data-compliance-innerAs regulatory compliance becomes more of a concern for organizations, auditors are having field days as they audit organizations unstructured data repositories. For those who deployed and diligently use EDRM systems such as those offered by Tower, Documentum and OpenText, your worries are of a lesser degree although you are probably still exposed. Where? File Shares, Public folders and laptops. More so these days my consulting engagements have become more focused on managing data with collaboration secondary. Why? It’s easy to design and install SharePoint in a majority of organizations when the complete picture isn’t in place (You don’t know what you don’t know).

In a prior blog I mentioned one of my clients referred to SharePoint as a hairball and why? A quote I often hear, “SharePoint is like liquid plastic, you have to create the mould” – yes it’s corny but true. If we didn’t have to worry about compliance, data quality (master data management – MDM- concepts) and storage we could just let tools such as SharePoint run wild.

What topics would come up in a Master Data Management discussion? Here are some thoughts:

  • Governance – Deals with how the organization manages quality, consistency, usability, security and availability of information. So many companies get this wrong and it leads to a world of hurt!
  • Security and data control plans – SharePoint is a large bucket of data presented in a variety of ways based on information architecture and lists and or libraries and custom applications. Securing these sites requires policy, training, configuration policy and tools to enforce. Why? Site security is de-coupled from AD – no central authority – its the wild west. Even riskier are farms that are exposed to the internet and mobility devices.
  • HR mandated education – HR must ensure training progarms are adopted and scheduled ongoing atleast one or twice a year. Training includes the why and how to manage and secure data based on company policy. Also must include contacts for support for that particular region so that people have a support network.
  • Data Stewardship – Data owners are those individuals and or groups within the organization that create, edit, publish etc…and have significant control over the content access, revisions and distribution.
  • Data quality – Deals with timeliness, accuracy, consistency, usability etc…For example, is the Meta data completed? Correctly? Spelling and Grammar?

Wikipedia has some great reading at WikiPedia defines MDM as “master data management (MDM) comprises a set of processes and tools that consistently defines and manages the non-transactional data entities of an organization (also called reference data)”.

Organizations, especially those in heavily regulated industries (Banking, Pharmaceuticals etc…) must pay attention to compliance as it impacts data management. Tools, Process, Policy and all activities required to make sure staff store data in the proper repository. For example, a record should not be placed in a SharePoint document library or on a Laptop. It should be placed in the organizations EDRM. Failure to due so is a Records Officers nightmare since if this compounds (which it has in many organizations) they will have to inventory, assess and reclassify TBs of unstructured data.

SharePoint is a great platform, it does many things well but where it falls short is Enterprise Records Management and efficient use of storage. Hey, what is this guy saying? Allow me to be specific, SharePoint records Management is version 1.0 at best while Tower, Documentum and OpenText have been at this for 20 years. These products meet several compliance criteria, make efficient use of storing file by using the file system for the objects and a RDMS for meta data, business logic and security – hence why these systems scale in an economical manner. But wait there’s more…people generally hate ERDM tools due to their inherent usability issues such as having to classify and tag objects. Hmmm…sounds like people don’t like the work involved in managing data. Heres where SharePoint and auto classification tools (Interse and Schemalogic) steps in to help relieve some of the pain.

So as AIIM preaches, SharePoint is here and organizations must deal with it proactively or play catch up down the road.