Three tips for more securely collaborating with your partners, suppliers and customers

By Joel Mazza

Collaboration is essential to business success. It requires clear and rapid communication, which often includes sharing valuable and confidential content. With many public options available for sharing content, how can you collaborate productively without adding security and governance risk to your operations?

Here are three tips for more secure and effective collaboration with any stakeholder: 

1. Avoid using unmanaged, unmonitored network folders

Creating a shared folder is the simplest way to enable collaboration between your workforce and external collaborators. An enterprise content services solution with external file sharing provides a high degree of security and information governance over all assets, including those created or added by external collaborators. True governance allows workers to collaborate productively even with sensitive information, such as personally identifiable documents submitted by a customer or confidential supplier price quotes. Look for the following features that enable more secure collaboration:

  • Administrators can set expiration dates on the file-sharing services to help automate the management of access rights.
  • Activity logging and tracking that provide insight into how content is being shared and used through rich auditing and lifecycle services.
  • Analytics that provide administrators with visibility and transparency into how workers collaborate with external parties to understand usage patterns and potential signs of misuse. This information can reveal new opportunities for improving how users collaborate.

2. Apply granular user rights and control over assets

Cloud-based file-sharing services efficiently enable workers to share content outside the enterprise, but it’s often with little or no oversight or meaningful governance. The security settings for most content services applications limit control to the folder level. This creates security holes where too many users inherit unintended access to confidential information.

File sharing with document-specific security controls discretely determines who, based on role and rights, can access and edit content at the folder and content level. Permission settings for external users limit actions to view and download only, or limit collaboration to new or existing content only. Trusted external collaborators can work in the system with more advanced rights, including the ability to create new folders and content. These settings can be managed centrally to help simplify administration.

3. Support many content types

Different business processes require different forms of content. For example, rich content, like audio and video, can improve collaboration, so it’s important to ensure external users can share these rich assets securely in a controlled environment. For faster and more accurate communication, users also need to easily apply metadata, annotate, tag and comment on — and within — videos and documents.

In summary, simple folder-based sharing works in small, safe internal environments. For many organizations, confidentiality requirements and regulations make this simple approach nonviable. The above three tips can make seamless and efficient collaboration possible without compromising the need for granular role and content level access (internally and externally), governance and auditability. The ability to collaborate securely with managed content services helps simplify the digitization of operations, a key step in any digital transformation journey.

Note: The capabilities highlighted in this article are part of the IBM automation software platform. They’re also available in IBM FileNet Content Manager.

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