Information overload might be the most universal issue in the corporate world today. What denizen of any modern organization has not felt overwhelmed by backlogs of e-mail messages, piles of documents and/or seas of server files and folders? The ridiculous hopelessness one feels in these situations is not unlike what one would expect from the protagonist in a Kafka novel.
These circumstances can be attributed to the sheer volume of information and the technology that allowed it to proliferate so quickly. But another important factor is the way that information is managed — which is to say, not at all.
John Mancini, president of AIIM, a community that provides education and research about how organizations control and optimize information, has given the name “digital landfill” to the collective morass of employee desktops and corporate servers. He first identified this trend about 15 years ago, when electronic production and dissemination of documents truly became mainstream in enterprises.
“When we put Microsoft Office on everyone’s desktop, we basically gave everybody the most powerful content- and document-creation tool that had ever existed,” Mancini said. “That was a fabulous thing because people unleashed all these creative and productive forces.
“The thing that we didn’t do collectively at the time was really think about where we wanted all that information to wind up, what form we wanted it to wind up in and how we would find it when we had to go looking for it,” he added. “What most organizations typically did was just deployed all this stuff, and what passed for a strategy in terms of managing all of it was a hodgepodge of shared drives, individual drives and eventually portable devices. The metaphor of a landfill came to mind, as organizations that were trying to find a particular piece of information in a particular context for a particular business decision was akin to digging around for something in a vast landfill.”
Organizations should develop strategies and set expectations about how information is managed, transferred, saved, stored and deleted, Mancini said. This can impact the learning function in two ways. The first is the need to develop programs to educate employees about processes and procedures for information management. The second affects how learning leaders deliver their programs generally.
With regard to the latter point, many learning departments already are doing what Mancini suggests on some level, including focusing on tracking capabilities and reusability. But the key is to formulate and formalize a consistent approach to information management.
“The challenge of managing information in a learning environment is very similar to the overall challenge an organization faces: If you don’t do that with a structure and strategy in mind, you’ll be starting all over again every time you have a new project,” he said.
As far as those overall organizational challenges are concerned, the main reasons to implement an information-management strategy, and ancillary learning programs, boil down to three areas: risk, process and collaboration.
“You can mitigate the risk your organization faces from mismanaging this information,” Mancini explained. “That risk can take the form of litigation. The federal rules of civil procedure changed about two years ago to basically put electronic information on the same footing as paper-based information when it comes to litigation and legal issues. Yet, most organizations haven’t really given this any thought.
“The second business benefit is dramatic process improvement, which translates into cost savings. If you don’t manage the information that surrounds any particular process, it’s really hard to get that process working efficiently. The third reason to do this is when large organizations have people who are globally dispersed and work on temporary project teams, if they’re relying on people collaborating by shipping documents around on e-mail, they’re never going to be able to keep track of who’s worked on versions of something, who’s approved different versions, what the latest version is and so forth.”
Enterprises that fail to acknowledge and emphasize the importance of information management are playing with fire, he added.
“When we look at the exposure organizations have to unmanaged information — whether it’s from a risk perspective that deals with compliance or litigation issues, or from a business-process perspective that has organizations operating at a less optimal level because they aren’t managing the information — we find most organizations haven’t taken the first step of telling their employees what they expect them to do with all this. Most organizations don’t have an IT infrastructure that allows them to do this effectively. And most organizations neglect to train their people in the basic elements of managing one of the most important assets they have: information.”
- 5 Forces Shaping the Future of HR
- Why ‘Leaders Eat Last’
- Creating an environment for effective learning measurement
- Honest feedback plays a critical role in building cultural D&I
- Progressive Insurance gives interns an entry-level lesson in the new reality of office work
- Digital transformation through mindset, delivery and content
- Cloudy with a chance of budget approval