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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

People need information, not data or content

7:11:00 AM Posted by Oscar Berg , , 1 comment

Simply speaking, Information Management is about enabling the delivery of the right information in the right time to the right audience.

One essential insight needed to achieve this is that when people need information, they don't care to distinquish between data and content. They just need information. Structured content (data) is not information, neither is unstructured content. Information is what you might get when interpreting content.

For many different reasons, ranging from historical to technical, structured content and unstructured content is managed differently in most organizations. Structured content is typically created and managed in business applications such as ERP. Unstructured content is often not managed in any systems at all. This creates a divide in the information landscape which in the end hurts an organisation’s productivity, efficiency and ability to innovate.

So, a major challenge in Information Management is to ensure that all content is managed and then integrate it to serve the information needs of the users.

When designing external customer-facing solutions, we understand that we must focus on information needs. We understand that we can’t force customers to turn to one system to view structured content that holds information about a product and to another system to view unstructured content such as manuals or reviews. We understand that we need to provide it all in the same context, just when the customer needs it. Not even one click away. Otherwise the customer won’t be convinced to buy the product.

Strangely, we often don't care to integrate unstructured and structured content to serve the information needs of internal users (employees). As a result, employees have to spend a lot of their time on personal information management – finding/refinding, organizing and sharing information. They need to turn to different systems to satisfy their information needs even if these are related to the same thing, such as a product. So, a lot of their time is spent on finding and refinding information they have already found before. And they often don’t have much support from internal IT solutions. As confirmed by AIIM’s Market IQ on Findability from 2008:

"A majority of respondents believe that findability in their organization is worse to much worse than their own organization's consumer-facing web sites and 49% of respondents have no formal goal for enterprise findability within their organizations."

So why don’t organizations do more to solve this? The solutions are out there, more or less.

I believe the answer is pretty simple; it is because it is very hard to see and follow the cause-effect chain down to how all this affects the bottom-line result. Something which is much easier to do when it comes to customer-facing solutions.

Most people, including those in management, would probably say they understand that there must be a connection. But as long as they don’t see any real evidence of the connection and that bad internal Information Management affects the bottom-line results negatively, most people won’t act to do something about it.


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