How to build bridges between content islands and reduce inefficiency

When data is locked away, it loses value. Here’s how you can build bridges between content islands to optimise processes and find new opportunities.

Businesses are built on information. And all information lives within some kind of content, whether it’s data in a spreadsheet, customer sentiment in an email, or even an audio recording of a support call.

But what happens when your most important content – and the information within it – is locked in discrete, disconnected systems? In this blog, we’ll look at some of the big risks of operating with these ‘content islands’, explore the benefits of connecting them, and look at ways businesses can start bridging their content islands.

How do content islands form in the first place?

Most content islands begin with good intentions: a specific team or vertical needs a new solution to solve their challenges. But if too many best-of-breed solutions are deployed for individual teams, it creates silos that other teams can’t easily access.

This, over time, creates content islands. For example, if a frontline sales or support team deploys Salesforce and stores all customer data there, it solves their most pressing CRM challenges. But if only that team has access, it means anyone else that could benefit from those customer records has to go without. That content becomes trapped on an island that’s inaccessible to other systems and people within the business.

The problem with content islands is that over time, these content islands create a number of issues.

Limited, duplicate or dark data

In over 60% of cases, when an employee has to look for information, they wind up trawling through up to four different systems. They might be dipping into SAP, Salesforce, or OneDrive/SharePoint searching for the information they need.

Approximately 54% of data within businesses is considered ‘dark’ or otherwise underutilised due to solutions with limited search capabilities and poorly indexed content. It means that data – and the insights within – is as good as useless.

Sometimes employees will eventually find useable data. But often they won’t, limiting the insights they have, and their ability to make effective decisions.

Or even worse, they’ll find multiple copies of the same data. Duplicate records bring all sorts of risks, from compliance woes and problems with internal records retention policies, to the potential for people to be working from different versions of the same documents.

Reduced productivity

On average, employees waste 36% of their time looking for information and content across corporate systems. Even in a business with 100 employees 36,000 hours are wasted hunting down pieces of content according to this report from SER Group. By reducing this waste, organisations could save €1,080,000 annually in wages.

This isn’t just inefficient and wasteful. It also slows down crucial steps in any process, and creates friction that stops employees from being able to deliver amazing customer experiences which ultimately harms your brand reputation.

Missed opportunities

Many organisation-wide processes rely on the smooth transfer of data across processes to identify growth potential and new revenue opportunities. So, if you have content islands throughout your business, these opportunities go undetected, or severely underdeliver.

For example, to negotiate better supplier contracts in a purchase-to-pay process, a procurement manager would need to get information from Finance about the costs and profitability of dealing with a particular supplier. This requires SAP data to be connected with contract workflows, and a centralised supplier file or workspace where everyone can access information related to this supplier. With content islands blocking this centralised information, the process would be needlessly complex – if it’s even possible at all.

Building bridges is important, but it isn’t straightforward

While it may sound counter-intuitive, the answer isn’t necessarily to remove these different systems across your business. After all, they serve a specific function, and the costs and effort needed to rearchitect can be extreme.

Instead, by intelligently connecting and automating content across your islands with AI-powered Enterprise Content Management (ECM), businesses can solve many of these challenges for good.

But like building a bridge in real-life, you need strong structural integrity. Here are a few things to watch out for when selecting an ECM solution:

Understand the nature and scale of your content challenges.

The first step is to understand exactly how much content is going undiscovered within your business, and what the impacts of these content islands are.

There are two main areas that can signal the scale of the problem:

Ensure your centralised data hub includes AI, automation and pattern-matching featuresIf your ECM platform lacks modern features like AI, automation and filing and distribution workflows, your people may still struggle to locate the content they need. It’s worth finding a tool with more robust search options, so people can truly find what they need across all your systems. And ideally, make sure these search features also use contextual AI and pattern-matching so employees can link insights and context from unstructured data with existing structured data across your business.

Confirm your system integrates with core applicationsNo content bridge can function unless it can collate information from all your systems. As a baseline, that means your ECM solution must integrate with the core applications you use today, such as SAP, Salesforce, Microsoft and more.

Find the balance between configurability and ease-of-useAll organisations will have different content, data and information architectures. So, they’ll have very different use cases. At the same time, there will always be ECM use cases that are common across all businesses, like combining data from popular platforms like Salesforce and SAP, for example.

Ideally, your ECM solutions will support both common and bespoke use cases equally. The best platforms combine out-of-the-box configurations you can use immediately with no/low-code solutions so you can design around your own bespoke content architectures and use cases as well.

Get an external perspective before you lay the foundations

While the right solutions are important, the most effective content bridges ultimately depend on how you build them. Only by implementing solutions in a way that makes sense for your people, your business and your content can you ensure you make the most of modern ECM.

A reliable partner can help you analyse your current content environments, and spot the opportunities. But you’ll want to know you’re trusting your content bridges with a proven organisation that has experience connecting silos for businesses like yours.

We’ve worked with organisations in all industries and of all scales to connect other islands that limit efficiency and opportunity. We even recently published a blog about islands of automation, and how we help organisations build bridges between them. We work with leading ECM providers like SER Group to achieve similar results for companies struggling with content islands.

Learn more about how Ignite can help you manage and connect content bridges across your business.