Making Information Management Work in Our Digital World

[Originally published on the TeraThink blog]

These filing cabinets have a lot of information to digitizeOne of our core solutions at TeraThink is Information Management. It is a term that we, and the industry, use to encompass a large collection of skills and expertise centered around content and information. Information Management is also a critical part of everything organizations do every day.

How do we define that collection of skills? Stated from a high level:

Information Management (IM) is a strategy for the coordinated management of all information throughout an organization, allowing for people and systems to find and use information from within any business context.

The goal is to provide people the right information at the right time and be confident that nothing is being overlooked. We make sure that information flows as needed between every system and process. Whether we are talking about governance, content, or digital transformation, IM is at the heart of every project and sets up long-term success for our clients.

It Starts with Governance

In what is likely the scariest domain in IM, information governance (InfoGov) is the foundational bedrock of IM. InfoGov sounds like a lot of work with laws and regulations but there is more to it than that. At its core, InfoGov is about knowing what information you have and where you have it. It starts with capturing and organizing information before adding in compliance and records management. As I’ve said many times in the past, You cannot manage what you do not have.

Every large IM project starts with InfoGov even if the term is not used. We start with a survey of systems, including their data and content is mapped-out. Who uses the information? How does it flow between groups? Where are the redundancies? How does information get lost? Which people are unable to find information that exists elsewhere in the organization?

Once mapped, we make a plan for moving forward. The plan is broken into small, manageable steps. This allows for adjustments as things change. This agile approach to InfoGov is critical in this rapidly changing world.

Content is its Own Challenge

TeraThink’s work in IM came out of our initial efforts in the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) space. From our work on large scale Alfresco projects for the Federal government to smaller efforts in creating collaborative content environments using SharePoint; we have dealt with a breadth of challenges in ECM.

The one thing we have learned is that the technology is an enabler and not the solution. ECM systems both succeed and fail, often with the same technology. The right approach to implementing ECM successfully is to start with defining the problem. Your content may be out of control but what problems are that causing? Just like using a database to manage the data behind a business solution, you use an ECM system to manage the content.

This is not to say that the technology does not matter. Modern ECM solutions must have Open APIs and live in the cloud to meet the changing needs of organizations. Having to waste resources upgrading ECM software or fighting firewall rules in the datacenter diverts us from solving the actual business problems.

Driving Digital Transformation

Many vendors proclaim the ways that their technology is critical for digital transformation. In theory, that is true of any technology if the core business of the organization depends upon it. In reality, there are two key, universal, aspects to digital transformation: user experience (UX) and information management.

Most people agree that UX is important. When we take a human centered design approach to creating solutions we create solutions people want to use. We don’t design solutions for users. We design them for people. This design thinking approach means constantly staying focused on the problem to be solved. We try and tackle root causes, not symptoms.

Underlying all of these efforts is information. Information is the lifeblood that keeps an organization moving. When we bring the right information to people in meaningful ways it allows them to quickly make decisions and get things done. Taking the results of these decisions to automate routine business humanizes the User Experience.

The End Game

Properly managing information and content is not always simple. Systems are replaced every year because they cannot evolve with the business. Sometimes they never worked well even when they were brand new. Experience matters.

Here at TeraThink we believe that every IM effort is a digital transformation effort. Sometimes it is small and focused effort but it is an opportunity to transform. It isn’t about reducing staff or increasing throughput. It is about removing repetitive work from people, allowing them to do what people do best, engaging with people and making decisions that make a difference.

[Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on the blog of Dominion Consulting. On November 1, 2017, Dominion Consulting merged with TeraThink and are now operating jointly as TeraThink. All blog posts migrated from the Dominion Consulting website have been updated to refer to ourselves as TeraThink.]