Unless content management is viewed as a cross-company effort, managed by the CIO, an organisation can't use content management to its full potential. But does that imply that CIOs should try to consolidate all information under a single system? Maybe, but don't underestimate the size of the task.

For over a decade, enterprise content management (ECM) systems have helped organisations collaborate by allowing employees to share documents in different locations; and they have helped organisations comply with regulation, by identifying missing documents, setting expiry dates on documents, and limiting access to content.

Almost every large organisation has already implemented ECM, but too many have done so piecemeal, using different systems in different departments with no link between the different systems. A study by industry group AIIM suggests that 72% of larger organisations have three or more content management systems, and that as many as 25% have five or more. Because the different content management systems rarely interface well, there is very little sharing of content between groups within an organisation.

Not only is there not enough content sharing between groups, when different groups use different content management systems, they tend to develop different methods of information governance. For multinationals, with documents in different languages, issues around content translation further complicate things.

The challenge doesn't just stop with integrating a fragmented set of ECM systems. For content to be properly managed, your content management systems have to access content in other enterprise systems, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), supply chain management (SCM), and customer relationship management (CRM). Not surprisingly, more than half of companies participating in the AIIM study hold more than 61% of their content outside ECM systems.

If you believe that knowledge workers spend a significant part of their working day looking for information, you can see why getting content management is so important. But how does one go from a fragmented set of implementations run in silos to a company-wide system with a central content store?

It turns out to be a major undertaking, and CIOs should not underestimate the challenges involved. AIIM recommends you following these steps to migrate from a fragmented set of ECM systems to one integrated solution:

Discover: Understand what documents you have, the formats of those documents, where they are stored, and how those documents related to one another.

Extract: Once you've figured out exactly what you have, extract all those documents.

Transform: Convert the format of content as needed for the new enterprise-wide system.

Leave an audit trail: Make sure you track what happens with each document to leave an audit trail.

Index: Now come up with an indexing scheme that will allow you to store and retrieve all content in a consistent manner.

Load: Finally, load all content into the enterprise-wide content management system.

That's pretty easy to advise, but not so easy to perform. The larger the organisation, the harder it is to inventory your content, extract it, and follow all the subsequent steps. For a large multinational, the task is virtually impossible.

While it's certainly good for CIOs to have control over content management, CIOs who have that authority and then try to consolidate all content under a single system may be taking on more work than they want.