iNSIDER Perspective | Big Data: Boon or Bust for ECM?


    This article was written by iNSIDER Pam Baker.


    Big data is changing everything, everywhere – permanently.

    Business will never be the same, nor will the human experience.

    One need only to look at reality mining to catch a glimpse of where we’re all headed, as individuals, communities, and as organizations.

    If you’re unfamiliar with reality mining, you might want to read the many posts inMIT’s Reality Commons and check out related open source projects in MIT’s Human Dynamics Lab such as the funf open-source sensing platform for Android phones or the sociometric badges for sensing organizational behavior.

    Or, if you’re having trouble visualizing what reality mining truly looks like, you might want to take a look at the short video by the Science Channel:


    No doubt, you’ll find the video both fascinating and deeply unsettling. Even more so when you learn that reality mining is going far beyond “simple” cell phone data. Such trembling awe is a natural human response to the enormity of big data power.

    With these big data-fueled, earth-shattering changes comes the need to adapt as quickly as possible. Fortunately, adapting is what humankind does best.

    Unfortunately, the ability to quickly and successfully adapt to change is typically not a strength in many businesses.

    Surprisingly, low technology adoption rates are not usually the biggest obstacle to adaptation. Indeed, there are many valid reasons to wait on buying new tech for business such as waiting for the bugs to be worked out or for prices to come down. In the case of small businesses, much can be said for waiting on big business to take all the risks and spit out affordable tools that actually work – as has been the case with big data tools.

    And sometimes older, tried-and-true tech will get the job done and there simply isn’t a need to do a forklift change to something new. When it comes to adapting to big data, ECM is a prime example. Indeed, explosive content growth, a prime source of big data, is the reason ECM came to be in the first place.There’s no reason to believe something built to handle data overload can’t continue to manage the deluge.

    Rather the biggest impediment in business adaptation to radical change is and always has been mind-freeze. Mindsets frozen in a time where business used to be instead of altering to fit where business is now or where it is headed. The thinking is business-as-usual until death do us part.

    And make no mistake, failing to adapt to the tsunami of changes coming with big data is a death sentence. Lest ye doubt that, ask presidential hopeful Mitt Romney how he fared against President Obama in the ‘my data’ vs. ‘big data’ showdown for the White House.

    The biggest mistake businesses make is in trying to add big data to its existing business plan, processes and tool sets. That’s akin to adding an earthquake to your line of employee relocation options and tools. No doubt an earthquake will move people but it probably will not relocate them as you planned.

    Big data is not just another way to do something. It’s a powerful disruptor that will eventually (if it hasn’t already) blow a Titanic-sized hole in your ship. You can’t plug that hole or re-use that ship. Instead, you must figure out another way to cope with the ocean.

    While ECM and other technologies are helpful, companies will have to go beyond that and change their organization capabilities, service and product development processes, marketing mindset, and business processes in order to bring their operations to full competitive speed in the new data-driven economy.

    If such an organizational upheaval is not undertaken, then neither hurried attempts at big data use nor technologies suited to big data management can save the day.

    So is big data a boon or a bust for ECM?

    For the most part it is a boon as companies will find ECM increasingly useful in managing their own booming growth in content, changing and managing business processes where BPM is also in use, and in personalizing responses to users.

    But for companies that are not girding for change, a bust is inevitable with or without the use of ECM and related technologies.

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