On the content management trail, I recently stopped in Washington, D.C. There, I attended the 4th Executive Summit of the Advisory Trade Member (ATM) board for AIIM International, the ECM (enterprise content management) trade association. The event was hosted by AeA, a trade association for the U.S. high-tech industry. AIIM's decision to hold the event in the U.S. capital city had greater significance than the mere fact of AeA's headquarters being located there. The focused theme of many of the meeting's sessions was ECM in government, specifically federal government. That focus reflects AIIM's efforts to educate users and VARs about the benefits of applying ECM technologies to particular vertical industry needs.
In attendance were vendor executives, industry analysts, and government VARs. Providing an "in the trenches" perspective were representatives from various federal agencies, including the FBI, the IRS, and the National Archives and Records Administration.
What struck me most dramatically throughout the day was the frequency and fervor of discussions surrounding compliance. Nearly all participants agreed that compliance, especially as it relates to the government vertical, turns the spotlight most directly on one key component of an overall ECM strategy: electronic records management (ERM).
I wasn't surprised at the emergence of ERM as a hot topic. At the annual AIIM Expo just a few weeks earlier, I had confirmed that, in terms of technology development, compliance issues are pushing many ECM vendors to ramp up their ERM capabilities. Several had already received or were working to receive Department of Defense (DoD) 5015.2 certification for their ERM offerings. That made sense, given the fact that the DoD requirements are often referred to as the de facto standard for ERM. But, while most ECM vendors are actively acquiring, developing, or enhancing their ERM offerings, not all consider the DoD standard to be the most significant technology-development driver. I began to uncover those exceptions at AIIM Expo. By the end of the show, I was a bit puzzled as to why vendors would downplay the urgency of DoD-based compliance.
Well, as the AIIM ATM discussions later revealed, the DoD standard is far from being the universal set of requirements for compliant records management across vertical industries. In organizations outside of the U.S. military, the DoD directives are typically applied (if applied at all) more as guidelines than they are as absolute requirements. As several ATM participants concurred, the DoD specs have certainly not yet achieved — and may never achieve — the level of widespread adoption suggested by the label de facto standard. That doesn't mean that the DoD requirements aren't worth targeting. And, it doesn't mean that ECM vendors touting DoD-certified products are merely indulging in hype. As one of the federal agency representatives explained, DoD 5015.2 does usefully require, for instance, sophisticated metadata tagging. Another agency rep agreed, noting that, by using metadata tags to define the attributes of documents and records, organizations can more accurately and efficiently focus their queries. So, following DoD-based best practices on metatagging can help any organization reduce the degree of overwhelming irrelevance that often plagues search results.
That said, the discussions at the AIIM ATM meeting clearly illuminated differing ERM needs and requirements across differing types of organizations. Acknowledging those differences, AIIM President John Mancini announced that the association is currently spearheading efforts to develop an ERM/ECM standard that broadens DoD 5015.2 for increased horizontal applicability. Many ATM participants nodded in approval. Many end users and integrators should be nodding in appreciation.
By Tom von Gunden, chief editor, Doc Management Online, Content Mgt Online, and IT Storage Online