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4 cloud ECM best practices for businesses to heed

Employing cloud-based security, using team collaboration tools, and creating a system for naming and tagging files are necessary to manage content across a distributed enterprise.

The world's largest work-from-anywhere experiment is at hand.

As organizations consider the new normal for digital work in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is much they should learn from the rapid shutdown in mid-March and the ensuing digital transformation of business operations.

Office workers now expect to work from anywhere, while contending with the ever-rising volume and velocity of digitized information. Here are four cloud enterprise content management (ECM) best practices for managing content across a distributed enterprise.

Employ cloud-based security

Any lingering doubts surrounding cloud services have now been laid to rest. Beyond connectivity and storage, the cloud provides the resilient infrastructure for digital work -- access, storage and collaboration -- even for security-conscious organizations.

But the cloud is about more than just employees being able to connect to business systems outside a brick-and-mortar building. Organizations no longer need to rely on perimeter-based security provided by a corporate intranet -- a legacy of the client-server computing era -- to protect access to content stored in network file shares.

As digital work moves to the cloud, one cloud ECM best practice is for employees to authenticate their identities through a cloud-based identity and access management platform, such as Microsoft Azure Active Directory, Okta or Oracle Identity Cloud Service. They then rely on a cloud content management (CCM) platform -- such as Box, Dropbox or Microsoft -- to securely access their files from anywhere with an internet connection. And, while there are novel risks when managing content in the cloud, CCM platform providers are continually strengthening their capabilities for content security by relying on machine learning and AI to detect anomalous patterns and suspicious events.

The cloud is about more than just employees being able to connect to business systems outside a brick-and-mortar building.

Create a system for naming and tagging files

Beyond storage and security, a CCM platform enables digital work at internet scale. Employees use a common repository for managing both personal and shared files. And they continue to maintain their personal work-related file/folder hierarchies, while also accessing shared folders belonging to workgroups and task teams with whom they engage. With file sync-and-share capabilities, employees can access the same set of files across multiple mobile devices.

An organization should maintain a single source of truth -- an authoritative repository -- for all shared content. Typically, a CCM platform provides the necessary services for storing and managing familiar text-based files of everyday office work. However, there are many situations where organizations need a digital asset management (DAM) platform to support more specialized services for managing photos, videos and other types of digital assets.

Organizations should use a self-evident file plan and file naming conventions within sets of shared folders, making it easier to find content. Employees should be able to immediately recognize the terms and understand what they mean, and team leaders should be alert to employees' needs and define new categories and file naming conventions as digital activities evolve.

Over time, enterprises should build the information architecture that meets business needs. This architecture includes one or more enterprise taxonomies, enabling employees to tag content with multiple keywords. These tagged keywords are useful for improving enterprise search and records management. And, as information architecture matures, organizations can explore options to automatically index and enrich content using machine learning and AI.

Obsess about user experiences

Another cloud ECM best practice is to create simple and clean user experiences as remote workers become increasingly dependent on content-driven processes outside the office. Employees should be able to easily use the content within an authoritative repository to accomplish particular tasks and activities, and organizations need to deliver user experiences where content directly flows smoothly from one business task to another. It is important to reduce the amount of time employees spend searching for the right information in one application and then opening another application to act on it.

Companies can begin by identifying frequently occurring, high-value situations where employees move content between different applications -- often cutting and pasting information to make the transition -- and then developing strategies to reduce the friction. Open APIs, together with content services provided by a CCM platform, make it easy to integrate disparate applications already running in the cloud, and purpose-built microservices can provide business functions that solve particular tasks.

Use team collaboration tools in conjunction with CCM

The new normal for digital work includes a renewed emphasis on team collaboration. Remote workers rely on team collaboration tools to discuss project plans, check in on status updates and verify directions. Team leaders rely on easy ways to coordinate schedules, tasks and deliverables.

Like water rushing over a dam, a collaborative workspace harnesses the flow of digital communications -- converting content streams into pools and pools into new streams. Collaborative workspaces can extend and even replace email as mechanisms for coordinating digital work.

Platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Igloo support project calendars, task lists, forums, chat, video conferencing and other collaborative tools within predefined teams. And a collaborative workspace also easily integrates with CCM and DAM platforms to ensure that authoritative content is readily at hand.

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