Windows IT Pro will be taking the “Enterprise 2.0 with Oracle” content management roadshow across Western Europe over the next couple of months, visiting Germany, Sweden, Italy, Portugal, France and Spain.

Although Oracle’s flagship database product, 11g, was ported to Windows last year, Microsoft-oriented IT pros could be forgiven for asking why this roadshow is relevant to them. The key is in the term “content management” and, more specifically, Oracle’s Universal Content Management (UCM) solution which is used by over 6,000 customers worldwide. Although Oracle declines to release official figures, estimates suggest that around 3,000 of those users are running UCM on Windows and many more are managing multi-platform environments as the software also runs on Unix and Linux.

Bhavesh Vagela, Oracle’s EMEA enterprise content management director, says: “There have been a number of drivers for the adoption of content management technologies, focused mainly around the explosion of information. Today, 80% of data is unstructured and some analysts estimate that figure could grow to over 100% a year, while structured information is only growing at 4%.

“The primary challenge is the complexity of managing unstructured content, because data is housed in a variety of disparate, siloed systems. This is causing headaches for IT departments and impacting the day-to-day running of businesses as employees waste significant time trying to retrieve material. Additionally, regulatory requirements and ensuring appropriate data security measures are causing some IT departments to rethink their content management strategy as they balance the need to protect sensitive company information against the need to be able to comply with data storage/retrieval requirements imposed by regulatory bodies.”

The rate of adoption of content management technology and, more specifically, adoption of Oracle’s UCM solution, differs across Europe, says Vagela: “Traditionally, content management is made up of a number of components – document management, records management, web content management, digital asset management, collaboration and information rights management. The adoption of each element varies according to the maturity of the relevant markets. Document management has the most mature adoption across all markets, followed by web content management. A more innovative area is information rights management, which is looking at how companies can protect sensitive content beyond the firewall.

“At Oracle, we are seeing enterprise content management as a strategy now emerging in some of the mature markets – UK, Benelux, Nordics – where organisations are moving to a consolidation/rationalisation strategy. Medium-mature markets, such as Iberia, France and Germany, are not quite at this point. Instead, most purchasing decisions are still made on point solutions. Low maturity markets, such as Eastern Europe and CIS, the Middle East and Italy are driven by basic content management requirements, such as document management.”

Vagela cites a recent report by IDG that looked at content management strategies in seven EMEA countries and that found that two-thirds of European organisations said that they “adequately manage” unstructured content or were making significant inroads to do so. However, when their attitudes, current actions and future plans were examined in detail, it appeared that they had not grasped the full measure of the issue.

A third of organisations said that they were unfamiliar with the term “unstructured content”. Indeed, 61% of Spanish enterprises were unfamiliar with the term, compared to 16% in the UK. Of those that understood the term, many had piecemeal rather than strategic plans to deal with it. The average number of content management systems among respondents was 4.28, and just over half (58%) would look to a consolidation plan to deliver post-implementation strategic value.

“This research raises the question of whether organisations understand content management, given the varied responses,” says Vagela. “Oracle believes companies need to take a much more strategic approach to unstructured content because it should be seen as an enterprise-wide issue. If content management systems are implemented on a departmental basis, without due regard to organisation-wide procedures and infrastructure, how will they deliver full value?

“The research also shows that many organisations do not appear to have the internal procedures in place to enable them to derive real value from their unstructured content. In today’s knowledge-driven economy, this is a worrying trend because it undermines the ability of European companies to compete effectively.”

Illustrating why Windows IT pros be interested in UCM and how the solution integrates with Microsoft products such as SharePoint, Vagela says: “As large amounts of content is generated by applications like Microsoft Office, we offer a variety of integrations into Microsoft products such as integrations with Internet Explorer, Outlook, MS office, conversion to HTML and integrations with SharePoint.”

He points out that through its Fusion middleware, Oracle provides an extensive set of tools for enhancing and managing SharePoint. The tools help organisations share content once the creation phase of a lifecycle is complete by publishing content to an enterprise content management system for access and distribution. The tools also help organisations to comply with industry or government regulations and policies with centralised policy management across distributed SharePoint environments and implement in-place records and retention management, including legal holds, across SharePoint instances.

Users can archive content from SharePoint into a single, secure, online repository and securely search across multiple libraries and instances. They can also implement information security across and beyond SharePoint environments, including securing documents on laptops, flashdrives and within systems beyond the firewall. SharePoint content can be integrated within enterprise and composite applications.

Following their “Enterprise 2.0” theme, the Windows IT Pro/Oracle roadshows will focus on how businesses are exploiting Web 2.0 phenomena such as blogs, wikis and RSS. “Listening to our customers, these technologies are growing in importance,” says Vagela.

“They are particularly interested in the benefits that Web 2.0 will deliver around sharing content and collaboration. However, customers are also weighing up the challenges of such collaborative environments, such as the impact on regulatory compliance. How do they store, manage and retrieve information upon demand for reporting, when it is created and adapted so freely in environments such as wikis? Clearly, there is a role for content management technologies to play in this area, which will evolve rapidly in the coming years.”