Recognized as one of the “”100 Most Influential People”” in the world of knowledge management by KMWorld for five years, Tom Jenkins has been involved with the ‘Net since it emerged as a major public network in the early 1990s. As CEO of Open Text Corp., he was instrumental in creating one of the first

search engines that was used by Netscape, Yahoo! and IBM.

What’s the reaction been to the book?

The last time I experienced this level of reaction was 10 years ago when I was talking about the importance of search engines. Every place I have talked about the issue of turning content into a competitive advantage and the necessity of a content management strategy the book has sold out.

Why do you think you have received this reaction?

In the last five years e-mail has become a much bigger deal. Most knowledge workers spend about two hours a day on their inboxes alone. There is a large amount of data being collected that the companies are now responsible for. With Enron and the Patriot Bill in the U.S. companies are now responsible for keeping large volumes of data. The problem is there is no content management strategy that gives a clear understanding of what can be deleted and when it can be deleted. Equally problematic is the lack of a strategy to manage the information in a way that makes it accessible across the enterprise to those that could benefit from access. The costs of storage are also a factor, and most organizations understand they simply can’t continue to move forward without a strategy and plan.

What is the biggest challenge facing most organizations when it comes to content?

The organizational and IT challenge is to unify five or six divisions by rethinking how they use IT and store information and on the flip side to get a clear retention plan in place. A lack of clarity and strategy can lead to conflicts within an organization that make it less strategic and efficient. An example would be a corporation where the policy is all e-mails must be deleted in 30 days. Say a worker makes an important product information update or change and that this change has been communicated via e-mail.

Does the employee then delete the e-mail according to policy (and thus erase the background information as to why the update or change came about) or does he or she keep it for corporate continuity records? It is not strategic for an enterprise to leave this sort of decision up to individual workers.

What part of the world is in the best shape to meet the enterprise content management challenge?

The Swiss are out front on this one. This is likely because they have some of the biggest multinationals and operate in many different time zones and languages. They were also one of the early adopters of the Internet. In the book the UBS example (a Switzerland-based wealth management company) is a good one because the globalization of financial markets has introduced a new dimension of competition in the banking industry. The mobility of UBS’s clients meant that they needed to have site-independent access to transaction-related documents. In the past these customer data and contractual agreements were available only to the branch that administered the account which had the potential of causing delays in authorizing a customer’s transactions. Now more than 30,000 UBS employees have access to information from an enormous archive in just seconds.

What part of the world is least prepared?

Asia. They are lagging behind by about five years and I have no explanation as to why.

How serious is this challenge?

I equate it to Y2K. With e-mail and Web content doubling every two months the longer enterprises go without a strategy, the bigger the problem. As with Y2K it took some time to absorb they had to address it. When they did there was a mad dash. The hottest area of IT focus for the next decade will be enterprise content management and there will be a crunch when it comes to the talent pool.

Tech TV will air Carolyn’s two-part interview with Tom Jenkins on Tech Books Jan. 30 at 10 p.m.

Carolyn Weaver is the producer and host of Tech Books, in its third season on Tech TV, Book Television, Court TV, MSNBC Canada and Rogers Television.  carolyn@fineprintonline.com

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