Software // Information Management
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4/1/2014
09:06 AM
John Mancini
John Mancini
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Dealing With Information Chaos: 4 Questions To Ask

The information landscape has never been so chaotic -- creating huge challenges for business, but golden opportunities, too.

The way organizations manage their information assets is just as crucial as how they look after physical, personnel, and financial assets. The analyst firm Gartner said we are entering the era of "the Digital Industrial Economy," where business processes are being re-imagined around their digital assets. This "Digital Industrial Economy" brings with it new business opportunities. Yet many companies still feel they are swamped by a tsunami of information.

So how did we get here? First, SaaS companies like Salesforce.com and Workday have made it much easier to roll out enterprise-scale systems, which used to be the domain of big vendors that delivered complex, expensive systems. More use of the cloud and mobile technologies has led to more apps, app stores, and data flowing through organizations, exacerbating the information chaos.

[Doctors must be able to distinguish between valuable data and information overload. Read Doctors Are Drowning In Data]

Consumerization, cloud, mobile, and social technologies also speed up the transition to a flatter, more agile organization -- which is a positive thing. But at the same time, when traditional information workflows are disturbed, information chaos ensues.

Managing the volume and variety of information created by these disrupters is a source of cost and risk, but it is also a valuable business asset. How the influx of cloud/mobile/social-based information is managed is the business challenge of the next decade.

There are four key questions that organizations have to address to move forward.

How do you take control of the growing amount of content in your organization?
Organizations need to look at their policies and align electronic record practices with those used for physical records.

If you already have an information governance policy, but it's not being enforced, look at ways to monitor compliance. Look at your method of deleting electronic records beyond their retention period. Can this be automated? If you do not have an up-to-date information governance policy across the enterprise, make it a priority, and make sure that staff members and new hires are fully trained on compliance.

How do you change content-intensive business processes in an organization?
It starts with cutting down on paper. The long-held assumption is that paper is essential in business, particularly for legal compliance. This isn't so. Paper-free processes can play a major role in improving your business.

Audit all processes that use both scanning and electronic workflows, and make sure they are taking full advantage of the possibilities of optical character recognition (OCR) and data capture to manage content. For example, while a scanner simply creates an image or a snapshot of the document, OCR software extracts and repurposes data from scanned documents, camera images, or image-only PDFs.

The more content you can collect into a single, searchable, mobile-accessible system, the fewer other places you need to look to solve problems.

How to use content to better engage customers, employees, and partners?
First, you must define how social channels are relevant to your business. Look at your own internal social networks like Yammer, Chatter, and Jive, as well as external social channels like Facebook and Twitter, and determine what information and business results you need from them. Don't just pigeonhole them into marketing and corporate communications.

Whatever the business use for these social channels, make sure that you create guidelines and policies that explain to staff and management why the business is using them, how they can contribute to the channels, and the consequences of failing to follow the guidelines. Involve HR in the creation of these guidelines.

You'll also need to define who in the organization is responsible for the social channels. Its scope must be clearly outlined and agree with the records management department about which social content should be stored and how.

Are you getting business insight out of all the information you are collecting?
Forgetting about the "how" for the moment, organizations need to identify which piece of information, business intelligence, customer understanding, or incident prediction is needed to transform the business. Does the data exist, and is it in a clean and managed state?

You can use distributed databases without putting your company's crown jewels at risk. Here's how. Also in the Data Scatter issue of InformationWeek: A wild-card team member with a different skill set can help provide an outside perspective that might turn big data into business innovation (free registration required).

John Mancini is an author, speaker, and respected leader of the AIIM global community of information professionals. He is a catalyst in social, mobile, cloud, and big-data technology adoption and an advocate for the new generation of experts who are driving the future of ... View Full Bio

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