Data, Content, Information, and Records Management


Information Coalition's initial view on the relationship between data, content, information, records, knowledge, and documentsThere are so many terms for the things that we manage everyday. Most people’s understanding of them are remnants of what was learned as we each entered the industry. This understanding has been expanded by how we use it in our daily life. The Information Coalition is working on their InfoBok that seeks to finally define these disciplines.

Recently, I was part of a twitter discussion with several people, primarily hailing from the web side of the content management world. It has been many years since I made the argument that the world of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) should include the Web Content Management (WCM) space. The worlds turned out to be connected but distinct. The uses of the word “content” and how it relates to information is evidence of that difference.

I thought I would take time to better share my thoughts where there were more than 280 characters to frame my thoughts. Hopefully, this will stir some more discussions.

Data to Information

The one thing we all agreed upon was that data is the base unit. All the other terms are built upon data. A piece of data by itself doesn’t mean much. It takes context to turn it into information.

  1. Laurence: Likely a name but of what? A person? A street?
  2. First Name=Laurence: Okay, now we know it is a person’s first name but still just data about a person.
  3. My first name is Laurence: That is information. The data is labeled and assigned a context.

A row in a database is data. Sure, with good table and field names it can be information but that is typically only true of primary entities, and not always then. If you extract the data and place it into a form, you then have information. One could argue that it is a collection of multiple pieces of information.

Now what if you insert those pieces of information into a piece of content?

Information to Content

The logic put forth by those in the web industry was that a piece of content has multiple pieces of information in it, and as such, information is a subset of content. This makes sense in the world of the web. The goal is to publish and produce content for people to consume. The content’s goal is typically to inform and drive an action.

It totally makes sense.

And they are correct. Content does contain information and when done correctly, a single piece of content addresses a single purpose or goal for the consumer.

But content doesn’t stop there.

Information as a Broader Construct

In the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) world, content is part of a bigger picture. In the typical case management application, you will have content submitted by a requester, content and data referenced by the reviewer, content produced by the reviewer, and data captured about the entire process.

When we collaborate on a document, be it a design, a proposal, or a quarterly report, we are creating a piece of content. That content is surrounded by pieces of information that need to be included and discussions about the how the content should be constructed.

An image is content but it requires metadata for better understanding of what it contains, when it was created, and the proper usage rights. With video it is even more complicated.

In the ECM world, content never stands alone. It is a piece of information that leads to a business decision which then leads to an action. Information in many ways is like data. It can be both singular and plural. When ECM people think about content, they see a container that is similar to how data people see a database table. It can wholly contain information but it is just part of the large information landscape.

What About Records?

This is the simple bit. Records are collections of information that describe an entity, a transaction, a process, or any discrete thing.

  • My customer information at Amazon is a record.
  • My order of five books is a record that is also part of my larger record.
  • Each of the two shipments that were used to send me my books are records.
  • My Amazon Smile donation to Girls Who Code is a record.

There is no content there. If I decided to sent a letter to Amazon telling them that I was going to bring legal action against them for not adequately protecting my information, that letter and any legal response would be part of both my record and a new legal record.

Two things to notice. First, the same information, be it data or content, can be part of multiple records. Second, a record can be just data, a gap that needs to be crossed by both Information Governance and Data Management professionals.

All About Context

There are a few lessons to be learned. The first is to let the web people believe what they want to believe. They are working towards a different goal and their paradigm works for them. I still fight to get many of them to understand that there are Content Management Systems (CMS) that have nothing to do with the web. Finally, you will never win an argument with them on Twitter. They outnumber you and for many of them, it is their job to use and understand social media.

The second is that your relationship with content and information is firmly rooted in how you use them. For web and communication professionals, a piece of content is a collection of information that represents what they are delivering. They deliver collections of content in brochures, websites, and other publications.

For ECM professionals, we capture information of which content is just a part of the picture. For us, content is just another piece of information that makes up the entity we are managing. Sometimes we are just managing the big picture in our systems but supporting bigger information systems with content provided by content services.

The real difference is that in the web world, content is the means to their ends. In the enterprise, content is just the starting point.

Information Governance, Moving on from Content


Has Content build holding us prisoner, making us miss the bigger picture?When I dove into the debate on Content Services and ECM, my conclusion was fairly straightforward.

Look at your information flow. Follow it and find new ways to make it flow faster. If you can do that and know where your information is at anytime, you are done.

There is a lot of detail buried under that relatively straightforward statement. Content Services is part of a broader trend in the content management space and is here to stay. It has been here since CMIS (Content Management Interoperability Services) entered the picture almost a decade ago but now people are seeing it as more than a way to integrate systems.

The problem is that ECM (Enterprise Content Management) is still just part of the picture. Even if we use the latest tools without regard to the latest buzz words that define them. If we just focus on the content we are failing to solve what needs to be solved.

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What is an Information Professional?


Beaker from the MuppetsOne thing I heard from MANY people at the AIIM conference was that the concept of an information professional as we understand it was flawed. The claim was that usage patterns of AIIM resources showed that members would join and engage to tackle a single project. Once that project was completed, they would leave AIIM and presumably go do something else that wasn’t information related. John Mancini, the outgoing CEO of AIIM, shared his thoughts on the current information professional in a four post series covering the history, evolution, environment, and future of the information professional.

Experience tells me that the conclusion is incorrect. There are a large number of people who spend careers in the space and dip into AIIM resources only periodically. It is also a conclusion is hard to confirm or deny because once they disengage from AIIM, it is tough to measure what people do next.

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Pointing AIIM in the Right Direction


Jack's compass from Pirates in the CaribbeanThere are a lot of posts flying around about what information professionals need from an association. My discussion on too many associations seems to have struck a nerve and gotten people thinking. Before I dive into details regarding AIIM, I want to share these posts.

I’m not going to reference the posts moving forward but know that they have, to varying degrees, influenced this post. That said, I had a lot of thoughts on this topic already rattling around in my head. Many of the thoughts below have been shared with other previously as well to test them out.

There are two ways I can share my thoughts. I could rant and rave about everything AIIM is specifically doing wrong. It would get a lot of hits, generate a lot of discussion, and upset the very people who need to read this.

Or…

I can simply dive into what AIIM needs to do going forward. The past is written. The present is malleable. The future is fluid. It is the future that I wish to influence by helping form the present.

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Moving AIIM’s Certified Information Professional Forward


New York CityIn December, the industry was faced with the prospect of a long needed certification being removed from the market. After the community protested that we need the CIP, AIIM backed off from closing the CIP and committed to updating it to reflect the changes in the industry since the CIP’s inception.

So far so good.

Now we the industry need to help AIIM make the CIP better. Chris Walker had some thoughts on ways to make the CIP more successful. Jesse Wilkins who runs the CIP program for AIIM made some requests from the industry on how we can support the CIP.

Now after having existing CIPs review an updated exam outline, AIIM is asking the industry to review the outline by this Friday, February 12.

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AIIM Awoke the Sleeping Community and Listened


Paul Atreides from DuneLast week I shared my opinions on AIIM cancelling the CIP certification program. Similar opinions were shared in many blogs (Mark Owen compiled a nice list), tweets, LinkedIn, and many other channels. I don’t want to dwell on the specifics of those posts because an important thing happened shortly afterwards. Just seven days after AIIM announced the end of the CIP, AIIM reversed course and recommitted to the CIP with the promise of an update at the 2016 AIIM conference.

That’s right. The CIP IS BACK and it is because of the community.

That doesn’t mean that all is right in the universe. If anything, this chaos reveals to us that there are real problems out there. Luckily we also learned that there are passionate people in the community who can be roused to action when they feel they can make a difference.

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Box Makes a Huge Leap in Security


The Keymaster and Gatekeeper from GhostbustersI saw the Box’s announcement of their Enterprise Key Management (EKM) feature yesterday. This is a big jump forward for Box and puts them well in the front lines for cloud security among vendors with traction. Matt Weinberger had a good write-up about how Box’s EKM works complete with a Ghostbuster reference.

Chris Walker wrote about Box’s EKM announcement and quoted a tweet I made. The tweet follows but I encourage you to go read his post as it is a good one.

I wanted to expand on the quote up above in a comment on Chris’s post then I couldn’t stop typing. I decided to write it here.

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