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Drag – Drop – Done! Why it needs to be that simple

In October 2013, Cohesion was formally selected to deliver ECM as a service to New Zealand government agencies. Fast forward to 2016 and Cohesion, Intergen’s ECMaaS (Enterprise Content Management Service as a Service) is thriving with seven government agencies actively participating in the programme and two more about to join. 

Intergen’s ECMaaS (Enterprise Content Management Service as a Service) is thriving with seven government agencies actively participating in the programme and two more about to join.

The Cohesion story is quickly becoming a vibrant and illustrious one. Developed on the ground in Wellington, by a local team for the New Zealand government, Cohesion is uniquely reflective of its kiwi origins in its style, disrupting traditional ECM approaches to rigidly managing information. Recently the Cohesion team held an Intergen Insight session focusing on the broader benefits of information management and how it can transform agencies, forever changing how they connect, communicate and collaborate.

The benefits of information management can be hard hitting and far reaching. At an enterprise level government agencies are aware of this, having seen a proliferation of multiple point-to-point ‘siloed’ solutions. The volume of these solutions often spiral out of control resulting in a large number of their information systems being redundant, not fit for purpose and not future proofed (1).

In this model, there is limited common capability and the effort and skills required to maintain such disparate technologies are almost impossible to sustain or afford. This results in there being no single source of truth, with the same information being duplicated inaccurately across multiple applications.

Finally, there is limited understanding of total cost of ownership, with a significant proportion of ICT spend going on shadow IT. The consequences can be crippling. Unsurprisingly agencies are starting to look at ECMaaS from a new perspective.

A successful ECM has always been understood as a connecting and unifying touchstone for any agency. Indeed, many of the names of our recent deployments reflect this heavily. Branding such as Piritahi (MPI: Coming together as one) or Tui Tuia (Statistics NZ: Integrate) come to mind. An ECM should be a reliable, easy to use one stop shop for information so that it is embraced and trusted by all. It should have an authoritative search so that discovering content is as intuitive as inputting content.

The potential to map existing business processes to an ECMS also present themselves solidifying its position as a single source of truth. As part of the deployment of Cohesion for the Ministry for Primary Industries we looked at the concept of special use cases, where systems and business processes could be mapped to their ECMS.

As a consultant on the Piritahi project, I oversaw the development of an emergency management portal, allowing the Ministry for Primary Industries, as part of its function of growing and protecting New Zealand, to rapidly initiate and on-board cross functional teams to help manage emergency responses to events such as biosecurity breaches. In the past, the emergency response function would have been facilitated by yet another unique point-to-point solution.

Cohesion Insight session: broader benefits of information management and how it can transform agencies, forever changing how they connect, communicate and collaborate.

However, usability must be considered. The high-level benefits of ECMS and information management are underscored by being intuitive and collaborative, providing a digital workspace and home for the modern knowledge worker.

Traditional document management and records management solutions have suffered from poor usability and buy in. This can have a snowballing negative impact on an ECM, preventing it from becoming a single source of truth. Those diligent enough to use such systems and processes soon become disenfranchised in the knowledge that the vast majority of information lives elsewhere, squirreled away in shared drives, desktops and email folders.

But why is this so? Why have traditional document and records management systems failed and failed so spectacularly?

Canadian archival theorist Terry Cook predicted the demise and failure of such systems two decades ago. In his work ‘Electronic Records, Paper Minds’ (2), Cook argued that such approaches and solutions were designed within a paper paradigm. Indeed, it has been a hallmark of technological development that any innovation is described in the language of the technology that has preceded it. We only need to think of the perseverance of the floppy disk as an icon for save, having no currency with digital natives as a storage medium but universally understood as an icon for save. A concept echoed by a famous quote of Henry Ford’s, “If I had asked people what they wanted they would have said faster horses”. The real irony here being that those people still ended up calling cars horseless carriages.

Such paper thinking resulted in systems that were overly prescriptive, taxonomical and hierarchical, typically several layers deep with lots of folders (another paper concept in itself – but more on that later). These systems did not understand how to curate digital content and instead they were emblematic of a prescribed, one-size fits all, paper based view of the world.

As for users, instead of focusing on their business expertise, they were asked to become records management experts with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the filing structure. All of sudden, users were working for the solution instead of it working for them; with a large amount of content upload and search dependent on entering metadata that had no relevancy or currency to their actual job.

Our deployments place the user front and centre and are emblematic of a shift from traditional records management systems to collaboration platforms that seamlessly curate digital information in a way that is invisible to end users.

The focus on collaboration is important as it frames the value proposition for most information management systems to end-users. Yes, users may be aware of the critical importance of legislative compliance, and yes they may be appreciative of the broader strategic benefits such as common capability. But if an ECM does not add value to their working day then users will not actively choose to engage with such systems. The focus on collaboration is key and this is something which economists and industrialists have known for decades; the sharing and trading of assets is finite, the sharing of ideas however, multiplies their worth and is potentially infinite.

The need for usability drives us towards a “drag – drop – done” approach, which maximises adoption and ensures that compliance happens in the background. Cohesion supports this approach easily letting users drag and drop content, where metadata can be added effortlessly through the service’s metadata extraction engine along with allowing for end-user tagging.

Meanwhile Cohesion’s records management layer maps the appropriate retention and disposal to newly added content. Now you can tag and structure your content with terms that are relevant to you, terms that you know and understand as part of your everyday work. This approach lends itself towards a myriad of benefits such as virtual folders based on metadata, letting you create slices of information that are significant to you.

Social features such as following and subscribing give workers the information they need when they need it in a way that works for them. Then too, various content roll-up tools intuitively surround users delighting them with relevant content at their fingertips.

Suddenly users aren’t thinking in a taxonomical manner and they no longer need to be filing experts. With the development of your taxonomy and metadata more sophisticated features such as autoclassification can come into play. Our goal is for Cohesion to transform government agencies information management maturity. We believe the drag – drop – done mindset is imperative to unifying agencies behind this goal.  



1 https://www.ict.govt.nz/assets/Cabinet-Papers/Cab-Paper-ICT-Strategy-and-Action-Plan-June-2013.pdf

2 Cook, Terry. “Electronic Records, Paper Minds: The Revolution in Information Management and Archives in the Post-Custodial and Post-Modernist Era” Archives & Manuscripts 22 (November 1994)

Posted by: David Ryan, Consultant, Cloud Solutions | 03 October 2016

Tags: Enterprise Content Management, Cohesion, Digital Transformation

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