches for companies trying to enforce records management policies are training employees to use each tool and addressing inconsistencies in how users classify their data.

Bill Morey, director of records management at Corporate Express, an office equipment supplier in Broomfield, CO, says training users to apply record-retention rules is a "gargantuan problem." Corporate Express is currently rolling

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out record-retention policies companywide; approximately 6,000 employees will be trained on the system.

Training related to the user interface, in this case, EMC's Documentum, is the hard part, says Corporate Express' Morey. Vendors need to keep "records management lingo out of the training," he says. "It needs to look like Windows Explorer, like the existing desktop, so there's minimal impact on the user."

Peter Cardonna, project manager in the records management division at Liberty Mutual Group in Portsmouth, NH, says classifying records often involves an elaborate decision-making process that can deter people from using the technology, and that the tools offer too much flexibility.

"Flexibility is usually a plus, but not when it leads to complexity that bogs down implementation and use," he says. "There's no default policy that helps a company set up and get started."

For Lisa Simpkins, systems analyst and project manager at international law firm Fulbright & Jaworski in Houston, inconsistent data entry is the firm's worst problem.

"When an attorney leaves, what are the best practices for dealing with that person's records?" asks Simpkins, who manages the company's Accutrac records management system. "Many of the offices have different ideas." Eight of the law firm's 10 U.S. offices use Accutrac, but they all describe records differently. To create more robust and consistent policies and procedures, the law firm recently hired a dedicated records manager, and Simpkins says that upgrading to Version 8.0 of Accutrac should also help because it will allow them to build simpler, customized fields, making it more intuitive to use.

One remedy is for users to do less while the apps do more. Kenneth Chin, research VP at Gartner, advises companies to automate as much of the process as possible and to minimize the amount of meta data entered by users when classifying data. Longer term, the consolidation of search, records management and archiving will make it a lot easier for users, he says.

--Jo Maitland

This was first published in August 2007

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