Big Data or Drown – Managing and Tiering Content

by Rob Vandenberg of Lingotek

For today’s companies, information overload is a fact of life. By all indications, the problem is only going to get worse. The 2011 IDC Digital Universe study estimated that by 2020, the amount of data in the world will grow 50-fold from its 2010 levels of 1.8 trillion gigabytes. The number of files online will grow 75 percent in the next decade, but the number of IT staff to manage them will grow by only 1.5 times.

Then there’s email, which is a data-overload category of its own. Everything looks the same in an email inbox, from funny forwards to time-sensitive documents. Email clutter is positively correlated with time spent digging up important documents. And it’s only getting worse.

The Radicati Group reported last year that the number of email accounts in the world is expected to grow at a rate of seven percent per year through 2015, with one quarter of email accounts belonging to corporate users. In a different survey, The Radicati Group found that the number of emails the average corporate users sent increased by 24 percent between 2010-2011 alone. Enterprise users received 25 percent more emails and 71 percent more attachments in 2011 than in 2010. It is conceivable that 2012 will bring even more emails and attachments.

Silos are unsafe

Within the context of the new dynamic content unstructured information like files, video and email will make up 90 percent of the data increase, according to IDC. This number reflects the fact that content itself no longer a static entity. The variety and forms of content have increased substantially. Rather than printed business plans, say, or product manuals that remain the same for years, content has become an ever-changing suite of living information, from documents to emails, social media to white papers. What’s more, not everyone needs to access all content, but they do need to have access to the relevant information when they need it, in a digestible format and language.

If companies keep all that content in silos, they lose track of it. That is a risky proposition for several reasons. For one, workers waste hours trying to find content and, if they fail, recreating it. Companies don’t repurpose and re-use content as much as they could. In addition, IDC found that while individuals create an estimated 75 percent of data, enterprises will have liability for 80 percent of that data at some point in its lifecycle. Meaning? Companies will be held responsible for it from a legal standpoint. If not managed properly, siloed content could be a legal compliance mess waiting to happen.

No wonder 60 percent of enterprises cite “content chaos” as the trigger for adopting enterprise content management systems (CMSs), a 2010 AIIM marketing survey found. With a CMS, or other method of content management such as enterprise social software, companies can deal with their content in a streamlined manner. They can single-source publish to multiple formats and channels, link to the same content from multiple locations, re-use partial content and eliminate duplicates.

Instead of wading through the inbox, users can prioritize content as they need it. This means, for example, that a product developer in Spain can access the same manual used for the product at U.S. headquarters, and translate it to Spanish — instantly.

Centralizing various kinds of communications, such as IM and email, smoothes collaboration between workers in different locations. Having a searchable, indexable platform in which to consolidate their content gives enterprises an immediate leg up on efficiency, compliance and communication. And, perhaps most importantly, companies gain the ability to tier their content, meaning that each person using the company’s central system can access and digest the content they need, when they need it.

Why global companies need a CMS

For global enterprises, effectively managing content is doubly important for the collaboration advantages it provides. Because global communications often happen asynchronously, across different time zones and mediums, companies need a central place and platform in which to collaborate.

When enterprise content is available as soon as it is created or changed, workers stay on the same page, regardless of location. Different audiences, whether employees or customers, can immediately find the content that is most relevant to their needs.

Effective content management also enables companies to capture, translate and localize content into different languages. Because 70 percent of people prefer to visit websites in their native languages, having localized content means more customers will access company information.

The benefits of Big Data and tiered content

Today’s cloud-based content management and social business systems provide an important Big Data opportunity for global companies to focus and expand upon their most valuable information. Software analytics, filters, and search are all much better than they used to be. Companies have more information than ever before at their fingertips, and they can harness that data for strategic purposes.

Global businesses can use metrics to separate out their high-value content from the content that few people read or interact with. When businesses can measure the content people are reading, sharing and discussing most, they can be proactive about which content to extend into other countries. For example, if customers only read and discuss 11 pages of a company’s 25-page website, the business could choose to only localize those 11 pages, rather than the entire website.

Metrics work well in other scenarios, too. Companies can enable analytics that tell them when and where they’re losing employee productivity. They can run data to find how their marketing and customer service efforts are working in target markets. Strategy and decision-making, rather than being subjective, has become data-based.

Today’s companies face a stark choice. They can either drown in data or adopt a system that allows them to effectively manage the massive amounts of data they are generating and consuming. For global companies that require cross-border collaboration and localization, the case is even stronger for a data-management system that allows tiering of content, a system that understands which content is the most important for which market or employees and is available accordingly.

With more than 50 trillion gigabytes of data set to infiltrate the Web by 2020, where will your content be?

Rob Vandenberg is President and CEO of Lingotek. Prior to being named CEO, Vandenberg served as the company’s vice president of sales and marketing. Prior to Lingotek, Rob was one of the first 20 U.S. employees at Intershop Communications where he helped build its worldwide business & helped make the Intershop IPO one of the most successful enterprise software company IPOs in U.S. history. Later, Rob co-founded and served as the CEO of LocalVoice, which was acquired by HarrisConnect in 2005. Rob holds a bachelor’s degree in political economics from UC Berkeley.