It’s 2AM, Do You Know Where Your Organizational Information Is??

Sean R. Nicholson

Sean R. Nicholson

Having been in the field of information management for quite a while now, I have developed a few credos that seem to prove more and more useful as the volumes of organizational information continues to grow. I used to drive one of my previous team absolutely crazy with this one:

“The only thing worse than no information is BAD information”

Think about it. When you have no information, you seek out answers, solutions, and advice. When you have bad information,  it’s likely that you don’t know it’s bad, so you react to the information. Only after you have used the information and determined that it was incorrect do you (after a few choice words) continue your search for good information.

Take an example of a call center representative who answers the phone and provides the customer on the other end with what they think to be the most current product prices from a document they printed yesterday. Little do they know that a new copy of the rate sheet was published a couple hours ago with significant rate changes that is now impacting their potential sale.

Did they have information? Yes! Was it good information? No!

The reality is that organizations are generating more and more information on an hourly basis. Take a moment and think about all the documents, spreadsheets, presentations, emails, voice mails, and sticky notes you generated on a daily basis just 3 years ago. Now, add modern day blogs, tweets, text messages, forum posts, comments, status updates, videos, podcasts, and wiki posts to your list and what do you get? More information? Definitely! But the larger problem is the fact that the information is now spread out in more places, making it harder for other employees and customers to find it.

In the past customers could simply call a 1-800 line for support and get one-stop service. In the modern day of social media, though, they can call the 800 number, tweet their problems, look for solutions in a knowledge base, email, complain in an online forum, post a video on YouTube of your product malfunctioning, or blog about it. Compound the problem with the fact that your employees are having a difficult time finding the most current methods to resolve the customer issues and you have quite an information disaster in the making. In fact, it’s a situation that could have a negative impact on both customer and employee satisfaction.

For some, the temptation might be to throw their hands up in the air and surrender to the fact that there are just too many channels out there. If you’re curious as to how confusing it really is, just take a look at all the new channels being created in the social media space alone via the Social Media Prism! Now think about what your employee-to-employee and employee-to-customer communication channels are going to look like in 5 years. Believe me…I understand the desire to just crawl back in bed and ignore social media. The reality is, however, that few business ever succeed by ignoring change. Instead, you’re going to need to stop dismissing social media (both internal and external) as a fad and start working on how to resolve the issue.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a magic product that I can sell for $19.99 to serve as the magic bullet. This one’s going to require smart people in your organization rolling up their sleeves and building a solid information management architecture. No, it’s not easy, but it’s going to be a requirement for businesses to survive in the future! A good place to being would be by looking at the following criteria:

  1. How do your employees work? Are they being asked to store information in multiple locations (e.g. My Documents, file shares, document repositories, WIKIs, etc…)?
  2. Do your employees know where to go for the single source of truth? (hint, hint…it should be your Intranet)
  3. Where are you storing your information? In legacy applications that aren’t searchable? In repositories that require no periodic content review?
  4. Does your organization offer a single search interface that allows employees to search information in multiple repositories?
  5. Is your information governance killing your employees ability to share information (e.g. no blogs, wikis, microblogs, etc…)?
  6. How are your customers interact with your organization? Are they seeking answers from multiple sources (e.g. Phone, website, Twitter, etc..)
  7. Do your customers know where to go for a single source of the truth (hint, hint…it should be your Web site)
  8. Do you have the infrastructure in place to respond to new types of interactions? Do you have corporate accounts for sites like Twitter, YouTube, Blogger, LinkedIn, and Facebook? Does someone monitor searches on your company and products?
  9. Are you making it as easy as possible for your customers to get help and resolve issues?
  10. Are YOU embracing internal and external information tools that will allow your employees to share information more easily and provide customers with more ways to serve themselves or seek assistance?

If you haven’t started a review of your current information architecture, it’s time to start and because I find the Social Media Prism to be so useful in explaining the external growth challenge that faces organizations, I have also put together an internal information stratification diagram that hopefully will help IT, Intranet, and ECM professionals demonstrate the internal complexities that exist inside the firewall.  Click on the image below for a larger view or feel free to print out a PDF version.

As always….this is a work in progress and all input, comments, feedback are welcome!

Internal Information Stratification Wheel

Internal Information Stratification Wheel

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