We seem to be entering a post-email age where instant messages (IM), text messages (SMS) and social media are sweeping into the business world, and important discussions and decisions are being made outside of conventional email. However, in recent research carried out at AIIM, we found that for 75% of organizations polled, instant messaging and text messaging are somewhat or very unmanaged. Blogs and wikis fare much the same, with 72% being off the company radar. Having said that, as we pointed out in our annual "State of the ECM Industry" research report, even managing electronic office documents is still a challenge for 47% of organizations, and emails and their attachments present difficulties for 56%.

    As an indicator of the corporate risks, we found that 37% of organizations had been exposed in the last three years to an HR dispute, legal challenge, PR problem or serious compliance issue due to poorly controlled documents, emails or web pages. In further research, we found that over one in five organizations reported that their organization or business unit has been involved in a public complaint, legal issue or customer issue as a result of content placed on a blog, forum or social network.

    As fast as organizations bring their conventional office documents under control, the new communications channels are creating even more content. Since the nature of these channels is collaborative and orientated towards information-sharing and user-generated content, they are even more difficult to manage for compliance and records retention. For example, we found that whereas 80% of organizations have a sign-off procedure for content published in press releases and public websites, less than 20% apply similar procedures to company blogs and forums. Only one in 10 companies police their Wikipedia entries.

    The way to bring these new media under control is to include them within the scope of an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) system. As well as the ability to carry out legal discovery across what are in some cases highly visible, public-facing blogs and forums, organizations who make these investments will see upside benefits from the improved access and knowledge sharing that they bring to the business. Most employees currently feel that information stored outside the firewall is easier to find than that stored within the plethora of internal systems and repositories.

    For many organizations, poorly managed and out-of-control information represents a huge potential source of bottom-line savings in this tight economy, if only organizations would just take this cost saving seriously. Controlled content can be fed into business processes to speed them up, cut down travel via project collaboration and form a knowledge base for the business. Uncontrolled content represents a lost opportunity - and a major compliance risk.

    Doug Miles is the director of AIIM Market Intelligence. The full report in the AIIM Industry Watch series, "State of the ECM Industry - who's achieved it, how are they doing it and is it working for them?" can be downloaded free at www.aiim.org/stateofecm2009 and is supported by EMC, Oracle, Open Text and Allyis.