It is almost my least favorite time of the year—holiday shopping. If there is a period of time that brings out the worst in people and companies, it is the rush to either buy or sell that "perfect" holiday gift.

The chaos is best represented by Black Friday. The day after Thanksgiving has been the traditional kick-off to the shopping season for decades. While we have been seeing decorations go up everywhere for weeks, the massive sales start Thanksgiving weekend. The Internet has even gotten into the "spirit" of the season by creating a Cyber Monday full of specials for the online retailers.

I hate it all. The crowds, the pushing, the shoving, the long lines and the insistence of retailers that their staff needs to work instead of spending the Thanksgiving holiday with their family. It is horrible.

And it works.

The crowds show up every year. The retailers advertise some spectacular specials that apply to a limited number of items. Once you are in the store, that item is invariably sold out. It doesn’t matter as there are numerous other deals to allow you to spend your money. After spending all that time fighting crowds, most people don’t want to leave empty-handed simply to go fight the same battle elsewhere.

We could all learn something from this.

Focus on getting people to show up
The goal of the massive discounts on a limited number of items and the early opening times is to entice people into the store. It is all aimed to show enough value to get people’s attention. Once they are in the store, the odds are that the store’s goals of making a lot of sales will be met.

We need to do the same thing in content management. Organizations always focus on the rules and the outcomes of content. There hasn’t been enough energy spent getting people to put all their content into the system in the first place.

Why are the enterprise file sync and share (EFSS) companies, like Dropbox and Box, growing so fast? Because they entice people with the ease of use and the ability to access and share their content anywhere on any device. Seamlessly. Traditional vendors make similar claims. If you have used their tools, you can tell they don’t know what seamless means.

This is the right initial approach to content management. Get people using the system. Get them used to saving content into a system controlled by the organization. Like a good retailer, you need to make sure that adequate security and privacy protections are in place but those need to be transparent to people.

You can ask users to classify content when they save by using a file structure and a couple pieces of metadata. While many claim a file structure is unnecessary, it is a familiar concept that has the benefit of applying metadata to content without people realizing they are doing it.

Once you are collecting all of the content, then you can start worrying about retention. With all that content, auto-classification engines can be trained. Even if they are only 90% accurate (most claim higher rates), the odds of any organization capturing 75% of their content using current measures, much less classifying it correctly, is astronomical.

The most exciting part of auto-classification engines is that they get smarter. As they learn, you can analyze older content again to improve upon that 90% accuracy.

Progress is not limited to new content.

You cannot manage what you don’t have
That is the beauty of all of this. The technology is evolving to the point where we can perform all the classification, control and disposition of content without locking ourselves into those processes on day one. More importantly, the people using the system don’t have to learn any burdensome system. They can simply do their work and let the machines do the rest.

Our jobs are not to delete content as soon as it reaches a certain date. It is to protect it for the organization so that it can be found and used when needed. If we keep something longer than is necessary but the overhead of keeping it is nil, what does it matter?

I do not care if the systems are not perfect now. I know that if we can capture it and do some basic classification now, we can perfect the processes over time.

Go out there. Talk to the people. Make their jobs easier. When they put all their content into your system, your job will be easier.

And we can enjoy the holidays.

Laurence Hart is a proven leader in content and information management, with nearly two decades of experience solving the challenges organizations face as they implement and deploy information solutions. Follow Mr. Hart on his blog, Word of Pie, or on Twitter @piewords.

 

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