Unleashing the value of data

Information is the lifeblood of the enterprise. But without sufficient management care, the flow of information can be impeded by burgeoning departmental silos.

The need for accessible data has been recognised at national broadcaster, the BBC. With its multitude of national and regional television and radio channels, as well as 28,000 staff to manage, managing information at the BBC is regarded as mission critical.


Email management

Employees might take email for granted but at a corporate level, there are very real risks associated with treating it as just part of the infrastructure. Emails can contain vital snippets of corporate information; without careful management, businesses could overlook or lose such precious data.

Businesses are slowly waking up to the importance of effective document management, says Atle Skjekkeland, managing director of the enterprise content management association, AIIM. However this awareness has yet to translate into actions, he adds.

A recent AIIM survey found that 92% of businesses have a formal disaster recovery strategy in place; 87% had an information security program, but only 56% had a formal electronic records management system installed.

One factor driving corporate acceptance of email management is the growing body of compliance regulations. With businesses forced to account for data they are now more willing to increase the attention paid to email. But such changes take time to be seen on the ground.

"Compliance is often seen as a cost issue, but it is also a way of finding a path to innovation," says Skjekkeland.



The BBC also has ambitious plans to transform the way it organises and delivers content. With this in mind it has developed a five-year plan that will enable its information systems to support the corporation.

"We're in the midst of a broadcasting revolution: you'll be able to choose what you watch and when you want to watch it," says Keith Little, Head of IT and data assurance at the BBC. "The consumers of tomorrow – the ‘PlayStation generation' – are demanding a whole new experience," he adds.

The BBC aims to transfer its 500,000 hours of video and millions of hours of audio onto a digitised, tape-less, media management system running on a single converged network. Content and metadata will be organised around assets, as opposed to schedules and documents.

"The aim is to maximise the value of our assets. We need metadata about each tape otherwise it is virtually useless," says Little. To understand this approach, he draws parallels with FedEx's policy that the information about the parcel is more important than the parcel itself.

However, the BBC's structure reinforces "silos" – and each department is keen to maintain that sense of autonomy. The key is to change the current linear model (commission, produce, transmit and then archive) into a more cyclical, asset-based system, where the end result is published rather than archived, more akin to a web model, says Little.

Adding to the challenge of developing a new delivery model, the BBC, as a publicly funded organisation, must also be compliant with the Data Protection Act, the Freedom of Information Act as well as being overseen by the regulatory body Ofcom. It is also required to store the last 90 days of all output, in order to deal with complaints. "We've got standards coming out of our ears," says Little.

These pressures have convinced the BBC to adopt a tiered storage model, where information can be stored on a number of different devices, depending on its value to the organisation.

This model will be combined with an enterprise document management system that will help establish acceptable standards for storing data. "After all, we have to be seen as a leader, to show we're leading in the digital future of Britain," says Little.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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