Step one: admitting that you have an information management problem

This is the first in a series of posts highlighting the emerging trends and issues of information management, cloud-based file sharing, and collaboration.

Information management at the enterprise level is complex-and getting more so every year. Information sources have exploded in terms of where they are created (Office 365, Google Apps, Evernote, Office, Excel, etc) as well as the types of files that contain pieces of information (Twitter, LinkedIn, websites, blogs, etc).  In many ways this explosion has been useful and positively impacted enterprises: employees are empowered, customer reach has expanded, and tactical decisions are made on real world information.

There is, of course, a dark side to having more employees generating, using and storing “information”—how does the organization support everyone’s needs, and more importantly, how do we store it appropriately?

Because all that content must be important…right?

The reality that is rarely acknowledged is that most of the information generated has no importance beyond the creator and the single task that the content was created to finalize. To be blunt, most of your users create documents and communications that are of no value to the enterprise as a whole.

If we agree, in principle, that the majority of the information has no value then why are you wasting high priced enterprise storage, namely ECM and indexed file stores, on low value assets? Shouldn’t the cost of the storage match the value of the asset?

Make no mistake, in the new economy Information is an asset, and like the physical and human assets there should be a scaled model for managing information based on the value and risk that the assets brings to the enterprise. This allows IT to make good decisions on how much budget, development and management to spend on information, broken down by risk and value. The key issue for most IT departments is their perspective; they start with risk and executive needs first and then worry about end users.

As a strategic plan, I find it more useful to turn the problem on its head: The end users are the ones who bring risk and should be the starting point for building the solution.  From that perspective we can come up with four large blocks of information based on the use-case and value of any given asset: In progress, Group Knowledge, Tactical, and Records.

To visualize how these blocks fit in terms of their risk and potentially lifecycle, I find it useful to view Information as a firework.

Information risk and lifecycle by type
Info as a “firework”: Risk and potential lifecycle of information.

Fireworks have three parts; the mortar—the fuel which is very dangerous to handle but will sit inert for long periods of time, the burst phase—not pretty but necessary, and finally the sparkle—very pretty, but short lived.

Obviously, the relative size of the zones will based on the enterprise’s regulatory environment and more importantly how users work.

The key question then becomes: What information can we allow to be user owned?

At a high level what information we allow users to “own” comes down to the importance of collaboration, process, and knowledge management in generating and protecting revenue. The technology that you select to support these areas should be intricately tied to both your short and long term information needs:

•    Collaboration: This comes down to what enterprise information (tactical and records boxes) users need to get work done?
•    User workflow: How does information flow to and from users; is it in the form of documents, communications, or structured systems?
•    Risk mitigation: Of the information that users need to get work done, how much of it is regulated and does their access require the primary data?
•    Long term sustainability: Given the risk of user’s information needs and the speed at which we expect to transfer information, can we afford multiple systems of engagement?

Over the course of the next four blogs I will provide insight into how information management technologies map to this profile and the key considerations when attempting rationalize existing systems with next generation technologies such as cloud Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Enterprise File Sync and Share (EFSS).

Chris Wynder

Chris is the Product Marketing Manager for ApplicationXtender. He has a wealth of information management knowledge, particularly in highly regulated industries. He shares his deep belief in analysis and taxonomy as the basis of good information governance in his blogs.

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